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There is a special kind of hardship in love, every loss cuts deeper when you lose what you love.

Charles Bradley loves unconditionally, he performs like a church minister, delivering his epithets from his microphone stand, preaching not religion, but love. Bradley has lived a long life, he approaches 70 and his years have not been easy ones, however, through hardship, he loves. Bradley’s love is deep, it is love forged from agony and suffering. Just as he carries the microphone stand as a cross on his back during his shows he carries the sadness in his life with him constantly. 

It’s odd to speak of love in 2016, even typing about it I assume I am saying it insincerely. Listening to Charles Bradley at times, telling us that all we need to fix this world is love, sounds childish or like a joke. Watching this performer scream, dance, and even cry during his proclamations on the need of love is no laughing matter. Charles Bradley carries such immense gravity in his words, that any flicker of laughter, any defensive Millennials urge to avoid those four feared letters through humor or deflection becomes silenced. 

Love is a word that is either overused to ensure that its deepest meaning is lost or avoided like the plague in this day and age, and it is a relief to watch a performer unafraid to expose his own vulnerabilities on stage. As he finishes the incredibly moving “Changes,” he stops before the last verse telling us, “This is the hardest part for me to sing” as he chokes back tears. 

That last verse reads 

It took so long/To realize/That I can still hear her/Last goodbyes/Now all my days/Are filled with tears/Wish I could go back/And change these years

Here he is singing about the death of his estranged mother that he wishes he could have spent more time loving her instead of resenting her for abandoning him whilst he was still a child. Charles Bradley knows love because he has experienced pain and practiced hate, and performs to teach us that healing is possible and love is necessary.

If you don’t believe a word I’ve said then go to his next show, no matter how far you have to drive, watch the preacher himself bleed on his pulpit. 


Okay, I Guess I Like Father John Misty

Without deeply delving into his lyricism, Father John Misty could easily be slung into the pile of redundant and overtly emotional songwriting that modern folk music tends to move towards. Only casually listening to Josh Tillman’s alter ego before seeing him at FYF, that was the pile that I had kind of subconsciously slung him into. That is why I was genuinely surprised at the amount of bodies that filled the Main Stage during his performance last Sunday.
Indeed at first glance, Tillman’s songs, pseudonym, and performance seem to be a histrionic display of angsty hipsterism. He blithely opened his set with a performance of “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” as a computer screen’s “Software Update Failure” flashed on the screen behind him. He continued with this gag throughout the rest of the performance with a “Start” screen popping up in the middle and then finally the “Bonnaroo 2014” logo closing off the evening. These set a precedent for the paradox of Father John Misty: trying really hard to make it look like he’s not trying and doesn’t care. Throughout the performance, he aimlessly slinked across the stage, nonchalantly chucking his guitar off his shoulders in between songs, and woefully wailing his choruses while clutching his hair and sinking to his knees. Speaking of sinking to his knees, TIllman got low a lot throughout the performance getting into a supta virasana that would make any yoga instructor cry. His band, comprised of 5 other members, took everything in stride. They seemed to thoroughly enjoy playing the music and Tillman antics as he repeatedly jumped off of the kick drum and walked down into the crowd of excited fans. However, I would be lying if I said I didn’t roll my eyes a couple of times. 

It took until a couple days after the show when I sat down with the set-list and lyrics for me to finally get it. Most of his songs are cynical observations about the human condition and his generation as well as a mockery of his own personality flaws. It takes a couple readings to fully appreciate his facetious ramblings in songs like “Holy Shit” and “Bored in the USA.” One particular moment that stood out to me about his performance was when he sauntered off into the crowd of Snapchat toting fans, plucked a phone out of a girl’s hand, recorded a video and requested that she put it to his story, later joking, “What’s Snapchat?” to one of his band mates. At first it kind of seemed like a bit of a narcissistic grab, but in all reality was probably just a commentary on how technology is consuming our lives and preventing us from living in the moment, or heck, it’s probably both.

It’s really hard to pick out the layer’s of Tillman’s writing style in the middle of a concert so I had a bit of a backwards approach to enjoying his performance. After delving a little more into his songs I can say that I really appreciate his dedication to portraying Father John Misty as this caricature of his own cynicism. Much like his songs, Tillman effortlessly makes fun of himself and his audience throughout his entire performance, making for a highly entertaining show.

