Archive | Concert Reviews

A Quick Dissertation On The Concert Experience

Posted on 23 February 2015 by Margaret Koss

I am incredibly qualified to write this piece because horrible things happen to me at concerts: at Summerfest someone physically knocked me down onto the ground when I was waiting in line for food; at Vampire Weekend this creepy couple sat down in my sister and brother-in-law’s seats while they went to the bathroom and I had to yell at these people for two minutes until they left; at Arctic Monkeys I was ran over by a 6 foot something inch guy while he was rushing the stage. As a result, the most aggressive side of my personality comes out at concerts.

As a general rule, you do not go to concerts to make friends. It’s weird, because you would think that so many people in a small space all with one thing in common would facilitate beautiful friendships but it doesn’t really work that way. Even if you meet a few cool people, most people are the incarnation of everything you hate. Here’s a condensed yet comprehensive list of what I’m talking about:

The “Excuse Me, Sorry” People: These are the assholes that squeeze in between groups of people to try to get in the front of the crowd, even though they got there an hour later than everyone else and there’s literally no space for them to move forward yet they still somehow feel entitled to the front row. Usually it’s high school girls that do this while giggling but every once in awhile it will be a couple of 30 year old guys that then commence to befriend the 15 year olds around them. The bottom line is that if you are this kind of person, you are selfish and stupid and I hate you.

The High School Couples: Look I get that you really love each other but why do you have to make out in a crowd of hundreds of people and right in front of me? Dear God.

The Club Dancing People: These are the people who are confused about the difference between concert-going and clubbing. At a concert, general bobbing and swaying is acceptable, and just going with the vibe of the song. Club Dancing People will jump up and down with their hand above their head, or move around more than they should with their hand at their ear like a DJ spinnin a track. This is also annoying because you are in way closer proximity to other people at a concert than at a club so you really should not be doing this. Especially when it’s a Hozier concert. I guarantee you will never see a DJ spinnin a Hozier track at a club.

The Incessant Snapchatters: This doesn’t actually affect me but I don’t really get why it’s necessary to take that many 10 second videos of poor quality. Also when you zoom in that much you can’t even see what you’re looking at.

The Tall People: These are people that should just make the decision to stand in the back because no matter where they are, they will see what’s going on. Some day I will open my own concert venue that arranges where everyone is standing based on height.

To conclude my dissertation I would like to say that although all of these people (and combinations of these people) inevitably surround me at concerts, I still come away feeling like I have just seen the best show ever and go through the next week in a sort of daze and listen to the music from the show nonstop. Even though it would be kind of great if everyone stayed still and sat down and didn’t say a word, it’s cool that the energy from the crowd can change the energy from the performer – and they give you a great show and a 4-song encore. So I will live out my love-hate relationship with live shows and maybe invest in stilts or a stool or something.

Also listen to this Tiny Desk Concert it’s great and a great example of how amazing Hozier is live (I’m in that daze I talked about).

NONONO, Foals, Arctic Monkeys Concert Review

Posted on 22 December 2013 by Taylor Dodson

My luck came close to running out last week as my best friend and I struggled with finding proper transportation and therefore nearly had to sell our tickets – two tickets I had spent $80 on so that my best friend had a great Christmas present instead of Swedish Fish and nail polish – to a show I, personally, had been looking forward to ever since it was announced: Arctic Monkeys at The Rave. Thankfully, everything fell into place and my Friday the 13th turned out to be pretty freakin’ awesome.

Arriving to The Rave at a little after 5, we waited in line for an hour and enjoyed the Moon Taxi pre-show, gazing up at the lit stage that held a man with a slight resemblance to Kurt Cobain…who I may have tweeted about…which the band may have seen. And favorited.

Twitter famous, ya’ll.

