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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Helio Sequence-Opolis-Norman, OK



            That’s what I was for a good 15 minutes after Helio Sequences spectacular splash down in Norman this past Saturday night. I’m just thankful that I was given the time to write this after the fact, because I don’t believe the “uhhhh” you would have elicited from me at the time would have done them justice.


            I went into the show a casual fan of the band, impressed with their indie-rock splattered against the blippy electronic canvas. I left, however, a prophet, shouting, from the street corners, the Word of Helio.


            Another stellar show at the Opolis (oh how I love the cats) that stood head and shoulders above the rest I’ve caught there so far this summer. It rolled to a start with the sunny stylings of Kansas’ D*R*I* who filled the room with light and warmth. They were as golden as field of wheat, breezing through an unhurried set that left the crowd warm and assured. The bright and dazzling vocals and windswept guitar was a great set up for what would prove a more frantic headliner.


            The Portland two-piece, The Helio Sequence, have enjoyed a fruitful career. They have opened for the likes of the Pixies, Modest Mouse, the Shins and most recently British maestros Keane. All four of the releases have been well received, chiefly their most recent album “Keep Your Eyes Ahead.” They have also benefited from the backing of their indie stalwart label Sub Pop, a dream for lead singer Brandon Sumners.


            “One of the first cassettes I bought was “Bleach” by Nirvana and it really inspired me. I thought ‘wouldn’t it be awesome to be on Sub Pop?’ Sure enough, x amount of years later, here we are.”


            The Helio Sequence hit a major road bump in 2005 when Sumners temporarily lost his voice. He came out of the event a new man, and the duo became a new band. They had to change the way they approached their music, though many will argue it was for the best, Sumners included.


            “I feel like I came out of it completely different. The way I look at a song, everything really. I look at it as a fateful adjustment though.”


            Helio Sequence seems to be all the stronger for the incident, and don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.


            The band fluttered through Norman almost exactly a year ago to the day, and even then didn’t let a torrential downpour of rain and tornado sirens in the distance put a damper on things. This time around we saw them celebrating their tenth anniversary as a band, although it was hard to gauge whether the anniversary couple or the crowd as having a better time.

            The band launched into things on a bit cautious pace with the more deliberate “Can’t Say No.” From then on out, however, things would be moving at a breakneck pace. They dabbled between hectic electro heavy floorburners, like the insatiable “Don’t Look Away” that got the crowd moving, and poignant, though still energetic anthems like “Lately.” The music filled the crowd’s ears and kept on beating like the Energizer bunny; there was no time for breaks, as though the crowd would have even wanted one. That is one thing the band is in no short supply of, energy. It’s that energy that made the crowd lively pulse the night away. And every bit the band gave the crowd, the crowd gave right back.


            Frontman Brandon Sumners strums the life out of the guitar and plays the harmonica like a madman. He is consumed with the music, and seems to play it out of his body like the plague. But despite all of this energy he refuses to sacrifice any vocal integrity and never seems to miss a note.


            Drummer Benjamin Weikel is a sight to be seen. I’ve never seen a drummer to be so entertaining by simple playing along. He carries a unique technique to drumming that is beyond words. Musically, he is tight, precise and heavy, maintaining a perfect driveway for Sumner to glide across.


            The crowd felt a shock of excitement as they turned into the illuminating “Keep Your Eyes Ahead.” They seemed to jump into a whole other gear as the notes bolted across the walls as the place felt like it was on the verge of implosion. They quickly wrapped up the set, and after a short encore, the band called it a night.


            So I stood there, speechless. And despite a full recovery, I am still at a loss of words, struggling to find the perfect words to encapsulate this performance. I think you just had to be there.



Interview with Sherree Chamberlain

Sherree Chamberlain played a gorgeous acoustic set at the Opolis this past Sunday, in support of the Seattle band Telekinesis, where she debuted new songs and performed old favorites as well. Her music is simply stunning, balancing infectious acoustic guitar, poignant guitar, and an alluring voice that culminates in a whirl of color and jubilation.. After the show Sunday night, she took the time to answer a few questions about her music, inspiration, and her plans for the future.


So what inspires your music?


Well, you know, it varies. But, I just bought this book. It sounds so cheesy, but it’s called The Artist’s Way, and it’s just these exercises. Just writing exercises that you have to do everyday, discipline kind of thing. Every morning, I’ve been getting up, writing two pages. You aren’t allowed to go back and look at it, but it really centers you, kind of just gets you in the mood. I’m learning that creativity is a muscle, and if you don’t exercise it everyday it atrophies. So I’ve been really inspired lately by this book I’m reading, and really working on these writing exercises and just letting it flow. It makes you acknowledge your doubts and your shortcomings and you have to write them down. It’s kind of emotional but it feels good once it’s out because you are like, there’s nothing to be afraid of anymore.