If you are already a fan of FJM I would recommend going to one of his concerts, as he carries a lot of energy and intentionality with everything he does on stage. If you aren’t really familiar with his work, I would recommend giving it a few listens before going or else you’re probably going to feel out of the loop. Of course, he’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but based on the amount of jivin’ overalls wearers at FYF, he’s a lot of people’s shot of wheatgrass juice.  

Crisis. 11 songs. 41 minutes. Hopelessness. Selflessness. Music for: Crisis.

In the era of a shattered political and social structure in America, a feeling of hopelessness seems to pervade the core of each conscious individual.  It’s the feeling of despair brought on by powers beyond your individual control and influence, the feeling of seeing injustice, inconceivable to stop or tackle in any way under the current state of affairs.  Obama sold his presidency with the exact opposite feeling eight years ago and now at the end of that time, while of course the world has “CHANGE”d it’s hard to tell if any of it was really for the better.  To be clear hopelessness is not equitable to helplessness. For, even though a hopelessness implies deep structural corruption at work, we as citizens and individuals are not entirely helpless to those powers at be.  Antony Hegarty, if anyone, is evidence to this: no matter the darkness of your present situation, there is always room for action in expression of those feelings to hopefully inspire an attitude of action in others.

So when Antony, Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never) and Ross Matthew Birchard (Hudson Mohawke) walked on to the stage Sunday evening and started up the track “4 Degrees” there was an overwhelming sense of hopelessness laying out plainly and without euphemism how it’s only 4 degrees celsius between the now and mass ecocide.  But there was also an overwhelming sense of selflessness that doesn’t translate on the album.  The black cloth and mesh that covered Antony’s body obscured her identity between the dueling DJs on a ornament-less stage, and also obscured the reality of a singular sense of hopelessness.  It was a statement that this hopelessness maybe *should* belong to all of us Americans attempting to live a conscious life in 2016, and a soberingly emotional moment to the ‘festival’ weekend.  This black cloth combines with a roll of changing female faces on a sole illuminated screen behind the stage, vocalizing the words coming from Antony’s veiled face, creates a certain cohesion and community amount the hopelessness and reminds that as shitty as our reality may be, it is OUR (plural) reality.  

Those faces were some of the most effectively deployed visuals of the entire festival and made clear an artistic intention of the three individuals on the stage that goes beyond the sounds.  Intention: effectively communicating exactly what you have set out to say and achieve as an artist.  Those three individuals on the stage are masters of what they do, masters of producing sounds exactly as they have intended or hear them in their inner ear, masters of communicating those sounds crisply and mixed perfectly to their audience.  Lopatin’s sounds meshing with Birchard, but each staying so separate and distinguishable as the work of truly distinct masters does and overtop, Antony’s voice floating in its dark operatic timbral space. But those three individuals, so separate and confident in their unique sounds, were one under a banner of crisis as the songs rolled by, as they delivered the impassioned and angry “Obama” to a crowd filled with Millennials voting in their first national election cycle, as Antony asked, “Why did you separate me from the earth, my father?”  And it’s lyrics like that, lyrics like in “Crisis:” “if I killed your father with a drone bomb/ how would you feel?” Crisis: a moment in time of extreme danger or peril or that implies a certain amount of emotional, physical and/or psychological trauma. Speaking clearly with a sincerity about the issues they are trying to present and fix, lyrics, that hold the most weight and urgency in the increasingly ironic culture surrounding FYF and life in general.  Because with her genuineness against worldwide American made crisis, Anohni is also fighting the crisis of the progressive American young adult who wears the “Make America Great Again” hat and constantly (though maybe unconsciously) supports the oppressive capitalistic structures at hand as an active consumer they believe to be ideologically fighting.  Sincerity fighting an ironic cancer that has seeped into the blood of an America that used to seem like it gave an actual shit. 

