Live Music Music

Of Monsters and Men @ Stage AE 6/12

At a certain point during the Of Monsters and Men show last night it became painfully aware that I’m fond of music that is also “hearted” by teenage girls. When did this happen? How did it happen? Either I need to find some semblance of peace with this or I just need to go full on Pitchfork asshole and only listen to bands that repel not only reasonable human beings but woodland creatures as well.

Welcome to the third installment of THE, LIKE OHMIGOD, MOST AMAZING CONCERT WEEK IN PITTSBURGH INDIE-ROCK HISTORY edition of the 30Hz Rumble. I’ll be your host. Statler of the famously crotchety Muppet duo Statler and Waldorf. I’d like to begin by saying:

So it goes with me and outdoor shows. I like live music (clearly). There’s nothing wrong with being outside. There’s nothing wrong with listening to music outside. But somehow, when you compile listening to live music outside I turn into an old, crotchety fart. Of Monsters and Men played a short, tight set. Much like Alt-J, they have a limited catalog from which to choose and they played it with much attention to detail. The outdoor version of Stage AE also sounded remarkably good (for an outdoor venue). A good time was had by all. It was a nice, placid, laid-back, one-beer night. But is that enough? Is that memorable? If we’re not seeking transcendence, why are we making the effort — the babysitters, the traffic, the people who idle in front of the concessions without any desire to partake of said concessions — to patronize live music? Perhaps this is too much of a conversation for me to tackle today. I need more coffee. I also need to write more #Bond_age_ essays. So it goes.

Of Monsters and Men Stage AE

That was my view from left field. And as I said it was constant placidity until it was pointed out to me, however, that many of the songs played by Of Monsters and Men contain a “HEY.” I started to listen for that “HEY” obsessively. The songs in their catalog then become divided between those that have a “HEY” and those that don’t have a “HEY.” And then you start obsessing over all the other alt-folk-indie-whatever that have songs in which they say “HEY.” It’s a downward spiral from there. The Icelandic Of Monsters and Men plays a great, if too-palatable brand of zeitgeisty indie-folk. They’re a hard act to see immediately after The National, who, to my knowledge, doesn’t say “HEY.” The show further emboldened my appreciation for what I’d seen and heard the night prior.

I paused the spiral for a moment to really soak in “Little Talks” before setting off into the night, for the last time in THE, LIKE OHMIGOD, MOST AMAZING CONCERT WEEK IN PITTSBURGH INDIE-ROCK HISTORY. I was tired. Three nights out in a row is a lot for an old concert going curmudgeon like me. And as it turned out, it wasn’t quite so OHMIGOD AMAZING, after all. But hyperbole is always more fun, ain’t it? And please, in the future, dear promoters, put all the bands I care about inside.

I imagine you’ll hear from me again after the Yeasayer show at Mr. Smalls near the end of the month. Until then…

Live Music Music

Alt-J @ Mr. Smalls 6/10

Long time lurker, first time poster. Or at least it seems that way. With #Bond_age_, the James Bond Social Media project going on, I’ve allowed my blog to collect cobwebs, doing a half-assed job of upkeep by posting the James Bond essays. It’s still something, right?

But now that we’re back in full-blown concert season I’ll do my best to throw some thoughts up here to keep the wheels turning, juices flowing, reverb blowing you’re f’ing mind.

I’ve dubbed this week THE, LIKE OHMIGOD, MOST AMAZING CONCERT WEEK IN PITTSBURGH INDIE-ROCK HISTORY. Last night our normally musically-deprived city hosted the Local Natives and Alt-J and I found myself at Mr. Smalls for the Alt-J show. They released one of my Top 3 records of 2012. So despite my affection for Local Natives, I couldn’t pass up Alt-J. Had to be there. Plus I’d been hearing about their live shows ages from some UK Twatter acquaintances. If I had some 30Hz Correspondents like Jon Stewart has for the Daily Show I could cover everything. Sadly, they’d be the most under-worked and under-appreciated staff in the history of staffs. And I temped at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, so I know how low the bar can be set.