What do you prefer about solo shows over the full band ones?


Well, it’s more fun because it is more intimate. I feel like I interact with the crowd a lot. And I don’t have to worry about messing up so much; I mess up all the time during solo shows. It’s fun and I don’t feel that pressure. I don’t know, the crowd gets to hear my voice a little more clearly, and what I’m trying to say a little more clearly too. I can talk in between songs and kind of explain what’s happening. I think sometimes I almost reveal too much and say too much. I really do like interacting and talking to the crowd. I feel like that’s easier when I’m on my own and there aren’t five guys behind me waiting.



So you’ve been playing since you were fairly young then?


Before I even played, in like second grade, I went to my first concert, which was Bryan Duncan. He was some cheesy Christian musician with like a purple suit and black patent leather shoes, so cheesy. I remember lying in my bed trying not to cry thinking about how I wanted to do what he was doing and how I didn’t get to because I was too young. My family has always been musical and I started playing guitar when I was about 14. I should be a lot better for the amount of time I’ve been playing. It’s never been a specific choice for me to play; it’s just always been apart of my family. Actually, recently I realized what it is to be proactive. There is a difference between someone who is creative and someone who is an actual songwriter, because there is a craft to it. You have to look at it in that way; that you have to work. That’s something I’ve never done, I’ve always tried to let creativity come to me. Now I’m realizing that if I want to do this I have to work. So I started taking guitar lessons, I’ve been reading books and working on exercises to better myself, because there is no shame in learning more. I’m enrolling in a music theory class in the fall because it is high time that I started learning that stuff that I needed to a long time ago. I decided to humble myself. I liked to think of it as a natural talent and I wasn’t “trained.” But during recording, it’s a handicap. I realized that I needed to get over my pride issue and admit that I don’t know everything, and that it’s ok.


Is that where all these newly debuted songs came from?


Yeah, I swear to God I’ve written them all in the past four days. I’ve just been really refreshed. Our record is finished in the duplication stage ready to be finished, and some of those songs are about six years old. I’ve just felt such this burden of ‘I can’t move on because I have nothing to show for what I’ve done’ and now that this is finished I’m ready to get in and start an EP because I’m ready to put new stuff out. In the future, I just want to keep writing music. I’m not sure what the main goal is, just that I want to be creatively fulfilled.


And what does music mean to you as an artist?


It’s just something that I’m still trying to figure out. Once again, as dramatic as this might sound, I always, growing up, felt like there was something inside of me; that it is my nature to sing and to play music. I feel so unhappy and discontent if I’m not creating something. I would feel so stifled and grumpy. For me, it’s just part of my nature, and either or not I do something amazing someday, for me that’s not the main goal. For me, the main goal is happiness, therapy and necessity. I’m still figuring it out, but that’s what I’ve got so far.


            Her debut record, “A Wasp in the Room,” will be released in the near future, and you can catch her live at the Marquee in Tulsa on June 16th

Telekinesis-Opolis-Norman, OK


            Telekinesis stormed through Norman this past Sunday night. I came to the show expecting a quaint, intimate evening. The openers, Justin Rice and Sherree Chamberlain, kept the night on that peaceful path before the headliners decided to crash down with a roar of thunder. And nothing is quite as good as the unexpected.

            Seattle’s Telekinesis has been buzzing all over the music scene since early 2009. They were the darlings of SXSW, and have been supporting acts like Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s, Ra Ra Riot, and Cut Off Your Hands since March. The came to Norman on their own however, and I have a feeling their next time through they’ll be occupying a much bigger stage.

            Their brand of power pop is that straightforward, familiar type of music that instantly feels as though you have heard it before. Though it could be easy to be cast off as generic with that sort of song writing, Telekinesis has found a way to keep these down-to-earth melodies fresh, interesting, and miles away from boring.

            The night began with the darling Carly Gwin (of the Workweek), followed by a solo performance of Student Film’s front man Justin Rice, whose superb solo stuff sounded strikingly like the Decemberists. Then it was time for Sherree Chamberlain to take the stage. Her set was relaxed and intimate without the full band backing her. She debuted several new songs and sounded absolutely stellar with her inspirational, folksy ditties. Her lush, unassuming voice bounced along the walls of the Opolis like a beautiful echo. Then it was time for the headliner.

            Telekinesis is basically the one-man act of Michael Benjamin Lerner, but he is accompanied by three fellow Seattle musicians on tour. Lerner helms the drums on stage, but continues as lead singer without skipping a beat. The debut record has a very relaxed, gentle feel to it, but performed live, the songs take on a much more vigorous, frantic form.