We can’t just turn our backs and let this crisis pass.  Let other countries and powers try to deal with issues we have helped create.  Because as Anohni laid out late in her set on the final track on Hopelessness “Marrow,” “Africa, Iceland, Europe and Brazil / China, Thailand, India and Great Britain /  Australia, Borneo and Nigeria / We are, we are, all Americans now.” As the final face came to pass on the screen, an old woman asks, “What has happened to the world?”, preceded only a few frames earlier by Antony’s own face, and the credits rolled, there was a sense of community, a community in crisis and a weighty potential to enact real change in the world. 


FYF Fest

FYF Fest

At the extremely dusty and crowded Trees Stage, Mac DeMarco dazzled fans once again at this year’s FYF Fest.  After patiently waiting and listening to 80’s German techno-pop music playing in the background, the sweet and simple sound of Mac’s voice filled the night sky.  He greeted the audience with his usual humble smile and immediately reenergized the crowd by opening with “The Way You’d Love Her” off of his most recent album, Another One.  As experienced live performers, Mac and the band played every song with more zest, turning some of their most mellow songs, like “Blue Boy,” into punchy, guitar-heavy tunes.  The boys played songs both old and new, as well as many hits off of the Salad Days and 2 albums.  One of the best parts of the performance was when they played one of their most popular songs, “Ode to Viceroy.”  With the twangy guitar riffs and echo-y vocals, I was reminded of why I love Mac, why we all love Mac.  There was just the right amount of debauchery during the set, although not nearly as many stage dives and rowdy fights that Mac Demarco shows are notorious for.  Overall, Mac, Joe, Andrew, Jon, and Rory kept the spirit of indie rock alive with their magnetic personalities and a fiery set at FYF.  

After releasing Slime Season 3 earlier this year and JEFFERY just days before FYF, Young Thug was arguably the most highly anticipated acts this year.  It pains me to say this, but I was a little disappointed with Thugger’s set.  After crawling my way to the very front of the crowd and getting pumped up with bangers being played by TM88, Young Thug slid out on stage in style.  Although his performance was not one of my favorites, his outfit was.  He wore a slick gray Puma jacket, skinny jeans, and Tom Ford glasses that exuded confidence.  Young Thug opened up the show with “About the Money,” a questionable choice that confused the audience and me.  Throughout the set, he consistently expected the crowd to know all the lyrics of some of his lesser-known songs, and decided not to play some of his most popular songs, like “Pick Up the Phone” or “Drippin.”  However, Young Thug did try to rile up the crowd, by playing “With Them,” and my personal favorite, “Best Friend.”   A high point in the show was definitely when he performed “Stoner,” when people were moshing, singing, dancing, and going insane to his haunting and arousing wails.  Although rocky at first, Young Thug was a fun set, but not even comparable to the other phenomenal acts throughout the festival.  Of course, my love for Young Thug is unconditional and I will continue to be a fan despite his choppy performance this past weekend.      


I had two initial thoughts when I saw that LCD Soundsystem was set to headline the closing night of FYF: HELL YES! and ???? On the one hand, I was super stoked to be seeing this band that I believed I would never have the chance to hear live, but on the other hand, I was a bit worried of the possible awkward tension that could arise between the stage and the crowd, as well as the possibility of the band not enjoying their time together. 

Just over five years ago, LCD announced that they would be quitting music for good, playing a dramatic “final show” at Madison Square Garden, complete with a 30-song set list. There was even a documentary focused on this “final gig”, “Shut Up and Play the Hits,” which front man James Murphy created to affirm fans that they were definitely done with music. But after four years and many rumors, LCD made their surprise return with a new Christmas single. Shortly after, came the festival dates. Mixed emotions flooded the minds of longtime fans, with happiness, anger, and confusion all being reactions to the news. Personally, I wasn't quite sure how to feel. So once I discovered they'd play FYF, I decided I would leave it up to the gig to see how I felt about it.