Once doors to the Eagles Ballroom had opened, the rush inside began. The line weaved through lobbies and stairwells and angry (bitter? jealous?) Rave employees until, finally, we were in. This was my first time in the Eagles Ballroom specifically, despite many past trips to The Rave itself. Needless to say, I was pretty blown away by the room. It was both extremely large and very beautiful. In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a handy dandy photo for some perspective:

It’s pretty fisheye’d (excuse my lack of proper terminology and phrasing), but it’s something visual. From my Google image search heart to yours.

After waiting for about three hours (one of the bands were late and threw off the whole set by an hour, but it was well worth the wait), we were finally treated to the first opening act: NONONO. Upon entering the venue, I had no idea who this band was, but they’re super catchy and worth checking out; the chorus of ‘Pumpin’ Blood’ may be somewhat recognizable due to a commercial for Sparkling Ice. I will say that I prefer this Swedish dance-pop live compared to the tracked versions of their work, but it’s decent nonetheless and you’ll enjoy it if you like unique vocals mixed in with lots of synth and whistles. Live, the vocals actually immediately reminded me of Swedish rock band The Sounds, who I enjoy immensely. NONONO lead singer Stina’s voice is deeper and more passionate during her live performances and the band brings along some good, contagious energy.

After a set that seems to be a collection of…well, all of their work since they only have one EP out, NONONO left the stage to the second opener: Foals. Hailing from the UK just like the Arctic Monkeys, Foals has apparently won some really awesome award for “Best Live Act” as of this year and were nominated for “Best Act In The World Today” as well. When the show’s announcer shared this with us, the smartass inside me initially thought “They’re either going to be incredible or they’re going to be disappointing thanks to the high expectations this radio personality/concert host just gave us.” Never again will I let myself have the doubts I did that night. WHAT. A. SHOW. They were insane. With a guitar intro nearly parallel to the likes of psychadelic rock bands of the past, Foals put on one of the most energetic and fantastic shows I’ve ever seen. While hits like ‘My Number’ come off as retro disco-pop on the tracks rather than intense indie-rock, I can assure you they are a blast to hear live. Complete with a crazy light show, crowd surfing by lead singer Andrew, and amazing guitar-solos, the show was absolutely paralyzing. I would present you with a selfie of my dropped jaw and un-interrupted stare that lasted the whole set, but I didn’t take one because I was busy experiencing the barely-explainable wonder that was happening in front of my very eyes.

That hour of great intensity passed, and at long last I was about to see Alex Turner (and Alex Turner’s hair, which is so distinct that it is often described as a separate member of the band) put on the moves and serenade me (recklessly? I’m sorry, I had to) as the red lights and constant smokiness gave off a magnificent silhouette of the band. Starting the night off sultry and slow, ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ echoed throughout the ballroom as the screams bounced off the curved ceiling. Following up with the ever-energetic ‘Brianstorm’ was the perfect choice, as the formerly mentioned slower show-starting hit suddenly melted into something fast-paced and wild. By wild, not only do I mean the brilliant vocal effects and guitar solos, but also the crowd, who had then chosen to send waves upon violent waves of somehow-synched pushes towards the front of the room, trapping everyone’s ankles and nearly causing us all to kiss the concrete on multiple occasions. Keeping the energy going with the slams of chords (a weird description yet the only accurate one I can come up with) during the scream-inducing ‘Dancing Shoes’, AM proved that they knew just how to pace the entire show perfectly. ‘Dancing Shoes’ was followed up by “Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’, ‘Old Yellow Bricks’, ‘Crying Lightning’, ‘Snap Out Of It’, ‘Reckless Serenade’, ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’, ‘Arabella’, and ‘Pretty Visitors’ before Turner decided to let everyone know that he was indeed focused on the lovely ladies in the audience. Loudly repeating “How are the LADIES doin’ tonight, Milwaukee?!” before declaring that the next song was for us specifically (‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’, naturally), the energy jumped yet again on the scale from sexy to party. The spirit of Young Taylor went absolutely insane, let me tell you. I heard that song when it first came out seven or so years ago, and it’s the reason I decided to check out the rest of their work a few months ago. As you can tell, I’m not exactly a “lifetime fan”, but simply a ‘fan of their beginning turned fan of everything they’ve ever done, ever’. As the main set ended with ‘Knee Socks’, ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’, and ‘505’, the couples standing directly in front of me were, uh, mingling so hard that they were close to creating life. That’s what these jams do to people, you know? I mean, what are boundaries anyway? I sure don’t mind you brushing against me as you try to do everything except keep it in your pants. However, all was forgiven as I reminded myself I was 100 feet away from such incredible musicians who returned two minutes later for an encore; “I’ve only got time for ‘One For The Road’, Milwaukee!”, Alex yelled, going right into another fantastic hit off their latest album, AM. Immediately after, he goes “I’ve only got one question for you.” and ended the night with a powerful performance of “R U Mine?”, making me wish for the millionth time that night that I could gaze into his eyes and say “Why, yes, Alex Turner. I am yours. Yes. Play with my hair and sing me to sleep, would you?”