            The launched into the set like a tornado, with a fast paced, frenzied dashing between the songs on the set list. They are one of those few bands whose songs might actually sound better live. “Look to the East” and “Tokyo” scurried along hysterically with Lerner’s drums thudding dominantly. They took well deserved breathes with the sauntering “Plankton” and “Awkward Kisser” and even rendered a cover of the Kinks “House in the Country.” The show was at its absolute best with “Calling All Doctors,” which darted around daringly, and the power pop perfection of “Coast of Carolina” which the band elected to close with. You would be hard pressed to find anyone that wouldn’t instantly fall in love with the beautiful melody and enchanting lyrics of this song to a distant lover. If your life was a movie, this is the song that would play over all of the happiest moments, and Telekinesis provided me with one of my happiest moments of the summer with there pleasantly unexpected show.

            This show hit me like a ton of bricks, and I was probably happiest buried beneath all the rubble.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Phoenix-Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

I was almost uncontrollably excited when I heard “1901” a few months ago. The aspect of a new Phoenix album on the horizon brightened my day like a ray of sunshine. Sure enough, the album came out, and it is my favorite release of theirs to date.

            Their music is the definition of European chic to me. It’s as though their music is dressed up in a tight leather jacket, skinny jeans, puffing on a slender cigarette with that effortlessly hip attitude.

            But these Frenchies aren’t just style, and they have a heck load of substance. Dubbed as a European Strokes, they have proved themselves more reliable than their NYC counterparts, crafting alternative rock as polished as a 70’s Corvette. They don’t disappoint with the new stuff either.

            The glossy “1901” paces back and forth over a fuzzy disco beat and zigzagging guitar. “Lisztomania,” the leadoff track, is as catchy as a cold, and songs like “Lasso,” “Rome,” and “Big Sun” show that the band refuses to let off the brakes as the cruise to a close.

            As glitzy and captivating as this record is, you’d be doing your self a disservice to not pick it up. Who knows? Maybe a little bit of that European cool will rub off.


Passion Pit-Manners

Discovering Passion Pit a few months ago with their EP “Chunk of Change”, I had high expectations going into their full-length release. They surpassed every hope I had.

            A must have for fans of MGMT and the like, Passion Pit’s “Manners” feels like a much more complete version of “Oracular Spectacular” with songs ranging from dance floor burners to full blown electro rock anthems. The whole record has the essence of being recorded in the depths of the ocean, splashing and diving with the glimmer of the moonlight overhead.

            The music bounces along like lighting through a thunderstorm, silver shimmers dancing across a gloomy skyline. They kick things off with the remarkable “Make Light” before throwing back to the 80’s with “Little Secrets.” “Sleepyhead,” a hold over from the debut EP, dazzles and splatters for a truly unique listening experience. Highlights come in the form of “Moth’s Wings” and “The Reeling,” which both uncover a glimpse of what feels like the future of music.

            If you feel like dancing, nodding, bouncing, kicking, rocking, and hopping, then this is the record for you. It’s got something for everyone, and everything if you want it all.

Miike Snow-Miike Snow

Miike Snow- Miike Snow

            This Swedish outfit provides the perfect summer cool down with their debut release. The side project of producers Bloodshy and Avant (the men behind releases from Christina Milian, Kylie Monogue, and even Britney Spear’s “Toxic”) enlisted friend Andrew Wyatt to create a sort of Scandinavian N*E*R*D*.  The result is a record that is unmistakably beautiful and undeniably cool.

            These boys must have been saving the best beats for themselves. The songs sound just as poppy as the music they had produced before, but with a much cooler edge. Frost tinged beats and icy swirls of synths make you feel like you are partying at an Antarctic dance club.

            “Black and Blue” glides around at a frantic pace, while “Silvia” sounds like the best OneRepublic song they never wrote. The band is firing on all cylinders with the two leadoffs to the album: “Animal” and “Burial.” “Animal” blips and hops along with an unforgettable hook. Then the blurry “Burial” whirls around like a blizzard viewed outside an icy window. The song won’t leave your head for days, and you won’t want it to.

            Miike Snow’s debut is a testament to how good unpretentious pop songs can be. Just leave it to the Swedes.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Red Cortez: The Opolis 5/19

To those of you who have not yet heard of Red Cortez, rush to the nearest computer and take a listen. No, they are not an extremist militant group. They are, in fact, one of the most interesting bands to burst on the scene in the past few years. Coming to the end of a three month long tour, the band made a quick stop in Norman this past week, and though the crowd was small, one by one, the crowd was slowly converted into a new legion of fans.

            Hailing from Los Angeles, the band has been quietly plugging away the last few years, honing their craft and getting rowdy on stage. But a band this good couldn’t stay hidden for too long.