Alt-J at Mr. Smalls 6/10/13
Nondescript Alt-J blobs playing the intro to “Tesselate.”

Regarding the picture above, I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. I do not stand there at a show and take videos and dozens of pictures of the band I’m seeing. I may Tweet a ton before the act get on stage but once they’re up there, I’m locked in. Unless they play some slow jam filler, in which case I might check the baseball box scores, Twitter, etc. Point is, that for these shots of bands on stage, I take one picture. Just one. Whatever happens, happens. I do it out of obligation to you, reader. Proof that I have some reason to talk about the things I do. Now moving on.

Alt-J didn’t disappoint. They’re a tight band that skirted metronomic precision. What you hear on the record is what you heard in the show. I noticed a few minor variations, including an ever-so-slightly extended conclusion to “Fitzpleasure.” So minute was the adjustment that I only recognized it because I played the hell out of that song last year. Maybe adjustment is overselling it; it’s actually more like adding a few Cheerios to your bowl of Frosted Mini-Wheats, just to go crazy one morning at breakfast.

I will say that there’s a sonic schism between their music from An Awesome Wave and everything else. And this is made more apparently live. Everything other than Wave felt, for lack of a better term, languorous in direct comparison. Even certain tracks from Wave, rearranged, became the filler they are on the album, due to the absence of of the album’s careful construction.  The crowd visibly sank at times during the show. Perhaps because some of these tracks just weren’t as well known. I could have done without the few interruptions. Play other stuff in the encore and dispatch the “Real Hero” a cappella cover, which is a sagging repetitive commercial jingle taken out of the context of the movie Drive anyway.

I cherish the album construction on An Awesome Wave perhaps more than I care for the individual songs. The tracks comprise a single entity rather than individual bits to be “singles” or components of an arbitrary playlist. While “Tesselate,” “Breezeblocks” and “Fitzpleasure” are more than willing to stand on their own, they are all emboldened by their placement on the record. Part of me hoped Alt-J would suddenly change their entire live set just for Pittsburgh, just to play An Awesome Wave uninterrupted. But, alas, they did not bow to my subliminal demands. Instead they threw their entire (albeit small) catalog into a bingo wheel. The shizophrenic show never really gained much momentum in any one direction, to my ears anyway. I appreciated the craftsmanship of a band surely destined to play bigger venues in front of larger crowds, but felt some disconnection. Was it me? Was it them? I longed to feel some visceral emotion here, the same I feel when listening to An Awesome Wave. The crowd rallied around the three aforementioned tracks, especially “Breezeblocks” but their enthusiasm never seemed to met by the band. After their relatively short set I was merely granted an early evening and a greater conscious appreciation for their musicianship but no post-concert buzz, no desire to run off into the night spouting the lyrics from my favorite Alt-J songs. There just wasn’t any gut punch. Contemplative, a little weary from lack of sleep (fatherhood, #amiright?) I got back in my car. Royal Teeth’s “Wild” came on XMU  (see them Friday for $10 at Stage AE!). So I rolled down my windows, cranked it up and headed off towards the Pittsburgh skyline.

I’ll wrap up my brief Alt-J conversation with a self-proclaimed *gold* tweet I shared with my twatterverse last night.

Now it’s time to turn my attention to the rest of the week’s schedule for THE, LIKE OHMIGOD, MOST AMAZING CONCERT WEEK IN PITTSBURGH INDIE-ROCK HISTORY. This was actually the term I was using when The Gaslight Anthem still planned to play two dates at Mr. Smalls. It’s not quite as amazing any more, but I’d rather stick with the grand hyperbole AND be able to see Gaslight when they come back to play that canceled show in September.

Tonight: THE NATIONAL (w. Dirty Projectors) tonight at Stage AE.
Wednesday: OF MONSTERS AND MEN at Stage AE.
Friday: WILD TEETH at Stage AE.

And if you’re lucky I might check back in tomorrow after seeing The National for the third time. Three wildly different venues. Maybe I’ll even rank the shows. Everybody loves arbitrary lists of things.

