Friday, July 27, 2007

Virgin Festival VIP ticket giveaway

UltraStar, the managers of The Police Tour web site and fan club, is giving away one pair of 2-day VIP tickets to the Virgin Festival in Baltimore. The festival is August 4-5 and features The Police, Smashing Pumpkins, Beastie Boys, Incubus, Modest Mouse, Amy Winehouse, 311, and many other bands. One winner and his/her guest will recieve a free pass to see all of these bands and will also receive free merchandise from the Official Police Store. Acommodations, however will not be provided. FIll out a submission form here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A trio of Lollapalooza must-sees

One of the great things about Lollapalooza is that it brings people and artists from different genres and generations together who might otherwise never had the chance. If you take a look at this year’s lineup you can find many examples of this. I have chosen three artists to highlight which will bring this example to life: Patti Smith, Iggy and the Stooges and Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals.

In a bit of a selfish move, I have not chosen these acts by accident. They are three that I am really looking forward to seeing (I have seen Ben Harper before but once is just not enough) but also relate very well to the point I made earlier. These three artists are all very different, coming from different time periods, followed by different audiences.

Without turning this into a biography, I’ll just touch on a few points about each I feel is relevant to this discussion. Hopefully this will wet the appetite of festival goers and propel them to catch these three in action this August in Smith's hometown of Chicago, Illinois.

This leads me to the first artist, Patti Smith. Patti Smith is one of the most unique artists in music history. She’s certainly not a “chart buster” (she has earned just one top 20 single throughout her entire career) but her influence can be heard and read in many singer/songwriters, poets and authors to this day. Always the social activist, Smith has won the acclaim and scorn of many, many people. From the start of her career in 1974 right through this very moment in time, Smith has created controversy and told everyone what she believes. That’s what makes her a true icon. She has very strong beliefs and has lived by her own rules her entire life. Agree or disagree with her, she stands by her belief system with no apologies or regrets. That’s about as punk as it gets! Her music is a mix of early punk, folk and spoken word pieces. If you choose to make it over to the Adidas stage at 7:30pm on day 2 of the festival you will be witness to rock royalty, punk aggression and most likely receive a bit of an education.

Next up…Iggy and the Stooges. Although they are listed as a punk band in many circles, they are nothing like Patti Smith, or anyone else for that matter. Like Smith though, Iggy and the Stooges do have a connection to Chicago. Iggy Pop, born James Osterberg, decided to start a band after visiting Chicago and meeting blues drummer Sam Lay. Once he got back to his own hometown of Detroit, The Stooges were born. If you like rock and roll, punk, and even some heavy metal, you should probably send a thank you letter to Iggy and The Stooges. Their sound, style, insane live shows and overall passion and drive for the music they played have encouraged countless people to pick up a guitar and form a band. It’s amazing to note that a band that began way back in 1967 can still have the profound impact on today’s music as it does. As a matter of fact, their 2nd and 3rd albums, Fun House and Raw Power are considered by many to be two of the greatest records of all time! That is some serious recognition. That alone should have you planning to be at the Bud Light stage at 4:15pm on day 3 to see what all the hype is about. I’m betting that most people in attendance this year have never seen this band perform and if they check them out, a new generation of fans will emerge. Not only will they enjoy an energy filled show but they might actually get some stage diving directly from the man credited with starting that craze.

The third and final band is Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals. If you already know and like the offerings of this native Californian, then you can easily see how his audience and that of the previous two are very different. In a setting such as Lollapalooza though, these fans will mix and mingle and ultimately find each other. This is where the age differences and musical differences will combine and grow into a new fan base for all involved. Harper, playing a mix of folk, rock, blues, gospel and reggae, will fit more in the Patti Smith mold but still have the energy and passion for his music as Iggy and the Stooges. Creeping onto the musical landscape in 1994, Harper and backing band The Innocent Criminals have flown under the radar in the US for sometime. Over in Europe however they are absolutely huge. This is not to say that they do not garner respect and attention on this side of the pond; they just seem to take slower steps towards superstardom in the states. With his soulful voice and multi-faceted musical directions, Ben Harper is a must see on this years Lollapalooza extravaganza. So get yourself over to the Bud Light stage at 8:30pm on day 1 and get ready to soak it all in.

Patti Smith, Iggy and the Stooges, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals…three artists with different fans, musical styles and sounds. One festival will bring it all together and link them for one magical weekend. Trust me, it will be worth it!