            Over the past year, Red Cortez has exploded onto the scene. The launch began when Morrissey handpicked the band to open for him over a short jaunt across the US. It was then on to SXSW, an experience lead singer Harley Pritchel-Cortez described as “hectic, amazing, and unforgettable.” They got to open for bands as diverse as Black Lips, Delta Spirit, and Viva Voce. Since SXSW, the band has trekked across the States and has steadily amassed an army of fans.

            Opening for the likes of Tallest Man on Earth, the Submarines, and the Mother Hips, I am all but sure that Red Cortez has stolen the show nearly every time. The played to a sold-out crowd at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City and were surprised and intrigued when the played a show for a strict Christian college in Indiana where the crowd participation was limited to clapping in a seated position after the conclusion of the song. If you have seen the band, you will know how hard it must have been to stay seated.

            Red Cortez live is an unforgettable experience. The crowd at the Opolis probably could have been counted using just your fingers and toes, but the second they rip into that first chord you feel like you are in a sold-out crowd at the Madison Square Garden.

            Pulsing with energy and passion, the band performs like their lives depend on it. The drummer plays on a small set, yet makes a sound bigger than dual drummers. Guitarist Calvin Love slashes and rips through the set, jumping into the crowd without missing a beat. The true spectacle is lead singer Harley Prichel-Cortez. He leaps between songs with the guitar, piano, and harmonica, howling and wailing the entire time. Witnessing the conviction he embodies brings to mind a maniac street preacher, twisting and turning like a gymnast. And the music doesn’t suffer for the theatrics.

            The music of Red Cortez is a puree of punk, bosa nova, blues, soul, and a rock and roll. These diverse influences make for an unmistakable. They bounce between frantic, hurried rock songs to gorgeous blues melodies with unparalleled expertise. “Fell on the Floor” exemplifies that energetic compassion they are known for on the stage. “All the Difference” shows just how light and beautiful they can play.

            So do yourself a favor and go take a listen. I know you will thank me. Just continue to spread the word.

TV on the Radio: Diamond Ballroom 5/18

TV on the Radio stomped through the Diamond Ballroom this past Monday. It was not a show to be missed.

            Most music fans are familiar with TVOTR in some facet. Whether unknowingly listening to “Wolf Like Me,” seeing them on Colbert Report, or reading about them in any of the countless “Best of the Year” articles. Their talent is undeniable. Their blend of rock with electro, jazz, and soul is unmistakable. Their performance at the Diamond was unforgettable.

            What TV on the Radio does best is capture the mood of America today. Much like Bruce Springsteen did in the 80’s and Nirvana did in the early 90’s, TVOTR holds that impeccable skill to capture the feeling of being alive in that timeframe. Their music is largely dark and brooding, but what makes it so exceptional is that ability to grasp that light at the end of the tunnel aspect in their music. There’s a very experimental, avant-garde facet to their songs, but being grounded in straightforward song structure makes the music accessible and remarkable.

            TVOTR’s recordings are complex and layered. It’s the quiet subtleties in their music that makes it feel complete. Sprinkled with synths, horns, and other unworldly tones, every release from the band is a music lover’s staple. The ability to translate these tunes to live shows will blow your mind away.

            The night started with Sweden’s Little Dragon warming up the crowd. Though bewildered at first, the crowd quickly grew more embracing of the band’s electronic soul jams. They proved the perfect opener for the maestros waiting backstage.

            The anticipation grew and grew as the stagehands worked to set up the equipment, you cut have cut the tension with a butter knife as the instruments laid their quietly on stage. Then the band hurtled onto the stage. The place erupted.

            The show began with the swirly “Whirlwind” and after some older, deeper cuts, the place really began to shake was the atmospheric “Halfway Home” churned throughout the ballroom. The crowd boogied along to the lively “Golden Age” before a collective shiver went through the spines of all in attendance as they launched into “Wolf Like Me.” We gazed and swayed along to “Love Dog” before “Staring at the Sun” burned through the crowd like a fire. They finished the set with the menacing “DLZ” that burst through the venue like a tornado, feeling as though the roof might just be torn from the foundation at any moment. For an encore Tunde hopped on the stage for a hauntingly beautiful rendition of “Family Tree” before what felt like everyone back stage must have come up for a percussion dominated “A Method.” The night came to a close with “Young Liars” smoldering like embers as the crowd slow drew away.

            Though the Diamond Ballroom’s sound set up was less than suited for the aforementioned subtleness to some of their songs, it was, however, the perfect environment for the grittiness of songs like “DLZ” and “Wolf Like Me.”

            If you want a glimpse of what music is all about, make sure to catch TV on the Radio the next time the whirl through. I promise you won’t ever forget it.

Jacob Abello

Jacob Abello breezed through the Opolis Saturday night, sweeping the crowd into summer with bubbly pop tunes that warm the soul.