Take some music to go. Alt-J, “Fitzpleasure”

ALT-J “Fitzpleasure” from COSA on Vimeo.

30Hz Recommended Music

30Hz Recommended: 40 Best Albums of 2012

With excessively arbitrary panache we decide that, ever year, December 31st is the end cut off for our scourge of “Best Of” lists. I’m guilty for creating. You’re guilty for reading (and maybe creating, as well). We’re all in this together. And we’ll wallow in these lists for the next few months like pigs in shit. Nevermind the industry hurtles round and round. The industry, the artists, they don’t care about December 31st. Maybe they do. But music isn’t like the movie industry. The Academy Awards have the power to fuel box office and drive profits. Your blog, my bl-g, we have nothing but our own narcissism to offer these bands that probably won’t be up for a Grammy or an AMA or (god forbid) a CMA because of our recommendations. Maybe I sell one more record for a few of these bands. If I do, I’m ecstatic for promoting, what I consider, excellence in the vapidly expansive music biz.

30Hz Best Albums of 2012

With any of my year end music lists, remember I am just one guy. I cannot possibly listen and consider every record evenly. Every year a few records slip in under the wire and forge an immediate connection. But, by and large, these records are the ones that stuck with me, demanded repeat listens and engaged me on some superficial fun time vibe (Poolside, Fanfarlo), ethereal (John Talabot, How to Dress Well), primordial (METZ, Quakers) level. I’m not going to pretend that these picks are going to change the world; we all know that Wyld Stallyns are destined for that job. Some of these records received harsh, hate-mongering from various review sites. I particular enjoy loving a record that Pitchfork lambastes without remorse or scruples (Yeasayer, Alt-J). So here they are, the 30Hz Recommended: Top 40 Records for 2012. And, yes, I am allowed to change these picks should I find another record that grips me by the balls and won’t let go. Even with 40 those last few decisions are heartbreaking (sincere apologies to Lau, Bat for Lashes, Crybaby, El-P, The Lumineers and Freelance Whales). I throw you some videos for 1-15 and hopefully fill in some more later.


1. The Chromatics, Kill for Love


2. Alt-J, An Awesome Wave

3. John Talabot, Fin


4. Allo Darlin’, Europe


5. Perfume Genus, Put Your Back 2 N It

6. Keaton Henson, Dear

[soundcloud id=’25782521′]

7. Poolside, Pacific Standard Time


8. Django Django, Django Django


9. Quakers, Quakers

[soundcloud id=’36487914′]

10. Yeasayer, Fragrant World

[soundcloud id=’56373248′]

11. Twin Shadow, Confess

[soundcloud id=’51888563′]


12. Lampchop, Mr. M

13. Of Monsters and Men, My Head is an Animal

14. Grimes, Visions

15. DIIV, Oshin

[soundcloud id=’44950822′]

16. How to Dress Well, Total Loss


17. Beach House, Bloom


18. Fanfarlo, Rooms Filled With Light

19. METZ, Metz

20. First Aid Kit, The Lion’s Roar

21. Flying Lotus, Until the Quiet Comes


22. Killer Mike, R.A.P. Music

23. Two Wounded Birds, Two Wounded Birds


24. The Pass, Melt


25. Friends, Manifest!

26. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Here

[soundcloud id=’3508022′]

27. Tennis, Young & Old


28. Hospitality, Hospitality

29. Hip Hatchet, Joy and Better Days


30. Daughn Gibson, All Hell


31. Port St. Willow, Holiday


32. Dry the River, Shallow Bed

33. The Walkmen, Heaven

[soundcloud id=’43420973′]

34. Stealing Sheep, Into the Diamond Sun


35. Bear in Heaven, I Love You, It’s Cool

36. Damien Jurado, Maraqopa


37. Woods, Bend Beyond


38. Tops, Tender Opposites


39. Prinzhorn Dance School, Class Act

[soundcloud id=’40707634′]

40. Mount Eerie, Clear Moon