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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
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MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
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»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
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4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
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July 10, 2006
Saturday - I opened my mailbox to find the new Sufjan Stevens disc, The Avalanche, which I listened to on my drive down to Union Park. It was a nice way to start a weekend's worth of performances. I was feeling great as I found a parking spot literally right in front of the park's wrought iron fence. However the antagonizing process of obtaining press credentials soon crushed my spirits. Scooting back and forth between the gate staff, the VIP check-in (and the flitter of Diddy-like glamour in the momentary daydream of a Very Important Person) and the Will Call line, the wind from earlier in the day quickly left my wings. Not only was I informed that I was "second tier" press and that my ticket and photo pass would be waiting for me at Will Call, it was politely assured that I did not have a backstage pass, effectively thwarting any prospects of talking to Ghostface or Robert Pollard. Hopes dashed, I took the long walk to Will Call and resigned myself to a much more limited experience than expected.

Prior to the festival I had never been to Union Park, and upon entering I saw a huge stage directly ahead and another large stage to the left. The stages lined the large grassy field on the park's north and east sides. Promoters had set up a beer station in the baseball diamond, and the entire south side of the park was lined with food, music, poster vendors and a couple political action booths. I have no good estimate as to how many people were in attendance, but space to stretch a blanket out on the ground and eat some food was ample. The two-stage concept provided for nearly continuous music but led to a wandering herd of listeners moving from the east (main, Vice) stage to the north (secondary, Virtue) stage and back again. It made me feel a bit like cattle but otherwise was a completely successful staging.

After finally getting in I found my friend Jen and sat down to the rappy rap rap of Devin the Dude. He reminded me a lot of Professor Murder from Mr. Show, which is not a compliment for a serious MC. Devin's flow was solid and consistent but his performance was uninspired and relatively inane. Watching him was a lot like watching a lethargic teenager addressing a mononucleosis convention (in other words, lacking to some degree). Both the artist and the audience seemed at least a little bit bored. I am sure that on the record or in the sound booth Devin the Dude is phenomenal, but his live set is nothing to write home about.

The following set was Jose Gonzalez. I had limited knowledge of his music beforehand and was therefore very pleasantly surprised by his soul-bearing, folksy performance. Gonzalez sat on the stage, a nylon-stringed Spanish guitar in his lap, aggressively strumming and plucking upon and singing in a voice simultaneously vulnerable and powerful. It was fantastic and the group of fans standing before the stage seemed truly captivated. Gonzalez' second-to-last song was a crowd pleasing cover of Massive Attack's "Teardrop." Then a problem emerged, although by no fault of Gonzalez'; during the final minutes of his performance Chromeo began tuning and sound checking on the adjacent stage. Unfortunately this overlapping prep noise was a fairly regular occurrence throughout the day and somewhat spoiled several artists' closing songs.

The next two sets, Chromeo and High On Fire, were both relatively weak. Chromeo's lame electro-pop set was nothing more than a noisy, annoying1980s throwback. High On Fire had that bullshit metal pose that far too many hipster bands now fashion, but I find that combining mediocre talent with irony all too often creates nothing of value. Both High On Fire and Chromeo place style ahead of substance and their one-trick pony acts left me asking, "What else you got?" I suppose it should go without saying that all the hipsters ate up these predictable performances.

The Stills began their set by really ripping things up. Their sound has a reverence for, and relies heavily upon, the 1980s synth-pop of Echo & The Bunnymen and Joy Division. In concert, The Stills sound a bit like The Doves with their clean guitar sound and limey vocals. The Stills' performance was one of the few during the festival that actually made me want to track down the band's album (a bad sign for any music enthusiast).

By far, the highlight of Saturday's acts was the triumphant return of Roky Erickson, the former front man of 13th Floor Elevators. Erickson had been hospitalized and/or jailed for decades, having received shock treatments to deal with mental illness. During the 1970s he recorded a few tracks for a comeback album, most of the songs dealing with a dark and frightening evil that seemed to haunt him. Many expected Erickson to never return, but he has traveled the road back and his return is not the kind quaint kitsch that one might expect. Erickson took the stage and really brought an amazing performance, belting out a smoking cover of "You're Gonna Miss Me," the notable 13th Floor Elevators song that many recognize from the film High Fidelity, as well as a song called "Red Temple Prayer," which prompted Erickson to scream about a two-headed dog. Erickson's guitar playing is strong and his voice is oddly reminiscent of Van Morrison's work with the band Them. Some of Erickson's songs mention walking with zombies and atomic brains - both appealing topics to a field full of stoners. Roky went over the time allotted for his set but no one seemed to mind, as his set was so entertaining.

Next up was The Boredoms, a band that would be more appropriately named The Annoyings. It should suffice to say that the band's cacophony was more than enough impetus to go get some food. I ate some veggie curry and a pork tamale as The Boredoms finished up their thunderous bullshit.