Ultimately, it was one of the best shows I’ve been to. Ever. Don’t let the live performances on internet-land fool you, because this show greatly surpassed any of the video representations I looked into beforehand. The band was spot on, the vocals were spot on, the visuals were…well…you know…they were sort of like this:

And like this:

A little bit like this:

And a lot like this:

You’re welcome.

Marnie Stern has the cutest dog ever and its name is Fig

Posted on 21 April 2013 by Rachele

Yep, it’s pretty much official, Marnie Stern is awesome, and she has a freakin’ cute dog. Friday night’s concert was a success! Roomrunner and Marnie Stern played a great show, we got to hang out with all of them, talking everything from crazy tour adventures to life after college. Here is some documentation from the event (excuse my poor photography skills, I really suck at taking concert photos):


Fig drinking


Marnie shredding

Thanks again to everyone who came out and showed their support despite all the other events happening on campus. As always, here at WLFM we love to see people dancing rather than sitting at the boring War Requiem. Just kidding!! Also, if you did happen to miss the show because of the LSO concert, I will be posting vids on Facebook shortly!



Shabazz Palaces, or…Who…Do You Think…You Are?

Posted on 05 April 2012 by Rachele

Seriously Shabazz Palaces. Who do you think you are?

I should preface this review by saying I don’t feel compelled to write a review of every show that I see now that we have this handy-dandy website that I can write show reviews on. But I can’t not say something about the Shabazz show. It was too good. Wayyyy too good. I knew it would be good, but even I wasn’t prepared.

I’ll start at the end. “Thanks for coming and checking us out,” were the last words spoken by frontman (I admit, this title is debatable, but for lack of a better word I’ll call him a frontman) Ishmael Butler aka “Palaceer Lazaro,” after their hour-long, non-step set. “You’d be stupid not to!” Was the response from some seemingly star-struck fan in the crowd. I won’t name any names (Jake Fisher), but seriously, you’d be stupid not to.

Back to the beginning. They came out of nowhere. I’m not even sure if they entered from backstage or crept up from the side or what…I literally don’t even remember. They were just there. Lazaro and partner Tendai ‘Baba’ Maraire  filled the stage immediately with a presence that obviates all eloquence — in speech, and in writing. These guys are badass. There is no other word. Profanity is a necessity.

There are comparisons, though. Lazaro’s entire look seemed to be drawn from the ’80s (think: updated MC Hammer), while Maraire looked slightly reminiscent of Bob Marley. When they started to play, they immediately busted out into synchronized, choreographed dancing (think: updated Morris Day and the Time) that could have easily strayed into the realm of campy, except that it didn’t. Not even a little bit. That’s the thing about these guys, is that they were just dripping with references to the past, and yet nothing about them was unoriginal. And it’s because when that first bass drum hit filled the room you were immediately transported away from the venue, away from past, away from the present, even, and into another universe. Shabazz Palaces didn’t emerge from any genre, really. They emerged from a spacecraft and swiftly converted their extraterrestrial powers into an unearthly noise we humans can only meekly describe as hip-hop.