The show was originally meant to be a CD release party for his debut record, “Nothing But Gold,” but with the album just short of completion, the show turned into a celebration of another school year coming to a close and a musical career beginning to bloom.

The night was filled to the brim with optimism and happiness. People chatted the night away with conversations briefly breaking away for the music of the opening acts of the night: the Adventuretones, the Nghiems and Brian Webb. The Opolis felt truly alive, buzzing with energy while gorgeous melodies swept through the cat-plastered walls of the venue.

Anticipation came to a swell as the man of the hour sauntered onto the stage wielding an acoustic guitar. Abello, supported by a full band, dove into a set that swam between jaunty pop songs and unhurried, introspective ballads. With a shimmering gold curtain backdrop and working disco ball, the Opolis would briefly transform into Studio 54 with his dancier tunes before it would revert to a coffee house for his gorgeous, unassuming indie-pop. Abello’s flexibility and effortlessness left the crowd in wonder, gazing attentively at the stage, unable to look away.

The new songs are well-crafted pop tunes with a straightforward simplicity that is refreshing in an age of over-processing and production. Abello feels no need to hide behind production gimmicks and lets his heartfelt melodies speak for themselves. He confessed a love for cheesy pop music from the likes of Britney Spears, older influences like Fleetwood Mac and modern indie pop that he blends into a sound of his very own. He claimed that the more music you listen to, the more diverse influences and different ideas you get. You can’t argue his logic after listening to his immaculate pop tunes.

Talking to him briefly about the record, it is striking how simple the process was for him. Abello had been in love with music since birth, singing at family functions throughout his childhood. This passion gave way to him writing Christian music throughout his years at junior high and high school. However, after growing increasingly discontent with the state of the music industry, he quit writing music.

But he didn’t stay away for too long. He noted that “music was the only thing that I felt like I really loved doing. Going to concerts and such, it just felt like something that I really wanted to do.”

Yet Abello did not force the music out of him, he let it flow naturally. In fact, he did not even set out to write the new record, stating that he “didn’t really write the record for any reason; the songs just kind of came out. I kind of wrote songs just to write them, and that is where the record came from.”

That effortless approach led to a sort of refreshing stripped-down beauty that is hard to come upon in music anymore. Abello claimed that as much as he would love for the album to be huge success, he would be perfectly happy just sticking around here playing shows as well. That is just the sort of sentiment that makes you wish for his success even more, and if the awestruck crowd from Saturday night was any indication, he may very well be on his way.

Armed with a stunning voice, impeccable ear for melodies and effortless approach, Jacob Abello is poised for success. He just makes it all look so easy.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Silversun Pickups- Swoon


            Silversun Pickups will always carry around the stigma of being the new Smashing Pumpkins. Many love their music, others claim that is just a rip off. Either way, you have to acknowledge that this L.A. crew is making a show of it.


            The world was introduced to Silversun Pickups a few summers ago with their debut album “Carnavas” with the surprisingly mainstream single “Lazy Eye” and even more notable track “Well Thought Out Twinkles.” Their mix of glossy garage rock and high pitched vocals filled a void left by the then disbanded Smashing Pumpkins.


             I cannot help but think that Silversun Pickups are currently doing a better impression of the band than they are currently doing themselves, what with there being 1/4th of the original lineup and Billy Corgan preoccupied with schmoozing with Live Nation executives, and there’s no shame in building upon the creation of another.


            “Swoon” picks up where “Carnavas” left off. There have been very few tweaks to their sound, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Their brand of fuzzed out garage noise is just hard enough to nod your head to and imaginative enough to not leave you bored.


            They kick off the album with the catchy “There’s No Secrets This Year,” the perfect launch to a fun record. The album slows down for a bit before kicking back up with the hazy “Panic Switch” that is sure to incite well-mannered moshing for years. “Sort Of” marches off with a progressive tempo and the noteworthy “Substitution” starts off slow before zig-zagging about, dizzying you with the swirling vocal and guitar.


            “Swoon” lacks the punch of the debut, but is overall a more well-polished product than its predecessor. We see them venturing off from the lustrous garage rock sound a little more, which is a shame because rocking out is what the band does best, but it makes for a unpredictable listening experience.


            In an age where musicians are more about being “artists” than making music, something is very refreshing about the straightforward music of Silversun Pickups. Complaining about the Smashing Pumpkins resemblance is misinformed, and if anything, I wouldn’t mind them attempting to sound more like their wayward big brother.

NMF Class of 2009 Awards

Most Likely to Succeed: Here Is There

            Playing to a criminally under attended morning crowd, the band made lemons into lemonade, shimmying through a powerful set filled with guitar solos and pulsing percussion. With their brand of boxed in chaos, and average age of 19, I am sure we will be hearing much more from them in the future.