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Virgin Fest preview for Virgin Fest virgins

By Christine Czerniecki

Those of you who missed out on Coachella this year should definitely look into the “mini-me,” cheaper imitation of Coach, the Virgin Festival. Okay, it’s not in California and it doesn’t have a cool name like Coachella (although hearing about going to a “Virgin” festival did catch my attention) and it is in Baltimore. Yes, Maryland. Here is why you should be there August 4-5 and, dare I say, even travel from afar to go to Maryland.

This show has a LOT of Coachella bands, minus the main headliners. No Bjork, Rage, or RHCP, but the two-day event does have The Police and Beastie Boys and Smashing Pumpkins.

What tops this fest is that it gives a little “suttin suttin” for every type of indie fan. For electro-indie types, there is LCD Soundsystem and Interpol, both with new albums out that do not disappoint. Fans of indie chick rockers will groove to Amy Winehouse, Regina Spektor and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

The "I don't dance" folks will be the last ones standing at the foot of the stage, glowsticks in hand, after sets by amazing DJs like Crystal Method and Danny Tenaglia. Pills are not necessary to appreciate these guys. The Fratellis, TV on the Radio, and Peter Bjorn have the perfect amount of spunk and shake for this sort of indie-hipster concert.

Even Wu-Tang will be there!

My guess as to why Maryland was the lucky winner for hosting the show is because it's smack dab in between DC, Philly, and New York. Bostonians and Rhode Island college kids will not hesitate to make the trip if they know what’s good for them. Besides the great music, the food is going to be awesome--Maryland seafood at its finest. Finally, someone with brains realized that if they’re going to rip us off, then they should feed us well.

There is an option to camp or you can stay in a hotel. Both choices sound equally fun. With hotels filled with young concert-goers, there is bound to be some mischief stirring up someplace. On the other hand, camping in a field with these same people calls for some down and dirty fun. The only catch is that camping is not onsite, but there are a number of suggested campgrounds within an hour's drive.

This weekend is going to be a circus. Besides the bajillion awesome artists, the festival is going to have tons of art exhibits-- including graffiti artists, fire sculptures, and robots! Attractions include fire eaters, stilt walkers and my favorite two activities… ROLLERGIRLS and INCREDIBLY STRANGE WRESTLING!!!! I hope this is audience volunteer only.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

High Sierra Music Festival rocks again

By Andrew Harris

High Sierra is always said to have the best festival vibe, and this year was no exception. Four days of music and five stages gave festival goers a chance to experience a wide range of music. Everyone knows how to have a good time, and the bands seem to work the crowds into a dancing frenzy.

[Photo: ALO]

The first day of the festival had a few bands that really started things off right. Mama’s Cookin’ rocked the Big Meadow stage with a great bluesy sound. They sounded a little like the North Mississippi All-Stars mixed with a little bit of Train. Frame of Mind from Lake Tahoe played on top of an RV. They have a very good jam sound, led by their lead guitarist Obie Scott. They played a cover of “Franklin’s Tower.”

I was able to catch a little of Future Rock, an electronic band, which some people really seemed to like. Garaj Mahal played a great set on the Grandstand. They are a jazzy and funky band, featuring great guitar by Fareed Haque. During the set bassist Kai Eckhardt brought his son on stage to play drums. After, I caught some of the Latin grooves of Sol’ Jibe. The night ended with a great set on the Grandstand by Galactic. They seemed to be on fire that night. Their sax player, Ben Ellman, was outstanding. The crowd got into their rock and funk sound.

Friday’s first good act was the Salvador Santana Band on the Big Meadow stage. They got people going with their Latin/Funk/Hip Hop sound. Appropriately, they ended their set with a Carlos Santana song “Evil Ways.” After I walked over to catch a little bit of That One Guy, which plays this instrument he created. The Anders Osborne Band got things rolling in the late afternoon. They seemed to master that New Orleans style sound. Close by I went over to the Vaudeville tent to listen to Chris Berry and Panjea feat. Michael Kang, the guitarist from String Cheese. They worked up the crowd, which lead to letting people dance on the stage during their last song. At the Grandstand Yonder Mountain String Band was jamming away with their “jam grass” sound. At the Big Meadow The Slip was entertaining fans for their tenth consecutive year at High Sierra. They sounded a little like U2 and broke into some heavy jams. After Yonder, the southern band, Drive By Truckers played on the Grandstand. They are very good song writers, sounding a little bit like Tom Petty. I left after a few songs to see Soulive tear it up on the Big Meadow stage. This power trio brought the funk/jam sound to High Sierra that night. They played some of their old and new songs, and ended the set with a great cover of Led Zeppelin’s “The Ocean.” After many people went to Ivan Neville’s Dumpstphunk free late night show in the Vaudeville Tent. This was one huge dance party for an hour and a half. They sounded like a mix of The Meters, James Brown, and Sly and the Family Stone They brought on the members of Soulive to play a few tunes. They played many rock and funk classics such as a funky version of “Fortunate Son,” “Miss You,” and a “Super Bad” tribute to James Brown. They ended with “Thank you (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).”

