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No Redemption: Tchami & Malaa bring the U.S. tour to a close at Aragon Ballroom

Tchami x Malaa French Producer/DJs Tchami and Malaa made their return to Aragon Ballroom this past weekend, playing their second sold-out show at uptown's signature venue.

The two French house heavyweights played at the Aragon previously as support for DJ Snake’s Pardon My French Tour in April 2016, this time for a rather unconventional back-to-back set. Thousands of attendees came to jump to tracks like Malaa’s “Notorious” and Tchami’s remixes for Janet Jackson’s “Go Deep" and AlunaGeorge’s “You Know You Like It”. House music has an innate way of bringing a crowd together. Four-on-the-floor beats, although conventional and boring if dealt in the wrong fashion, seem to sync heart rates among show-goers. Everyone is always on the same page because the kick drum is beneficially predictable; it gives all people present a commonality, a pulse.

When Madeon and Porter Robinson brought their Shelter Tour to the Aragon, their live show featured exclusive live edits and mashups of each of their repertoires of original music as well as homogenized visuals; both artists played live instruments, triggered live samples, and sang simultaneously as a duo. Everything was rehearsed.

When I heard Tchami and Malaa would be doing something similar, I was interested to see how it would work. Visual aesthetic for electronic music artists is key to the live experience, and Tchami’s and Malaa’s respective aesthetics directly juxtaposed on stage was one of the more interesting things I’ve seen at a collaborative show between two different artists. The duo’s stage design was halved; Tchami’s decks atop a church altar stage right and Malaa’s setup stage left between two 55-gallon drums. Each artist was backed by a set of LED panels framed by respectively different scenes upstage from the decks. Tchami’s half of the stage was built to look like a white stone chapel, complete with a confession screen. Malaa’s half was complete with an industrial, dark gray paint job and graffiti. Each even had its own unique visuals firing off on the LEDs. But what especially struck me was the lack of practicality in the separate setups. Typically, for a back-to-back DJ set, the multiple DJs play on the same set of decks and a single mixer. Tchami and Malaa each had their own setup on separate tables with separate mixers. I spent half their set trying to figure out logistically how that setup was operating. Could they each hear each other’s cues? Were the two setups synced up to each other? Who was controlling the master volume? I’d beg the question whether they were faking their set, but it appeared as though the decks each DJ was using were functional. I don’t think they were miming a pre-recorded set. I would, however, love to find out how that live setup was operated between the two acts.

Although for the sake of visual aesthetic, it was entertaining to watch the back-and-forth between two very different looks, it seemed plainly impractical to have two separate sets of decks. Regardless, there is something to say for Tchami and Malaa and the brand of globally-recognized house music they’ve built. I look forward to what they do next.

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Iceland Airwaves Music Festival 2017: Coverage

The ice-cold wind touched my face as I stepped out of the airport. The sun had yet to rise and I had an hour to wait until I would head toward Reykjavik. I grabbed a cup of coffee, sat down, and waited. After waiting and scrolling aimlessly through my phone, we were on a shuttle toward to the city. Passing in and out of sleep, the sun ceased to rise and it was already 9:30 am. Arriving upon our hotel, our radio media group napped until we were ready for our first venture at 1:30 in the afternoon.

The radio group met with our jet-lagged eyes (slightly less open than normal) and made our way to Borg Brewery. We ate Icelandic cheese, meats, and tried around 15-20 Icelandic craft beers.  To top everything off, we finished our time at the brewery with the Icelandic schnapps, Brenevin. Everyone, except one colleague who chose to drink water, walked out feeling a bit buzzed to say the least.

We made our way over to a private dinner where we were blessed with the ‘Best Icelandic Chef of 2016.’ We were stuffed with 13 courses and wine pairings. Myself and the other radio personalities began to get to know each other more - exchanging laughs, stories, and knowledge about life, school, and travel.

The next day we made our way up to the northern city of Akureyi. Here in the small town of 18,000 people, I was captivated by the quaintness of the landscape, the  lifestyle, and the architecture.

I explored the city on foot, snapping pictures on my journey and enjoying deep breathes of the cleanest air I’ve breathed (or so it seemed). Some of the artists I saw in Akureyi were Mura Masa, GKR, Glowie, Milkywhale and more, those of which can be found here.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Milkywhale who had the most amazing bio I’ve ever read. You can check out my whole interview with them here.

"Milkywhale is a bowl of Skittles combined with eight double espressos, topped with the mania of receiving both a new puppy and a trampoline on Christmas morning. Imagine an aerobics instructor in a 1960’s quasi-futuristic space station jumpsuit, with a giant “M” in the background meant to hypnotize you — like Zoolander at the Mugatu compound. Or, if you’re old enough to remember, a Rainbow Brite doll from the 80’s come to life."