Best All-Around: Mayola

            The most energetic set of the entire festival, Mayola blended the perfect amount of musicianship, showmanship, and local flavor. Bassist Antonio Laster’s crowd interaction made everyone feel like they were part of the show; what more could you ask for at a music festival?


Class Clown: Man Man

            Their loud, crazy, dysfunctional set left the crowd on the brink of insanity. Pounding, screeching, smacking, and thumping for a chaos-filled hour, Man Man locked in everyone’s attention like the most bizarre court jester there’s ever been.


Best Dressed: Of Montreal

            Of Montreal’s feathered shoulder pads, smoking suits, purple velvet, boas, and Coldplay-esque orange suit had the band making fashion statements galore. I have never seen anyone make a tiger mascot head look so chic.


Best Hair: The Uglysuit

            With long flowing locks, ponytails, feather swept bangs, and something that I can only compare to the mane of Sonic the Hedgehog, the Uglysuit not only blew the crowd away with their gorgeous indie pop ballads, but also with their impeccable hair. 


Most Likely To Make You Smile: Hush Hush, Commotion

            Blasting catchy honest power pop throughout the Sooner Theatre, Hush Hush’s solid set left the crowd grinning like fools, impressed with their old classics and remarkable new tunes.


Best Personality: Sugar and Gold

            Getting the crowd moving and grooving in the late afternoon, Sugar and Gold was the most pleasant surprise at the festival. Their cheeky, fun show was highly entertaining and was the perfect warmup to the chaos that was fixing to ensue.

Hot and Not: NMF 2009


Witnessing 13 hours of amazing music

Jean cut-offs (to the knee)

Getting you and your girlfriend front row view of the Main Stage

Showing off chest tattoo with v-neck shirt

Witnessing Of Montreal in a massive crowd

Hippies dancing to Sugar and Gold




Complaining about Mister Roberts being closed

Jean cut-offs (to the upper thigh)

Getting you and your dog and/or infant front row view of the Main Stage

Showing off dragon tattoo with tank top

Driving your bike through massive crowd

Drunk frat guy dancing to Man Man

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

NMF Preview: The Pretty Black Chains

Kellen McCugan from the Pretty Black Chains talks about West Side Story, pulling the trigger, and even gives a disclaimer.


How would you describe your sound?

Everything that rock n' roll in Oklahoma is lacking: A drunken swagger, instantly catchy and infinitely clever hooks, loads of sweat and a live show that demands your attention! Quite simply put, the attitude with music to back it up!


Why should we go see you at Norman Music Festival?

We feel confident that once you see us play live, you will tell your friends how much fun you had seeing The Pretty Black Chains stick a fork in the socket of the Oklahoma music scene!


What makes your live show special?

One word: Energy. We've all been to far too many shows where artists get up on stage and try to be artists. THAT'S BORING! We play rock n' roll for people who like to have a great time. When we're on stage it's the most fun we all have collectively, and we like to give that back to our crowd. Every other excellent act in Oklahoma have been loading the gun, and we really want to be the ones who pull the trigger.


How’d you settle on the band name?

Yikes... We thought about it for about two months, then just picked three words we all liked and smooshed them together, throwing a "The" on the front for good measure!


What plans do you have for the future?

Work work work! We're booking our entire summer full of shows in Oklahoma as well as the surrounding Midwest. A day without doing business in our band is a day wasted!


What other bands influence you the most?

Where to start? The Libertines, The Raveonettes, Arctic Monkeys, Mando Diao, The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, King Khan and The Shrines, The Cribs, The Horrors, T REX, thebeatlestherollingstonesledzeppelin, Blitz, and generally anything nasty.


Who else will you personally be seeing at Norman Music Festival?

Oh God...... Of Montreal of course, Man Man is supposed to be sick. Basically any and every Stillwater band possible. That town just has this knack to produce really creative and fun bands!


Any memorable concert/tour stories/moments?

We've only been together for four months, but we recently played a house party where we were asked to play a little quieter than normal. We agreed, and then turned up right before we started and went crazy, successfully shutting the party down in four songs. Zing! (Thanks Kevin and Zach!)


Best moment in band history?

Writing eleven songs in two months and continuing to constantly write.


Favorite Norman restaurant?

Pepe's, Blue, The Hideaway!!!


Favorite band as a kid?

You want to say something cool so you sound like you were a badass when you were younger. Lots of pressure! However, I was not a badass when I was a kid, so i'm going with the soundtracks to West Side Story, Oklahoma!, The Wizard of Oz and generally any Disney movie. I am not ashamed. (NOTE: This is just Kellen, no one else in the band shares this taste in music.)


DISCLAIMER: Coming to a PBC show will cause you to shake, sweat, drink, dance, and break everything around you. If you enjoy doing any of these activities we strongly suggest coming to the show at Coaches. Bring your friends. 