Day three had many highlights which included “Guitarmageddon” led by Tea Leaf Green guitarist Josh Clark. Every year at High Sierra Guitarmageddon gathers some of the best to play on one stage together. This lineup included Dan Lebowitz of ALO, Jon Gutwillig of the The Disco Biscuts, Eric McFadden, and many others. They played classics such as “Sunshine of your Love” “Superstition” and “Third Stone from the Sun.”
At the Grandstand songwriter Brett Dennen played with members of ALO, which added a lot to his music. During the day I caught a little of Lake Tahoe’s Blue Turtle Seduction, as well as 56 Hope Road and Ryan Montbleau. On the Big Meadow stage Chris Thile and the How to Grow a Band was entertaining fans with a good “jam grass” sound. Chris Thile is an exceptional mandolin player, the best of the festival. Many people enjoyed Del McCoury’s traditional bluegrass sound. Eric McFadden played a good set on the Shady Grove Stage as well. At night Les Claypool closed the Grandstand with his outstanding bass playing. On the Big Meadow Stage San Francisco’s Tea Leaf Green went through a smoking set which included many hits such as “If it wasn’t for the Money,” “Two Chairs,” “Franz Hanzerbeak” and “The Garden (Part III).” Many people came on to jam with them including Dan Lebowitz of ALO and Reed Mathis of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. After people went to the Vaudeville Tent’s late night show to see the funk/blues/rock band JJ Grey and MOFRO blast through a great set. JJ Grey is a great front man, playing keyboards, guitar and harmonica. They were very happy to be at High Sierra and said many times how great this festival truly is.

[Photo: Page McConnell]

The final day of High Sierra started with the great bluesy/gospel group on the Big Meadow stage which featured, Papa Mali, Carolyn Wonderland, Patrice Pike, and Guy Forsyth. After, Albino! played on the Grandstand. They got people up and dancing to their Afrobeat sound. Southern rockers Outformation played a nice set on the shady grove stage. Another San Francisco band ALO played on the Big Meadow stage. Led by Guitarist Dan Lebowitz, they played an hour and a half set which included “Roses & Clover” the title track to their new album, and many crowd favorites such as “Wasting Time (IV Song)” and “BBQ.” Page McConnell from Phish played a nice set on the Grandstand. On the Big Meadow stage High Sierra favorites The New Mastersounds from England were playing great funky grooves, which made everyone dance like crazy. They were wearing “Camp Happiness” T-Shirts, which is a well known High Sierra social spot. The Big Meadow ended with a set by The Disco Biscuts. The Grandstand ended with Leftover Salmon’s reunion show which was outstanding. They did old hits such as “Pasta on the Mountain.” They also invited many people on stage to jam with them which included Chris Thile, and members of Great American Taxi. The crowd got off of their set and brought out over 30 beach balls, about 10 huge salmon models, lights everywhere, and people threw over 200 tortillas in the year. Everyone shouted the High Sierra signature word “FESTIVAL!” which bought them on for an encore.

High Sierra also has late night sets every night which feature most of the popular bands of the festival. Many people raved about Leftover Salmon, saying that was the best late night on Saturday. I went to the ALO/Tea Leaf Green late night which was awesome. ALO played hits such as “Walls of Jericho” and Tea Leaf Green played great versions of “One Reason” and probably their biggest hit “Taught to be Proud.”

This was another memorable year, and proved once again how great this festival is. Even if some festivals have better lineups, no festival can beat the High Sierra atmosphere and vibe.

Random absurdity at Burning Man

wordplay by orange peel moses

(reprinted with permission from Image Magazine(

From the sky, it looks like a ginormous horseshoe. From Center Camp CafĂ©, it reminds me of the bar in Star Wars. From the trash fence on the outer perimeter, it looks like the place where they shot the Martian landing in Mars Attacks! or parts of Dr. Dre’s “California Love” video!

What do you get when you take the world’s second largest flat expanse of land--a prehistoric lake bed called Black Rock Desert--and fill it with nearly 40,000 of the world’s most creative individuals (and quite possibly representatives from other worlds as well)? A week long experiment in temporary community called Burning Man.

One common misconception about Burning Man is that it’s just a Rainbow Gathering in the desert. Now, I’ve never been to a Rainbow Gathering, but I think it’s fairly safe to assume Burning Man doesn’t much resemble one...unless they have giant flame-throwing robots and wireless internet access as well.