-The Reykjavik Grapevine

Other great artists that I interviewed consisted of Lord Pusswhip and GKR.

One thing that struck me about Icelandic culture and Icelandic people was their openness to other people and other cultures. Although there has been some controversy on the amount of tourists coming into Iceland, everyone was very inviting toward myself and the group that I was traveling with.

The synergy between the US, EU, and Iceland is growing to the point where cultures are blending and release amazing, quality music. The mayor of Reykevik said that in Iceland, “the alternative is the main stream in Iceland.” I believe this statement is a good sum up of Icelandic culture.

One of the most amazing experiences was seeing JFDR in a church. The crowd was silent when the two sisters were playing their music accompanied with a small orchestra. The artist that traveled the farthest to the festival was a New Zealand indie rock band called Fazerdaze.

One of the comments that I had gotten from locals in Iceland was that music is so popular because there is nothing else to do for entertainment. That’s another reason why I found many people who are musicians are in multiple acts.

The most interesting part about my trip was the Icelandic people. For example, I had the chance to meet one of the programmers of the Iceland Airwaves festival who had tattoos that read, “capitalism we have a problem” and “Is Jesus your friend?” which was tattooed on his outer forearm.

During our time in Akureyri, we were lucky enough to witness the first snowfall of the year.. After the first night I woke up, opened up my window, and saw a foot of snow that had fallen overnight. There was also some treacherous aspects of the first snow in Iceland. We had a member of our team slip, fall, and break her shoulder.  Along with her fall, I also witnessed a four-car pile up on the bottom of the huge hill.

Later that morning, we went to a geothermal pool, which was incredibly relaxing. Apparently, locals go to the geothermal pools that reek of volcanic sulfur up to four times a week. While in the geothermal hot spring, we were able to watch a hip-hop show by Emmsje Gauti. I saw Gauti literally 4 times that day– all in different venues. Gauti played at the hot springs, my hotel, a venue and a local radio station. Gauti began his set outside of the geothermal pool. He ending up taking off his large winter coat and crowd surfed on the people in the hot spring.

After 2 days in Akuryri, we went back to Reykavik. Once we got back, we went to a press party. To get to the party, we walked through a man-made glacier. It simulated a real glacier and was made from millions and millions of pounds of ice. Later that night, I fell asleep during Fleet Foxes’ set, who played really well but the combination of sitting down and having etheral and laid back music was not ideal for my lack of sleep.  

Reykavik got piles and piles of rain once we got back, which unfortunately impacted the turn out of the last night of events.

After running around for interviews, my Sunday night ended on a calmer note by watching and interviewing Lord Pusswhip. Overall, this was one of the most interesting concert experiences I’ve ever had. The people, the food and the music were out of this world. Icelandic culture is unique, growing, genuinely humbling and genuinely invited to foreigners.

To see more coverage on my trip to Iceland, check out my vlog:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yG1Elkyv-NU​ 

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Parquet Courts Rocking and Rolling (pc: Red Bull Sound Select)

Parquet Courts & Built to Spill #30DaysinChicago Day 15

Ok...to start, let’s list out the bands that played night #15 of the Red Bull Sound Select #30DaysinChicago:

 

Good Willsmith

Meat Wave

Built to Spill

Parquet Courts

At the legendary EMPTY BOTTLE

 

Woah.

 

The night started very relaxing, as people were being turned down at the door for the sold out show, and attendees entering the venue to receiving Red Bull gifts, grabbing a drink, and hanging out as Good Willsmith took the stage first. The local ambient garage rock trio took the stage, and felt very humble to be there, as they were saying that they “have been coming to the Empty Bottle since they were 21, and even tried to sneak in before” they were of age. Thanking the crowd numerous times, Good Willsmith warmed up the crowd on a chilly Wednesday night in Chicago.

Up next, local punk trio Meat Wave. You’ve probably heard them on the station, as they have had a good amount of airplay through their albums Delusion Moon (2015) and Incessant (2017), as they have been on rotation surrounding their releases. Upon taking the stage, the band set forth the attitude that “ok, so we need to burn through our set, so we can get to the next bands”. And that’s basically all they did. They ripped through their heavy punk sound, wooing fans, but also being a good pump-up for the follow acts.