NMF Preview: The Uglysuit

Colin Bray from the Uglysuit talks about meeting Sigur Ros, loving life, and shaking what your momma gave you.

How would you describe your sound?

Cerebral opti-rock seems fitting, or so we've heard.


Why should we go see you at Norman Music Festival?

Depending on who else is playing, I might not say you should. Otherwise, if you like "happy feel good" music, come. Be prepared to be compelled to shake what your momma gave you!

What makes your live show special?

Feeling. Energy. Emotion. Joy. First and foremost though, letting go, giving yourself to your eardrums, and the sounds surpassing them.


How’d you settle on the band name?

It’s a story still being lived out.


What plans do you have for the future?

To try and do whatever we can to keep playing music, we're writing for a new album now. It’s exciting to be back in the process, which really the process is something that never ends. Also, we're hoping for shows and tours to keep happening regularly. We'll be working hard for that.


What other bands influence you the most?

That’s the hardest thing for us to answer. You can get answers ranging from every spectrum of music. Literally, anything from trance/house music, to Coldplay or Sigur Ros, to the Gorillaz.


Who else will you personally be seeing at Norman Music Festival?

Hopefully a lot of things. Other lives, Mayola, Man Man, The Mints, Of Montreal, of course, and more I’m sure.


Any memorable concert/tour stories/moments?

There are so many. Probably either pulling into New York for the first time. I'm driving (our full size conversion van and trailer) mind you. We pull into the Lincoln tunnel at like 4:58 pm, on a weekday afternoon!!! The traffic was so bad. Lanes went down from 7 to 2. We had to skip across 4 to make it. The dudes were all freaking out, we ended up making it, just a nice stressful happening in NYC. Quite funny, told them I had it.

Or our first show in Europe, Milan Italy to be exact. The people all totally shut up when as soon as we took the stage; we're used to places here, not that its a bad thing, but people party, loudly. Everyone there was focused on what was happening. We loved that very much.


Best moment in band history?

Some friends of ours saw Sigur Ros in Kansas City one night. The next night drove on over to St Louis, since it wasn't must farther, to see us play with Iron and Wine. They’re hanging out down the street from the venue we were playing and they run into 3 of the 4 members of Sigur Ros. We find out, go find them, and start chatting them up. They asked if we could get them on our list for our show; we laughed and didn't think they'd come. They were their before our set even started, and afterwards they came and hung out with us back stage for hours. That my friend was for sure, our greatest moment, I'm sure we'd all tell you many great things have happened, but that was amazing.


Favorite Norman restaurant? 

JUSTIN"S BAR & BISTRO!!! haha It’s a family business.


Favorite band as a kid? 

Pink Floyd


How was SXSW? 

Amazing. Exhausting. Met so many cool people. Saw so many good bands.


If there is anything else you want to say or add just go ahead!

Love life. Love people. Love music.

NMF Preview: The Separation

I spoke to David from the Separation about the band and.....well....just read for yourself.

How would you describe your sound?

"A Picnic For Your Ears."


Why should we go see you at Norman Music Festival?

It's FREE! It's outside during a a very brief time of Oklahoma weather where it's enjoyable to spend a day outdoors with your friends joyously drinking beer on Main Street. On top of that there's all types of music all around you. It's a great opportunity to be exposed to new music and for all the underage kids around to check out the bands that they usually would have to stand outside a bar to listen to. I also heard a rumor that David Boren was going bust out some percussion solos with Man Man.


What makes your live show special?

We all play atop magical unicorns.


How’d you settle on the band name?

Many centuries ago there was a band of 5 roaming minstrels that spread their joyous music to the masses. They had been tragically separated while traveling through the ancient forest of Dosho and killed one by one by an evil wizard who was jealous of their soothing sounds, damning their souls to the lower heavens and were forced to ride on the edges of rainbows for many, many years. This was their fate until the day that 5 magical unicorns saved the wandering souls and gloriously united them with our earthly bodies, proclaiming we should be called "The Separation" and to begin to spread joyous music to the masses once again.


What plans do you have for the future?

We will travel and play our music whenever and where ever our unicorns take us.


What other bands influence you the most?

Bauhaus and ELO or maybe Bill Joel and Quasi, depends on what mixture of drugs we're on.


Who else will you personally be seeing at Norman Music Festival?

Definitely Man Man and Starlight Mints. I've seen them both countless times but they are always a site to see. And pretty much everyone playing on the Opolis stage.


Any memorable concert/tour stories/moments?

Opening for Of Montreal at Opolis a few years back comes to mind. Seeing as they were one of our favorite bands we were very excited to play with and meet them. Come to find out they were all pretty heinous except for the new guy; There's nothing cuter than a mid-level indie band with the egos of a 1980's hair-metal band.