Almost everything that happens in a normal permanent city also happens in Black Rock City (christened after the desert). People do yoga, people get coffee, people roller-skate, people ride their bicycles, people engage in manual labor, people jump on trampolines, people shower, people research stories for the newspaper, people have sex, people build huge flammable art installations and people dance to house music all day long. Of course, there are some minor differences. Underground plumbing’s kinda out of the question, but public nudity and aboveground bonfires aren’t.

Last year, Denver’s very own Friends in Stereo fam-damily ventured to the vast void-like canvas and back, returning with more stories than you can “shake a stick at.” Examples, you ask? Ever seen a midget in a Condoleeza Rice mask do a striptease with an American flag? I have. Ever eaten ice cream made with a fire extinguisher? I have. Ever taken a two day jaunt in a time machine? Check. What about a robot giraffe with disco ball balls? Been there, done that. Ever seen two half-naked girls teeter back and forth on a penis-shaped teeter totter? Old news. What about a man in a flame retardant suit conducting potentially lethal bolts of Tesla coil voltage on top of a bus? Doctor Megavolt is so six years ago. Danced in the shadow of a two story high Venus Flytrap? Last year was a first. Ever seen an Asian girl dance with a levitating light rod? Me neither, until last year. Heard a puppet beatbox while French maids dusted you off with feather dusters and spoon-fed you dollops of chocolate and tablespoons full of tequila?

Of all the absurdist art and mad randomness, though, Bassnectar, a DJ/producer/soul brother from Burning Man’s San Francisco birthplace, remains an undisputable highlight year after year after year. Bassnectar’s epic, marathon Sunday morning sunrise set at Lotus was one for the record books, thanks to Mutaytor’s SuzeQ and everyone else that shared that phenomenally breathtaking New Year’s Day with me...even if, by Greco-Roman calendar standards, it was technically the day before Labor Day. Black rock on.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Tribes gathering for Oregon Country Fair

By nakedjen

Every year on the second weekend in July, the fair-minded hippies of yesterday, today and tomorrow come together slightly west of Eugene OR on the Long Tom River in Veneta for a very special gathering of the musical, magical, mystical and artistic tribes.

This isn’t just any fair, nor is it just any festival. This is, as the Oregon Country Fair describes itself in its own newsletter, the Peach Pit, “a fertile ground in which to incubate an exploration of this cultural shift, of what it means to cultivate a life of the imagination, to be cultural creatives, Merry Pranksters, holy fools in all we do.”

The Oregon Country Fair’s roots began thirty-eight years ago as a benefit for an alternative school, but it has been carefully tended and cultivated to its present day incarnation as a sacred place to “create events and experiences that nourish the spirit, explore living artfully and authentically on earth, and transform culture in magical, joyous and healthy ways.”

I have been attending the Oregon Country Fair faithfully for nearly 20 years. It’s hard, truthfully, to single out my favorite thing about the fair because there’s so much about it that is special. Likewise, it is also hard to faithfully describe it. You kind of have to go and experience it for yourself to really “get it."

Discovering new music, though, is always a joy for me and I can always count on finding some musician whom I never would have heard while I’m wandering the paths. Music at the fair is EVERYWHERE. You’ll find it scattered at over the paths, on stages, in vendor’s booths, in front of the booths, while you’re eating your meal, taking a sauna. Everywhere you turn, there are songs filling the air.

This year’s fair features nine musical stages (not including those that are for spoken word artists and vaudeville acts!) that will play host to a whole variety of musicians and bands, ranging from Disco Organica to Wendy Rule to Land of the Blind. The Main Stage, located at the “central area” of the fair, offers a grand performance venue and all electric sets for such great acts this year as The Yard Dogs Road Show (who just did 10 shows at Bonnaroo), Green Lemon, and perennial OCF favorite, Scott Huckabay.

Did I mention that there’s an entire stage dedicated to gypsy music and dancing? Or that there’s the Shady Grove stage that is small and intimate and hosts acoustic solo artists and small acts? I’ve often just planted myself under a tree at Shady Grove and let the music surprise me!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the crafts, especially since the criteria for selection is so strict and everything must be quality and handmade! Oh, and the food. Bring an empty stomach if you come. The food at the Oregon Country Fair is by far some of the best food at any festival anywhere on the planet. There are more than 60 food booths offering delicious meals of every variety all day long. Trust me on this piece of advice: Get a TofuTia at the Tofu Palace. And save room for some Rising Moon Ravioli at some point during your visit.