I decided to stick it out at the main stage all day of Day 2 in order to get the most up close and personal LCD set that I could. Fortunately, all of the previous bands were on my list to see, so it wasn’t too difficult to stay in one spot all day. Three snuck-in bags of goldfish, two cereal bars, two packs of seaweed, a water bottle, and three bands later, it was time for LCD. As soon as I saw the giant disco ball appear on the stage, I knew I was in for a good time. The lights dimmed, and the band members walked onstage one by one, taking their sweet time to enter into Us V. Them. Following with jams “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” and “I Can Change,” I could feel the positive vibes all around me. I couldn’t sense any sort of tension, but rather just the opposite; I felt like I was dancing with all of my closest friends (no pun intended) at the biggest and greatest house party. The band certainly didn’t lose their knack to entertain, with frequent interactive dialogue between Murphy and the massive crowd, bright visuals and lights, and great sound, all occurring throughout the set. Other highlights included “Tribulations,” “Someone Great,” “Losing My Edge” (the only song I noticed nobody seemed to know the words to), and the last song before the encore, “New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down”. Even the encore of “Dance Yrself Clean” and “All My Friends” had the crowd dancing maniacally, myself included. The optimism persisted even when the set was over, as I overheard so many people praising the band’s performance. In the end, I decided that LCD’s reunion is good for us all, even if it did leave my entire body sore for days afterward.  

I really, really did not care for Rae Sremmurd when I was first introduced to their music I had a couple friends that attempted to put me onto them in early 2015 back when the SremmLife hype was still fresh, but I had written them off as yet another trashy new school act that couldn’t hold a candle to “real hip-hop artists” such as Earl Sweatshirt and Jay Electronica. Having said that, when I first saw the lineup for FYF in March, I audibly groaned at their inclusion in the LA festival and briefly mourned the potential loss of a better hip-hop act. A couple weeks after purchasing my FYF ticket, I also impulsively bought a ticket for Weekend Two of Coachella. In an effort to figure out which acts I wanted to see, I watched some videos from Weekend One and stumbled upon the southern hip hop duo’s closing set in the infamous Sahara tent. I was instantly taken aback by how much fucking fun it looked, which made me decide to ditch LCD Soundsystem in favor of their set. Their influence and energy was contagious and had me jumping higher than I’ve ever jumped in my life and I didn’t give a single fuck that I didn’t know any of their songs. 

So given the context, let it suffice to say that I was now beyond excited to see these guys tear Exposition Park to the ground. After two dreamy and blissful night-time sets from FYF veterans Mac Demarco and Beach House, my wait for Rae began. Once they brought out the inflatable SremmLife display on stage, I slowly began the process of losing my shit and realized that this show was about to be just as magical and frenetic as when I first saw them in April. The Tupelo duo shortly made their grand entrance to much excitement and roars from the crowd. Swae and Jimmi didn’t leave a second to waste, as they immediately launched into Start a Party, the introduction to SremmLife 2. I would be lying if I told you that I knew the exact set they played, because I was too busy enjoying the fuck out of myself, and thankfully so was everyone around me. I even briefly entered a state of paralysis when Swae started acapella-ing the hook to No Flex Zone. The set was filled with moments where one would assume things couldn’t possibly get any more hype, and then things proceeded to get even crazier. By the time “By Chance” started playing I lost absolutely all social awareness and moshed harder than I ever have in my life. I had completely forgot that I was missing out on LCD Soundsystem. There is literally no other way to describe how this show was other than the word LIT (LIKE BIC). After playing through banger after banger, things eventually had to come to an end, and unsurprisingly enough, the show ended on the best note possible, with the duo performing arguably the best track on SremmLife 2, Black Beatles. After their set came to a close, I knew in my heart that somehow, by force of magic, Rae Sremmurd managed to top their Coachella set, which I genuinely didn’t think would be possible. They made their 60 minutes feel like 6, and delivered what was objectively an amazing live show. I would liken Rae Sremmurd’s stage presence and performance skill to that of Death Grips in terms of energy and hype. While that may be a dubious comparison to some people, it makes perfect sense to me, as both groups rely on nothing other than their unique personalities and musical output to produce an extremely memorable and enjoyable show. Daft Punk needed a LED pyramid to blow people away; Kanye needed a floating stage; all Rae Sremmurd needed was two microphones and a competent DJ. If that isn’t talent in its most basic and pure form, I don’t know what is. 

At the end of the night, I left FYF completely drained of any energy I came in with, and with a feeling that I had gotten my $200 worth from Rae’s set alone. At LCD Soundsystem’s set, James Murphy said something along of the lines of “If you didn’t see Grace Jones, you fucked up.” Well, if you didn’t see Rae Sremmurd, then you really fucked up.  

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