Best moment in band history?

We played one of our best shows opening up for Ben Kweller at Bricktown Ballroom. Being carried over the crowd at a sold out show by a mob of teenage boys and girls has to be one of the best moments for the entire band, especially Lindsay. Mmm, all those little hands. She got so many phone numbers that night; sorry kids, she's married now.


Favorite Norman restaurant?

Pepe's, hands down. The mix-meat Burrito Loco is the best; it's Emilio's specialty.


Favorite band as a kid?

Gary Glitter

NMF Preview: The Non

What makes your live show special?


We have a lot of energy, and we are pretty all over the stage considering we're an "ambient" rock band. We are probably fun to watch if you enjoy studying music and structures as well.


How’d you settle on the band name?


It wasn't hard. I think it was the first and only band name idea we've ever had.


What plans do you have for the future?


We're moving into a house this summer in Norman and are going to finish writing and recording our next album. After that, we're going to tour in August.


What other bands influence you the most?


We tend to be inspired by innovative music in general. Stuff that makes you think "how did anyone possibly come up with that?" is usually the kind of music that gets us really excited.


Who else will you personally be seeing at Norman Music Festival?


Man Man, because they terrify me and I think their music is nearly unbearable to listen to. That said, I think they will be great live for the same reasons.


Any memorable concert/tour stories/moments?


We had a tour with Ali Harter two summers ago that was fairly epic... as far as best memories, hmm. Probably staying with State Bird in Ohio. This band let us stay in their house at a trailer park dealership and we rode on our bellies on longboards. Tom hit a spike in the road and flew off and scraped up his chin really bad. He had to sleep vertically all night for some reason.


Best moment in band history?


Getting to play shows like DFest and playing in cities like Austin, Lawrence, and Chicago.


Favorite Norman restaurant?


I'm pretty partial to the Library. They have excellent pizza and the atmosphere is intellectual yet fun-loving and a little irreverent. Perfect for me.


Favorite band as a kid?


I definitely had a Sugar Ray phase

NMF Preview: Mayola

Bryan from Mayola talks about Jems, Bison Witches, and not giving a fuck. You can catch them on the Opolis Stage at 3pm.


How would you describe your sound?

-Whenever anyone asks I usually just say loud rock and roll. The sound we create is mostly Riley's folk songs with the band adding a few more levels and dynamics behind it. We've toyed with the description "post-apocalyptic country western rock n roll" but I almost think we've moved beyond that with our new recordings. So if I absolutely had to categorize it I'd just say rock n roll.


Why should we go see you at Norman Music Festival?

-I feel like Mayola operates best to loud, possibly drunk and obnoxious crowds. So hopefully by three in the afternoon everyone will be in the mood to go a little crazy and I don't think there's a better show going on at that time to go a little crazy at than the Mayola show.


What makes your live show special?

-I guess we just like to have a good time when we're on stage and sometimes we really get into it and when we're into it the crowd feels that and wants to have fun with us too. Its kind of a communal experience. I say its therapeutic to just scream at the top of your lungs and flail around like you really just don't give a fuck.


How’d you settle on the band name?

-Mayola is the singer/guitar/piano player Riley Jantzen's grandmother's name.


What plans do you have for the future?

-Well barring any illness or sudden life-altering complications our main goal for the future is just to keep doing this for as long as we can.


What other bands influence you the most?

-Each member of the band has their own influences but I guess all of our influences show up in really subtle ways. Riley is a fan of folk and Americana music and that is essentially where the structure and style of the songwriting comes from but the music itself gets a little crazy and we add elements of anything from punk rock to salsa music. I personally really dig Tom Waits.


Who else will you personally be seeing at Norman Music Festival?

-I think I'm going start the day off with Here is There. Definitely going try to see Ali Harter, The Non, Jabee, Other Lives, The Uglysuit, all our friends really. Gentle Ghost is playing right before us and they're fantastic.

I personally can't wait to see Man Man. They've played in Norman so many times in the past few years and I've missed them each time so this should be fun.




Any memorable concert/tour stories/moments?

-When I was asked to join the band Travis (guitar player) made me a hand-drawn "Official Member of Mayola" card out of construction paper. I like that memory.


Best moment in band history?

-Probably finally putting out our first record. That felt good. Hopefully this new record will be the new best moment.


Favorite Norman restaurant?

-I don't really make it down to Norman that often but every time we play at the Opolis we've got to eat at Bison Witches.


Favorite band as a kid?

Jem! and the Holograms



If there is anything else you want to say or add just go ahead!

-I'm grateful that Oklahoma has a thing like the Norman Music Festival going on and that we get to be apart of it. I feel really sorry for whoever isn't there this weekend.