Following, we had the last-minute surprise act: Built to Spill. I, and probably like many others, was surprised to see Built to Spill added to this lineup, especially after the show had been sold out for quite some time. It’s been about two months since they played in Chicago at Riot Fest, where they featured their album “Keep it Like a Secret”, and played an aftershow with Dinosaur Jr. Having said that, I was hoping they weren’t going to play much of that record, and that’s exactly what they did. Built to Spill took the stage as a 3-piece, and put out a surprisingly full, balanced (and loud) sound. They played a good variety of songs from their large catalog such as “Big Dipper (There’s Nothing Wrong With Love, 1994)”, “Living Zoo (Untethered Moon, 2015)”, and a rarity: “Randy Described Eternity (Perfect from Now On, 1997)”. Seeing Built to Spill at the Empty Bottle was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

And time for the post-punk headliner: Parquet Courts. Having just released a collaborative album “MILANO” with the works of Italian composer Daniele Luppi and Karen O, and A. Savage’s debut solo record just released not too long ago, this quartet has been awfully busy as of late. However, for this show, they kept the set to their prior releases. They came out with a handful of tracks from their Grammy Award winning 2015 release “Human Performance” such as “Dust”, “Human Performance”, and “Paraphrased”. What took me by surprise was that there wasn’t a mosh pit for the first half of their performance. Which was odd as the last time I saw Parquet Courts (2015 at the Metro), the crowd got rowdy quick. But once it started, it didn’t end as the electricity and excitement from the crowd translated into the band’s performance. It isn’t a Parquet Courts performance without their blunt stage banter. A Savage commented that “Red Bull is bad for you to drink”, however, they did complement on Red Bull for putting together this festival, and specifically the lineup for the show they were playing. They were trying to be health conscious, and deliver some of the health questions that arise from drinking a lot of energy drinks, but thankful for the opportunity that Red Bull presented to them, the other bands, and the attendees.

As previously mentioned, this was a once-in-a-lifetime show, and I will never be able to experience a show like this one again. Great bands, great intimate venue, and one amazing festival. Stay tuned for more coverage from the rest of the #30DaysinChicago!!

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https://events.redbullsoundselect.com/2017/11/red-bull-sound-select-presents-30-days-in-chicago-nigh

Red Bull Sound Select Coverage Day 7 - Mitski

On day 7 of the RBSS #30DaysinChicago, Mitski headlined Lincoln Hall, with support from Miya Folick and Hazel English. She started things off with a favorite from her third release, Bury Me at Makeout Creek: “Frances Forever”. With three bands on the bill, and roughly a two and a half hour window for music, things had to be quick. Luckily for the majority of Mitski’s music, she was able to power through 16 bass/guitar driven anthems. When coming up on what she noted as the “hit single”, she engaged the entire venue in a sing-a-long of “Your Best American Girl”. Nearing the end of the set, Mitski said goodbye to her band mates, and she finished the rest of her set solo. Finishing up, she encouraged the audience to “walk away” as she noted it was “much more graceful that way. Save the encore for your mother. Call your mom”. No encore. What you see is what you get, and it was one heck of a performance.

 

Setlist:

  1. Francis Forever

  2. I Don’t Smoke

  3. Happy

  4. Dan the Dancer

  5. Once More to See You

  6. Townie

  7. Your Best American Girl

  8. Thursday Girl

  9. I bet on Losing Dogs

  10. First Love / Late Spring

  11. I will

  12. Drunk Walk Home

  13. My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars (solo)

  14. A Burning Hill (solo)

  15. Last Words of a Shooting Star (solo)

  16. Class of 2013 (solo)

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Paris 2017

Pitchfork Paris Coverage 2017

On November 2-4th, 2017, Pitchfork hosted their Paris Music Festival in their usual venue, La Grande Halle De La Villette. Originally an old slaughterhouse, it now hosts medium size festivals and conventions and has been the venue for Paris Pitchfork for the past few years they have hosted it.

Despite being their side festival, Paris Pitchfork was able to get some major bands to headline, including The National and Sylvan Esso.

Seeing The National was an amazing experience–I've been wanting to see them for the past five years. The set was one that stayed true to their tour for their new album Sleep Well, Beast, with dystopian imagery and Matt Berringer frequently making political commentary about Donald T****, a key inspiration for the album. Hearing the newest album live gave me a new appreciation for it and inspired me to listen to it over again.

Pitchfork Paris made it a point to support local artists– with merchandise including jewelry, clothing, ceramics on display and even local tattoo artists offering flash tattoos.

Another highlight of Pitchfork Paris was Sylvan Esso. The 40-minute set felt all to short and the crowd really got into their set. The lead vocalist, Amelia Meath had a bright enthusiasm to her and watching her interact with bandmate Nick Sanborn was really enjoyable to watch. It was also incredible to see how authentic her voice and instrumentals sounded for being an electronic based band.

Paris Pitchfork was tastefully decorated with an emphasis on local artists, and presented an incredible efficiency at meeting artists set times– truly a once in a lifetime experience.

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