My last set for the night was Ghostface Killah. I really don't care at all about The Streets or Lady Sovereign - in my opinion, Garage will die soon and good riddance. I do have some love for Wu though and, if you read my Fishscale review, you know that I have massive amounts of love for Tony Starks. That is one reason why I was so disappointed by Ghost's set. Whoever was running the board (or maybe the DJ) decided that there was no need for the audience to hear anything but bass. None of the classic loops that RZA, MF Doom and the recently departed J Dilla (rest his soul) slaved over could be heard over the absurd rumbling of bass, which wound up drowning out the beat a bit. Ghostface's performance could also be filed under "shitty" as he chose to scream the lyrics. Trife, who joined Ghostface on stage, was on the beat and spitting fire as usual, but even with that there was no saving the performance. On that note I decided to go home.

Sunday - I arrived late on Sunday and with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth from the lame finish of Saturday's show. The first thing I did was crack open a Sparks - an alcoholic energy drink that was being sold and was cheaper than beer. I also ate some corn-on-the-cob while reminiscing with Jen about our respective Iowa upbringings. I wandered back through the crowd to see who was playing and noticed something incredible - hipsters play hacky-sack! Maybe they were playing ironically but I noticed four or five separate groups kicking the bag around. It was funny and weird. I think I saw one kid wearing a System of a Down tee shirt that, again, made me ponder whether he was wearing it ironically. By the time I wandered through the hipsters turned hippies, Blue Cheer had taken the stage.

Blue Cheer rocked pretty hard in a classic rock sort of way. Not only did they play a full set but Robert Pollard also covered them later in the evening. Their set was bold and brash and exactly the kind of rock you'd expect out of such an old school heavy metal mainstay.

Jon Brion followed Blue Cheer and put on what was easily the most controversial set of the entire festival. Brion, for the uninitiated, has a set of instruments that, once given the proper cues, can continue playing without a musician. The drums loops beats, the guitars play preset rhythms and bass lines, freeing Brion to play his heart out on the piano, which he did this for much of his set. The problem was that Brion started his set about 15 minutes later than he should have and proceeded to go about 15-20 minutes longer than he was allotted. In front of hundreds of screaming fans, Brion insulted people in the audience, the show's producers and even Robert Pollard, who was to follow him.



After Brion departed but before Pollard take the stage a tuxedoed man who had been telling horrible jokes and acting as the festival's Master of Ceremonies came out and proceeded to relay a variety of nasty opinions about Jon Brion's act and tardiness. The MC also told the following joke: Q: "Why did God send Teri Schaivo to hell?" A: "For committing the sin of sloth!" There was a collective groan throughout the park and some people, like me, laughed. Then a roadie brought a bottle of tequila to the stage and before anyone knew it, Robert Pollard himself was standing at the microphone. Cheers went up as Pollard remarked that he did not know who that preceding performer was, but that the person was an asshole for cutting into his set.

Pollard's performance included a Blue Cheer cover, a couple Guided By Voices tunes and several songs from his recent solo material. Throughout the show Pollard made high kicks and struck classic rock poses that would give Robert Plant a run for his money. At one point, with his microphone spinning in one fist, Robert Pollard lit a cigarette and while exhaling smoke sang "Love Is Stronger Than Witchcraft" - a song that for most singers would require lungpower. Somehow Pollard was able to sing while smoking and drinking straight tequila and keep the songs true to their recorded versions.

As the sky darkened and the clouds began rolling in the audience was hyped ahead of Dead Prez' set, which was really tight in parts and ultimately much better than Ghostface Killah, but was itself not without problems. Dead Prez played a long set and rather unfortunately misplaced their hit single and Chappelle Show opener, "Hip Hop." They eventually play the song, but had it come early in their set or as the opener DP would have had the assemblage eating from their collective hand. After their final song, M1 introduced Fred Hampton, Jr. - head of the Prisoners Of Conscience Committee. Mr. Hampton's father had been the head of the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party before being killed by police in what is widely speculated to have been an execution. Fred Hampton, Jr. invited everyone join him on August 30th, his father's birthday, to erect a street sign in his father's honor on a small section of Monroe Boulevard on Chicago's Southside. Not officially sanctioned, the sign placement will fall under the category of civil disobedience - exactly the type of behavior Dead Prez advocates for.



Over on the main stage lights began to roll, flashing on and off in different colors and patterns as a smoke machine belched Alice Cooper-sized clouds of smoke and the throng of festivalgoers assembled in anticipation of the headliners. Bloc Party's set kicked off without a hitch - if you don't count the drizzling rain, which actually added to the smoke effect. Currently working on a new album somewhere in Canada, Bloc Party played a song from the album, which, not surprisingly, sounds much the same as their last album. A couple of songs later the band began to play "This Modern Love" and women screamed. The song grabbed the audience and with the opening chords to "Like Eating Glass" the Bloc Party owned them. The set was incredible and a nice conclusion to a weekend that was not overall really impressive and was in much need of such a highlight.

SEE ALSO: www.intonationmusicfest.com
SEE ALSO: www.viceland.com

--
Jon Burke
A contributing writer and a Chicago resident who will not be goaded by LASís editor into revealing any more details about his potentially sordid affairs.

See other articles by Jon Burke.

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