And, I guess it was a hip-hop show, at its bare bones. The opener was a hip-hop act, the DJs doing sets between acts played hip-hop, I even danced like I would dance to hip-hop. But I’m just not sure. Their ambiguity was obvious to me early on, with their album Black Up. Besides the fact that is signed to Sub Pop, a predominantly white, girly, indie label, there are certain production choices that seem to place it in another realm. At first I wanted to label this as inexperience, or immaturity. I thought, these guys really have something going for them, they just need to refine it a little bit. Kind of like I think Janelle Monae is a genius but some of her lyrical content is a little bit immature. Seeing Shabazz live totally changed my mind. I don’t think they’re going for hip-hop, which is why some of their production choices seem a little bit strange. I also think some of the things they do don’t really translate into album at all. There’s too much going on. Lazaro was playing a drum machine, laptop, sampler, and using a vocoder all at the same time. Maraire, aptly described as a “multi-instrumentalist” by Wikipedia, was playing bongos, a tom-tom, a drum machine, a shaker thing, no, wait, multiple shaker things, another noisy thing, so many things! And that thing that’s so infamously used in “An echo…” (speaking of which, they kind of played that song, but not really, they just played around with that sample that sounds like a choir of babies and used the “thing” — God, what is that thing???). He was also vocoding his voice. See what I’m saying? There’s a lot going on. You have to see it live to get what it all means, and why they’re not just a hip-hop act. They give the word “Sub Pop” a whole new meaning. Yeah, it’s a sub-category of Pop. Not Pop, not hip-hop, just…something.

And even calling them an “act” feels wrong. I could say that Maraire and Lazaro are incredible performers, but they’re not. Performing implies that some kind of charade is being put on, that something could go wrong, that you’re not being yourself entirely. No, these guys weren’t performing. They were abducting. Abducting us into their alien noise. Everyone in the audience got taken to planet Shabazz that night (any coincidence that they were playing at Mad Planet? PS, if you haven’t seen a show there, do it). They did everything right. They played what we wanted to hear, and they played stuff we hadn’t heard ever before but now we’re eager to hear it again. They were obviously quite comfortable playing material from Black Up but they never strayed into boredom or looked like they were doing something routine, and the new stuff they played looked like they had been doing it for years. I was very much absorbed in the world they created up on stage. Their attention to the music was never broken and neither was mine. I felt a kind of strange awe that  I was allowed to view them, and I still kind of feel it. Maybe Wilmer and I got abducted into a parallel universe that just looks like earth but we’re not really back on earth yet at all. (I didn’t make this connection last night, but Wilmer and I saw a shooting star on our drive home…”You think I’m selfish, exist only to wish on stars….” Too weird.)

I had an art history professor tell my class that the average person today doesn’t know what the avant-garde is. And now I know why. It’s because it comes from another planet, and occasionally lands on earth to play shows. Shabazz’s tour schedule says they’re off to Chicago next…I think we all know that’s a lie. You can’t hide from the humans now that we’ve seen you. Now that we know who you are….

Let The Slowest Head Banging You’ve Ever Seen Begin. Earth, Ô Paon. June 9, 2011

Posted on 20 November 2011 by poorrichardmarx

“We’re less Wagnerian and more Debussy-like now.” – From interview, Nov. 29, 2010

“It’s a Waltz.  You can dance if you want.” – From the show


 By: Josh Younggren


Everyone has something like it.  The absolute, ultimate shit – for lack of a better term.  Sonic-love that penetrates personality – makes you wish you could do those drugs, play that music, live that life, – that ultimately influences you.  So, for the sake of this review, I should say that Earth has been one of those “bands” for me.  They’ve put out an album every 5 years or so since their inception in 1989.  The engraving on the A/B record of their ’08 LP The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull reads: “Slow People | Slow Music.”  So let’s just get it outta the way: Earth Is SLOW.   But damn are they consistent.  Consistently Slow and Consistently the Shit.  Regardless of my own personal opinions on consistency and my often ill-founded attempts at forcing anyone I know to listen to their music – I mean they did only define a genre, yeah, no big deal or whatever – Earth tends to be a band that a lot of people have heard of but not heard.    

