Monday, June 26, 2006

Intonation Music Festival 2006, Day 1

90 Day Men Math-y Chicago rock group 90 Day Men, fronted by the ubiquitous Rob Lowe (no, not that Rob Lowe), have been generally MIA for the last year or so as Mr. Lowe has been busy touring with TV on the Radio and working on his experimental side project, Lichens. So playing for the first time in how-long at Intonation should probably have been more exciting than it was. I'm not especially familiar with the band, having never seen them live and having only been exposed to a few of their post-rockish songs, but considering the critical acclaim their last album Panda Park received and my love of their instrumental epic "We Blame Chicago," I was expecting more. They just didn't have a whole lot of energy, and most of their songs were somewhat lackluster. And after getting my hopes up upon hearing the opening notes of the aforementioned "We Blame Chicago," they proceeded to take the song in an entirely different direction from the recorded version, one that sort of destroyed the melody and left me wanting more. (NC) Jose Gonzalez After the audience tried to drown out the voices of the awful Vice TV emcees standing on stage in their underwear with chants of "Jose! Jose!", the Swede-by-way-of-Argentina shyly made his way out with his guitar to a small chair at the front of the stage. Playing a large selection from his debut album, Veneer, Gonzalez's gorgeous voice and gentle guitar-playing kept the large crowd totally silent, allowing his soft indie-folk to work surprisingly well in an outdoor setting. The crowd cheered as Gonzalez launched into the opening of his cover of the Knife's "Heartbeats," one of the best covers I've ever heard. Two more were to following, including one of Kylie Minogue's "Hand on Your Heart," further showcasing his ability to draw out the melodies from great pop songs and turn them into equally great, lush folk masterpieces. (NC) Chromeo Upon first hearing Chromeo's almost over-the-top blend of funky 80s-inspired dance music, I had to wonder if the musicians were serious. Once the Chromeo duo Pee Thug and Dave 1 took the stage, it was obvious there wasn't a trace of irony in the music they were making- they just wanted people to dance. With Dave 1 on the guitar and Pee Thug rocking the synth and the talk box, the band alternated between tracks from their debut album She's In Control and brand new music from their forthcoming album. Dave 1's sense of humor played front and center throughout the show, emphasizing several times the fact that all their songs are about "girls and dancing," begging the audience to drop the tired rock 'n roll fist in the air routine and get their feet moving instead, even managing to keep the audience interested with his hilarious babble as Pee Thug took a couple minutes fixed a kit drum meltdown. He later rewarded the audience for their patience by thanking them for being so "gangsta" (insert robot-voiced sample here) as they wrapped up with the song of the same name.(NC) The Stills The Stills loss their singer/guitarist after their highly-acclaimed 2003 release Logic Will Break Your Heart, which harkened similarities to Strokes and Joy Division. They took this as an opportunity to redirect their sound, and break away from the new wave mold their debut was baked in. Adopting a tighter, more traditional pop-rock sound, The Stills displayed their latest effort with great skill on Saturday. Their 40-minute set was full of songs off their new album Without Feathers, some of the new songs felt a bit flat. For instance, "Helicopters" just didn't seem to go anywhere, technically it sounded great, the vocals were clean and simple. They played it well, like most of the songs they offered up, but the drive that I was accustomed to seemed mellowed out. They tried to summon a handclap chorus from the audience, on "Oh, Shoplifter", which fizzled out before it ever got going. Even when they pulled out their 2003 hit "Still in Love Song", that too seemed a bit different; the new wave nuances were shifted to a heavier, more grungier tone. I did enjoy the piano, giddy-up guitar, and lyricism on "In The Beginning", which is an example of the more piano-infused pop rock they have adopted. The clean lines and simplistic crooning on the new songs definitely showcase the writing, but I miss the energy the early songs had. I'm still in love, I just need some time to adjust. (CG) Roky Erickson It's a miracle he's still alive. It's been 25 years since Roky Erickson has played a show outside of Texas, the former frontman of the legendary 13th Floor Elevators has survived shock treatments, crooked record executives, poverty, and numerous bouts with schizophrenia, but he put those decades aside to play a historic show in Union Park. This hero of rock n' roll have influenced many along the way with his brand of psychedelic rock. Though his performance at Intonation might have been considered tame by his past standards, it was endearing to see him strum away and sing through some of his old songs, with his backing band (of equally matured musicians), The Explosives. His music has definitely picked up more of a Texas twang over the years, with some of the instrumentation and vocals lingering in Roy Orbison country. He definitely comes from the school of music over lyrics, especially in some of his post-Elevators material. For example, "I Walk with a Zombie", which happens to be the only lyric in the entire song (if you don't count the doo-wop style back up singing, 'He walk with a Zombie last night'). Yes, it makes his songs easy to sing-a-long to since you know all the lyrics after the first verse, but it can get a bit repetative to the casual listener. Aside from that, I enjoyed his set as did most of the responsive crowd. It didn't matter if we weren't around to witness Roky in his heyday, you couldn't help be feel supportive and apart of a historic moment. On a side note, if you enjoyed Roky's performance you may want to consider donating to his Trust Fund, that was established to pay for his medical bills and other expenses he has accumulated over the years, You can donate Here. (CG) Lady Sovereign This set was a bit, sorry Sov...umm, I mean it didn't last very long. As expected, she busted out her big hits like "Ch-Ching" and "Random" as well as a couple of her newer UK singles. Performance seemed to suffer a bit from the slight staleness of her big hits and the lack of familiarity with her latest tracks. That Def Jam full-length debut that we've been hearing about forever is long overdue. (BK) The Streets The Streets were the reason I bought tickets to Intonation this year, and they managed to more than live up to expectations by putting on one of the tightest performances I've seen in quite some time. From the not-so-impromptu verses from the Arctic Monkeys' "I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor" and the Pussycat Dolls' "Don'tcha" thrown in during opener "Prangin' Out," to his effortless repartee with several audience members (even asking one woman if that was her boyfriend next to her and if they were happy...all without losing the beat), it was almost as if Mr. Skinner had scripted the entire show out beforehand. But I mean that in the best way- it meant for a great show. The energy from beginning to end was incredibly high, with even typical tear-jerkers like "Dry Your Eyes" and "Never Went to Church" sounding more upbeat than usual and failing to bring the show's momentum down. I also couldn't have chosen a better set list myself, with Skinner selecting the best tracks from each of his three albums. (NC) Apparenty Skinner's new no-brooze mantra is working quite well for him, because this was indeed an unbelievably tight set. Almost hard to believe this was the same Mike Skinner who I saw about 4 years ago at Double Door who wouldn't stop throwing Budweiser on the crowd. I swear he didn't sang/rap much more than about 30 sec. of each song that night. This performance wrapping up day 1 of Intonation was the complete opposite, with Skinner living up to his Original Pirate Material promise of "excelling in both content and deivery." An excellent cap to a great first day, though I have to admit at this point I was "prangin out" a bit myself after having waaaay too many cans of Sparks. That shit seriously needs to be outlawed. (BK)


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