The amazing, shiny, happy people that put this fair together each year, that show up to participate, that come from around the world, truly do create a magical gathering. If you come, you’ll get to skip around the paths with others who may be painted, may be naked, but will definitely be smiling and full of spirit and sparkles!

This is my tribe, my community. And I have yet to find it replicated anywhere else. If you decide to come, be prepared to meet incredible people and please know that you will only meet the exact ones that you’re supposed to meet, because one of the most magical blessings about the Oregon Country Fair is that there is only ever enough time each year to meet those who will make the most important difference for you.

The Oregon Country Fair offers fun and fantasy and magic around every turn of the path. What that will be exactly is all up to you.

If you go:

Tickets for the 2007 Fair are on sale through TicketsWest, either online or at physical outlets. No tickets are sold at the Fair site at any time.

Tickets purchased in advance cost $16 for Friday, $21 for Saturday, $16 for Sunday. Tickets sold the days of the event will cost $21 for Friday, $26 for Saturday and $21 for Sunday. 3-day tickets cost $42 each. These prices include all TicketsWest per-ticket service fees. There is an additional order fee for Internet and phone orders.

Children 10 and under are admitted free with a paying adult and there is a discount for daily tickets folks who are alter-abled or age 60 and over.

Visit the OCF website for more information about the fair and this year’s full entertainment schedules.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Lolla countdown begins

By Rob Janicke

If you'll be at Lollapalooza, the indie-rock extravanga in Chicago that is now just one month away, your blood is already boiling and electricity flowing with anticipation. One of the best festivals of the 1990’s is back and is better than ever!

I was just preparing my schedule using the great scheduling feature on the Lollapalooza web site, a pre-festival planning tool I strongly recommend. Going to festivals can be pretty stressful if you don’t have a plan. With so much to see and so much ground to cover you could find yourself at a stage you didn’t want to be in front of or perhaps at the right stage but at the wrong time. Trying to navigate through one day of festival going is tough, but three days? Make a schedule, folks!

Anyway, when using the tool, it immediately sinks in just how much we have to look forward to--more than 100 big-name and up-and-coming bands. Take a look:

For Day 1, the choices include moe, Satellite Party, Daft Punk, Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, Son Volt, Blonde Redhead, The Fratellis, Silversun Pickups, and more.

On Day 2, choose among Tokyo Police Club, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Patti Smith, Muse, Motion City Soundtrac and others.

Day 3 has Kings of Leon, Iggy and the Stooges, My Morning Jacket, Modest Mouse, TV on the Radio, Pearl Jam, and more.

That's just the bands. I’m didn't mention all of the other exhibitions and sights to see throughout the festival. Build some flex time into your schedule to soak in some of the rest the festival has to offer.

Day 3 is interesting for several reasons. It’s the last day, so the fatigue factor should be setting in at this point. By the time Pearl Jam goes on at 8 pm, all the other stages will be finished. Everyone at the festival, including most who have been immersed in it for 72 hours, will be watchiing just one band--Pearl Jam. Yes!

In the coming weeks, I’ll take a closer look at some of the bands I mentioned today and give my subjective recommendations on which ones you should check out. Your choices may vary, but it could help you when your using that online scheduling tool.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Pitchfork is an early sellout

By August Evans

Last year you could have strolled into Chicago's Union Park to see Os Mutantes, Yo La Tengo, Spoon, and the Walkmen (among many delightful others) having bought your ticket just three days earlier. This year, though, the Pitchfork Fest is already COMPLETELY sold out—single- and two-day passes alike. Gone. Zilch. Zero.

Perhaps that's due to the festival being smack-dab in the middle of the month (unlike last year when it was at the end, close to August and city-fleers). Or perhaps it's because the Intonation Fest didn’t come this year, depriving Chicagoans of their early-summer outdoor indie music dose to take the edge off.

There’s another possibility, though, a much simpler one, as to why this year Pitchfork appears to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. Could have to do with the melodic extravaganza in the works for Day 1 of the fest, Friday, July 13, when Sonic Youth does its audience the inimitable favor of playing their majestic album, Daydream Nation, from start to finish. Could be the draw of Cat Power, Grizzly Bear, Iron and Wine, and the legendary Yoko One (with unnamed “special guests,” oohh) all appearing on Saturday alone. Could be that festival-goers get their fill of Stephen Malkmus, Deerhunter, and De La Soul just on Sunday. Could be that, with three stages going at once, this party will be insane.

My advice for the ticket-less? Convince access-ready friends that mid-July is a fabulous time to flee the Chicago swelter; then do the kind favor of relieving them of any and all Pitchfork tickets. This is not one to be missed.