They stay under the radar.  From the small amount of coverage their most recent album Angels of Darkness Demons of Light Pt. 1 received, to the impossible task of finding tour dates via google (search: Earth band Milwaukee), Earth still remains underground, whatever that means.  Fifty people showed up to see them.  Fifty.  I was two feet away from the band.  I can tell you every type of pedal, every drum, every tattoo, fuck, even how many cigarettes Carlson’s Camel Lights soft-pack had left.  The Mad Planet in Milwaukuee is a gem.  It’s in an area likely to be covered with new-asphalt and Whole Foods’ in a couple of years.  For the time being, I can’t imagine many people have heard of this place.  The stage is about as wide as the width of your apartment’s living room.  Couches scatter the perimeter, “planetary” lights add color, and the pinball machine is 50¢.  The crowd was very supportive.  Even for the opening act. 

At 10:30, Earth came on stage.  I made my way, easily, to the front.  The biggest question for me and the handful of people I heard discussing this before the show was more of a statement: I hope they’re fucking loud as hell.  As long as I’ve been listening to this band, I’ve assumed they would decimate ear drums.  Like the dynamics of Boris, Sunn O))), even ISIS, I assumed giant amp-stacked monoliths would line the horizon.  I was so wrong.  Their setup was closer to that of Bill Frisell’s Beautiful Dreamers: three modest looking amps sat on stage.  Adrienne Davies’ bass drum was easily the biggest thing up there.  Carlson’s new version of Earth is the now consistent duo of guitar and drums (Carlson and Davies), augmented by touring bassist Angelina Baldoz and cellist Lori Goldston. 

 The first notes of “Old Black” said it all.  Earth was playing an intimate set: I’m talking the kind of sound that surrounds.  The kind of music founded on fidelity, not sheer dynamic intensity.  They created a place you could live in.  The mix was amazing, and I know it wasn’t the sound guy – I saw him playing pinball before the show started.  My friend beat his score.  This was a mix that came from hours of rehearsals and road dates.  “The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull” followed.  Lori Goldston is brilliant.  The newest member in the band, both in addition and aesthetics, her playing was amazingly inspired.  In a recent interview conducted by none other than Goldston on the band’s website, Carlson described Earth as an evolution of sound and aesthetics. “I go back and I listen [to our albums], and – maybe just because it’s me; everything sounds continuous. None of the changes have been that dramatic to me. ”  It seems only natural that we finally find Earth playing with bowed instruments.  Since Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method, the band has slowly evolved into a sprawling, landscape painting Post-Morricone behemoth of sorts.  Earth is not a band of individual colors.  They paint landscapes.  Slowly changing scenery in a distant, pinhole world, or a twenty-foot mural – whichever you prefer.  The colors stay relatively stagnant in their live set, moving gradually via Carlson, Davies and Baldoz, who set the foundation.  Lori Goldston made the trees sway, she made the clouds change.     

But like so many great band leaders, Carlson writes songs that often work better when the central figure is not that leader.  Bill Frisell’s guitar work on “Engine of Ruin” (from Bees Made Honey) has to be one of the greatest recently recorded examples of taste.  And like “Engine,” “Father Midnight” was not Carlson’s, it was Goldston’s.  The sparse rhythm of its theme left open-space for Goldston to play.  Her solo slowly built from the singing, middle register of her cello to the piercing harmonics and demonic growls she was extremely capable of producing.  She never showed off.  Her composure on stage was chill, if not completely expressionless.  Her gray-black hair covered most of the facial expressions she might have made. 

             Angels of Darkness Demons of Light Pt. 2 is set for an October release, Carlson announced on stage.  So I guess we’ll hear a studio version of “Multiplicity of Doors” sooner than I was expecting.  Similar to Pt 1 in instrumentation, it was long.  But almost startlingly different from their other work, there was an obvious bridge; a separate, altered-tempo section.  It hit hard.  But not as hard as the last song of the set, “Ouroboros is Broken.”  It just plain rocked.  The Sleep-shirted red-eyed “fuck-yeah” screaming fan sounded like he shit his pants.  More like Boris than Morricone, the slow head banging had us all holding our caps.  I took mine off.  That new pinch-harmonic made us all grin with happiness.   In Carlson’s words in reference to this song from the same interview quoted above: “if you speed it up it’s practically a Slayer riff.”  Truth.     

Carlson’s songs are approaching a style similar to collective composition.  The centerpiece and self-titled track from Angels Pt 1, was the encore.  Much more than any other song in the set, this was a group improvisation.  (All songs on the new album are credited to both Carlson and Davies, save this behemoth, credited to all the members.)  Easily the longest track on the album, it lasted a good twenty minutes live.  Starting with Davies’ mallets, and Carlson’s twangy one-note vamping guitar line, each member slowly joined the crescendo.  Goldston added her double-stopped drones and Baldoz repeated a knee-buckling bass line in counterpoint with the guitar.  It all built to Carlson’s sparse melody, straddling the line between loose, free playing and in-time grooving.  They were all gracefully united on stage.         

To some, Earth is the definition of simple. Analytically, their songs aren’t much more than a slow riff repeated endlessly over a droned vamp.  But calling their brand of simplicity “repetitive,” “simple” or even, well, “drone” seems belittling; these are the descriptors I would use to describe the opener O Paon (Geneviéve Castrée).  For some reason, looped-guitars and/or looped-harmonies with sung vocals have recently setup shop in the acceptable/praisable realm of “popular” music criticism.  I guess for O Paon, that’s a good thing.  She sang wonderfully, I’ll give her that.  Somewhere in there I could feel emotion, a little bit more than just 40 minutes of Alan Sparhwak-influenced guitar loops with five breaks scattered throughout.  I guess it was minimal and dark and deep and stuff.  O Paon is the definition of simple.  And it’s not because she sang in French, or that she couldn’t really play her guitar.  She just downright lacked surprise.  From the moment I saw the Boss RC-20, it was over.  But that’s just me.            

Let’s get back on track.  On paper, Dylan Carlson’s physical appearance embodies the stereotypes associated with drone-doom.  He did have a demonically EPIC beard at this show, and of course, bands like SunnO))) have taken that image a little further, but the bottom-line is: we think Dylan Carlson is a hard dude.  His picture in the jacket for Bees looks hard as fuck.  But just like the volume levels I expected, I was wrong.  Dylan Carlson shakes.  Watching him plug in his pedals before the show made me nervous.  Watching him pluck the old strings on his Fender Squire during his solos made me nervous.  Hearing his “Thank You’s” after each song made me nervous.  But for some bizarre reason, I never once doubted his musicianship or his technique, never once felt like they’d fall apart.  That’s why Earth is above the predictable music of O Paon.  Why the shaking made it that much more relatable.  Dylan Carlson has created a place that controls him; a place where his nerves check and his playing just works.  The slowlife-Dovzhenko-landscape that Earth inhabits revolves by itself; rejuvenates istelf; exists by itself.   Once their show starts, wrong doesn’t really exist. 

Ultimately, Earth’s world is a Utopia of sorts.  How we lived when we didn’t have mindless shit to do.  Before your bro’s iPad.  Before music was free.  Before everyone you know knew everything about everything you love.  But like Dylan Carlson’s shaking fingers and frantic, squirrely voice, our lives are fast.  We shake because our bosses, our friends, and our cars shake.  Shit, our parents shook.  We can only hope we find something that will slow us down.  Wake us up.  Calm us.  Carlson’s found his “something.”  So I guess, with lofty hopes that I can pull the degrees-of-separation card here, I found my slightly smaller “something.”  I’m glad I was two-feet away from him.           


Read the Interview referenced here: