Vinyl Tap SPRING 2013
Table of Contents
Editor and Layout Editor: Arthi Aravind Illustrations: Arthi Aravind (pg. 3 drawing by Brian Kelley)
2 5 6 9 12 14 16 20
Writers: Alaric Powell Kristen Prossner Arthi Aravind Matt Rigsby (Librarian) Alex Cousins (Hip-Hop Genre Director) Daniel Dorough Jake Day Caroline Creasey
— Disco Inferno: Beautiful Melancholy — Tame Impala vs. Pond — Favorite Albums & Tracks of the Year — Kanye: A Retrospective on Sincerity — Bang Bang — Sonic Youth - Smart Bar: Chicago 1985 — Do You Know About the After- Show? — Pop Icon Aaron Carter Visits W&M: A Reflection of the First Annual Carter Day Concert
A Publication of WCWM 90.9-FM
Disco Inferno: Beautiful Melancholy by Alaric Powell
I have three absolute favorite bands: The National, Joy Division, and Disco Inferno. The National make post-punk/chamber pop-tinged indie rock and Joy Division made haunting post-punk in a totally idiosyncratic way. Most musically-literate people have heard of those two, but Disco Inferno, who are the most criminally underrated band of all time, have not yet gotten the respect they deserve. The band’s first phase of existence (1989-1991) saw them as a post-punk act heavily indebted to their influences from the genre’s first wave (a compilation from this period is even entitled In Debt). To be honest, most of the first phase of the band can be overlooked. Disco Inferno (or DI, for short) were perhaps a bit too influenced early on, but there are some gems, namely the manic “Fallen Down the Wire.” Their second phase, from 1992 to their breakup in 1995, saw the trio reinvent themselves entirely, with the band buying a sampler, guitarist/singer Ian Crause converting his guitar into a MIDI controller, and drummer Rob Whatley acquiring an electronic drum kit (Paul Willmott’s bass lines would play a critical organic foundation in their music, despite DI lacking the funds to buy him a MIDI bass guitar). These changes brought sampling to the forefront of DI’s music, which became a daring fusion of experimental rock and the new genre of post-rock, with secondary influences ranging from dream pop to post-punk, electronic music, plunderphonics, and noise pop. They became prolific, recording five EPs (collected in 2011’s The Five EPs) and two albums (D.I. Go Pop, in 1994, and 1996’s posthumous Technicolour) of some of the greatest music ever put to tape. Disco Inferno easily walked the fine line between dreary experimentalism and beautiful pop, with their work illustrating both extremes of the spectrum (even occasionally intertwining the two). Their first two EPs, 1992’s Summer’s Last Sound and 1993’s A Rock to Cling To, saw the band working with their new equipment and delving deep into dark narratives, like the apocalyptic present depicted in Summer’s Last Sound’s title track and a man (metaphorically and literally) adrift at sea in A Rock to Cling To’s title track. 1993 also saw the release of The Last Dance, whose title track took a New Order-like approach to pop music mixed with the pessimistic dread of their previous work. “D.I. Go Pop” (only related to 1994’s album by title) went in an entirely anti-pop direction as a My Bloody Valentine sample was shredded and taken to new extremes of noise while Ian Crause 2
delivered a first-person Orwellian narrative from somewhere deep beneath the waves of noise that never let up on the listener. 1994 saw the release of D.I. Go Pop, an ironic title as it saw the band at its most experimental, with an avant-garde approach to sampling forming the basis of musical structure, as waves of distorted samples crash upon the listener at every turn (especially in the first half of the record), with only Willmott’s bass there to offer a semblance of stability. After the beautiful closing track “Footprints in Snow,” the album ends with a live recording of the band being interrupted by the owner of the venue for being too loud. After Crause wittily rebukes her, the few audience members in attendance chuckle and applaud, illustrating both the lack of respect the band felt from the public, but also showing the small cult following they had. Second Language came out just months later, showcasing a continuation of the pop found in “The Long Dance.” “The Atheist’s Burden” details the intrinsic beauty of the world and the EP’s closing track, “A Little Something” shows the very pop-based structure the band would take in their final EP and LP. However, its title track is what
most impresses me, and has become my favorite song of all time. With a guitar line inspired by the Durutti Column (an early post-punk group that pioneered the dream pop and post-rock genres), sampled claps, and Willmott’s bass line as a foundation, Crause sings his poetry innocently while electronics flourish behind him, speaking of a spiritual experience and the difficulties of communicating feelings in human interaction. He then sings about how true emotions can be conveyed in simple eye contact and how in the end, the purest thing that we can do is smile. And with that, Crause launches into a guitar solo that sounds like pure ecstasy, as chords go flying while the guitar becomes more and more chaotic in distortion, over the background of angelic vocals and harps, climaxing with a steady rhythm of chords before fading out. Released towards the tail end of 1994, It’s a Kid’s World is a microcosm of Disco Inferno. The title track is straight-up pop, using a brilliant drum sample from Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life.” “A Night on the Tiles” is a plunderphonics piece, completely constructed from samples, which tells the story of a bar brawl. The final song, “Lost in Fog,” starts with the audio recording of a cosmonaut burning up in the atmosphere, an eerie intro to one of DI’s spaciest tracks, as the members all play sampled instrumentation to create the sonic atmosphere of being high above the earth. Technicolour, however, shows the band in total noise pop mode: firm pop structures made by distorted guitars form the basis, with samples used to highlight pieces of the puzzle rather than serve as malformed parts, like with the fireworks in “I’m Still in Love” when Crause sings the song’s title. I often have trouble describing to others what exactly I ‘look’ for in my music, but recently I came up with a phrase for it: beautiful melancholy. If a band can capture depression and beauty simultaneously, in both a musical and lyrical sense, they’ve done well in my book. Joy Division did it best with songs like “Transmission,” through Ian Curtis’ longing cries for contact in the face of social isolation mixed with amazing lyrics and Bernard Summer’s beautiful guitar lines that seem to float above the rest of the song. The National regularly capture it with the Dessner twins’ dreary guitar lines, Matt Berninger’s often-mournful baritone that sings lyrics of social and romantic frustration, along with the lush orchestration that often accompany them. Disco Inferno could easily capture this beautiful melancholy too, but with much more variation than even The National or Joy Division could produce. Whether they were engaging in the brilliant pop of Technicolour and “The Last Dance,” the pessimistic dread of Summer’s Last Sound and D.I. Go Pop, or the heart-aching beauty of “Second Language” and “Footprints in Snow,” Disco Inferno were always able to capture the very best and worst of human nature in their art. 4
Tame Impala vs. Pond by Kristen Prossner
We are all pretty much aware of Tame Impala and its awesomeness; if you’re like me, “Elephant” (from last year’s album Lonerism), is a go-to song to sing in the shower. This “psychedelic hypno-groove melodic rock” band is catchy and fun in a not-so-in-your-face way, and all the surrounding hype seems appropriate. No one is forcing you to have a good time, it just comes naturally. Another band also released an album last year called Beards, Wives, Denim. This band is also from Perth, Australia, really into that psychedelic sound, and even has had three members with the exact same names as members of Tame Impala (Kevin Parker, Jay Watson, Nick Allbrook). Freak Coincidence? I wish. Illuminati conspiracy? Probably. Dragging out this joke with rhetorical questions? Nah. Indeed, this band shares three of its members with Tame Impala and could possibly be categorized as the band members’ “side project” or “associative band”. I’ll leave the choice up to you. So if both have this sort of trippy sound, what’s the difference? I believe a main difference is the eras in which you could be persuaded to place the two bands. Pond, using Beard, Wives, Denim as evidence, sounds like they’re coming straight out of the 60’s. They could have easily been the openers for Jefferson Airplane or the Zombies back in the day; this especially can be said for Pond’s sound in “Moth Wings” and “Sorry I Was Under The Sky”. However, their style still incorporates a more modern sound that can be heard in a lot of Tame Impala’s work. Tame Impala definitely sounds like they are from this era and have been largely influenced by the psychedelia of the past. Not that it’s a bad thing. Pond sounds a little grungier and earthy. Tame Impala sounds slightly gentler and more outer-space sounding. (Spoiler: It’s because they’re aliens.) The other main difference I found is the essence of Tame Impala compared to that of Pond. Having read some bios on each band, Pond appears to be much more dynamic and eclectic; the basis of its creation was so that members could come and go and be able to play whatever they want, whenever they want. It’s more of a collaboration of artists and ideas rather than a concrete band; at least, that’s my take on Pond’s description. However, that’s not to say Tame Impala is an uptight and demanding group. I think it just has different goals and ways to achieve those goals. Maybe Pond is sort of an outlet for Tame Impala members? Maybe Tame Impala is an outlet for Pond members? Regardless, it’s evident both bands influence each other. 5
“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” —??? Tame Impala - Lonerism
The layered songs build slowly, rather like Animal Collective, but with oddly John Lennon-ish vocals. The psychedelic, experimental synths and retro vibe feel like you’re in a contemporary film set in the ‘60s, hippies, bright colors, acid trips, and all. It sounds as if it’s from an alternate universe where everyone’s like you and it’s hip to be square. The album’s progression evokes the feeling of perusing orange-tinted and dusty and sun-bleached photos you took during a trip a long time ago.
Toro y Moi - Anything in Return
Familiar nostalgic haze takes an electronic form, in an album which sounds like the first Miyazaki movie you watched. You think of it as you sip your amaretto sour, wishing you could visit Japan. Their cultural aesthetic is precise, neat, and detailed, which is what makes it so appealing. The calming but energetic baselines feel like velvet and smell like that bar in Brooklyn. You wanted something else then, but now you want to sit and introspect. Every so often you’ll remember something that brings a pang to your heart, but some slow, deep breaths help.
Andy Stott - Luxury Problems
The same operatic vibe carries over into this album, which sounds like neutral colors, muffled heavy industrial noise, and dark, rainslicked city streets at night lined with warehouses. You might get mugged or murdered. Or you might find your way to a lonely dive bar, where everyone looks a little different, like this place is set in a creepier corner of that alternate universe. It smells like how you think opium smells, and people sway to this music, entranced by the thick, blurry beats. They could well be vampires. Moaning female vocals add some lightness, but defer to the dirty sexy bass.
Blue Hawaii - Untogether
Chopped vocal warbles undulate in smoky rooms whose walls ripple. Operatic, wordless female voices, sometimes crisp, sometimes muffled, soar over thick bass pulses in exquisite harmony. The gentle introduction gives way to a faster pace marked by snappy beats, and the peculiar, sometimes nostalgic and comforting, sometimes mysterious tone shifts subtly. Excellent for late night driving by yourself down the highway with open windows.
Ducktails - The Flower Lane
This sounds like an old picture of you and your childhood best friend. When you look at it now, you remember the smell of the public library you used to go and the sound of the sing-a-long songs on your VHS tapes. Contentment warms your heart. You step out into the summer, sipping your spiked lemonade. When the air cools, you re-enter your wood-paneled living room, glancing at the wooden decoys lined up on the mantel. You should ask your friends if they want to do a bonfire this weekend.
Bonobo - The North Borders
This is the music you want to listen to when you’re an adult. It’s still beautiful and edgy, but makes you feel mature; maybe it’s the jazz, or Erykah Badu’s voice. Then you realize you are an adult, but it’s not like you thought it’d feel. It’s new and pleasantly unfamiliar, like a stronger, sleeker body you have to get used to. The music strengthens but also comforts you, like a cosy bed. It sounds a bit like sitting on the porch looking out at your garden while it’s drizzling, with windchimes and earthy rain smell. You’re content with the moment and certain of what you know.
Favorite Albums & Tracks of the Year by Arthi Aravind
Disclosure ft. AlunaGeorge - “White Noise” The kids from Skins became older and polished. One of them got an entry level job in an investment banking firm and goes clubbing sometimes and this is the song they play.
Schoolboy Q “Yay Yay” Something about the sinister bass and slower tempo and slightly irritating “yay yay”s that make you want to say them makes me feel like I am Schoolboy Q. I don’t understand. James Blake “Retrograde” This deeply emotional song gradually builds and sounds like steam and metal in the cold air. The synths enter halfway, and the gorgeous harmonies they create give me chills.
Kopecky Family Band “Are You Listening” If you like Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros or Of Monsters and Men, you’ll like this. It sounds like road trips through the mountains and the smell of autumn air.
Foxes - “Beauty Queen” The lead singer’s strong voice carries a poignant, catchy tune on wings of heartfelt pulmonary power. She sounds like she has the exact thing that Lana Del Rey lacks.
Youth Lagoon “Raspberry Cane” In its seven minutes, this song somehow breaks my heart and repairs it multiple times. It sounds like fond, sweet memories of the state fair that you never went to.
Mount Kimbie “Made to Stray” This sounds like minimalist, alien house. You’ll be surprised to find you can dance to it easily, but you might feel odd doing so. It’ll feel less strange when the vocals come in.
Machinedrum “Clissold VIP” Machinedrum’s signature percussion falls like hail over whitewater currents of rubberband bass beats that sound like uppercuts to the face. You’re getting beaten, and badly.
A Retrospective on Sincerity by Matt Rigsby
In 2002, a brief newsbreak on MTV2 announced that relatively unknown producer Kanye West was involved in a near-fatal car accident near Los Angeles. If I’d told you ten years ago that he’d become the artist of our generation, you wouldn’t have believed me. By creating masterpiece after masterpiece, while also reinventing himself and his music, Kanye exemplifies and critiques the insincerity of the 00’s. As a deadly combination of producer and rapper, Kanye released The College Dropout in 2004. Sampling artists ranging from Marvin Gaye to Curtis Mayfield, he gave a glimpse into the life of a man who had finally made it as a musician. But even though he showed insight into rising out of poverty from the projects of Chicago, he hadn’t yet developed as a reflection of modern day culture, straying from songs that reflected his personal self. “Family Business” and “Through the Wire” began to do this, but the album repeated the common theme of today’s culture, hiding one’s true self for fear of being criticized. Beginning with the gentle notes of “Heard ‘Em Say,” Kanye began allowing more of himself to be shown. He transitioned from the brag-rap of The College Dropout to an incredible album with themes of returning home, family and death. He still had moments of well-produced songs which lack profoundness (“We Major”), but he found himself and created his most sentimental track: “Hey Mama,” a smooth-flowing rap that would give any son or daughter goose bumps. While accomplishing an encompassing album that refined his sound, West still concealed his sincerity. West slowly began to divulge himself on Graduation. He still exhibited bragrap, but with a new side: the second half of the album gave him another chance to show sincerity, with himself and his criticism. He created another ode, “Big Brother,” which was for Jay-Z. He showed his true feelings without fear of judgement; he could have easily turned this into a brag-rap about the two, but instead left us with the line “If you admire someone you should go on ‘head tell ’em/People never get the flowers while they can still smell ‘em.” The epicenter of this process of revelation was “Everything I Am.” He discussed everything from his criticism of rap culture and poverty in America, to the church, and most importantly, himself, changing his motives from blindly dissing his naysayers, to solemnly combating them. “So say goodbye to the N-double-A-C-P award/Goodbye to the India Arie award/ They’d rather give me the nigga-please award.” He wanted to be taken seriously and also took his detractors 9
seriously, representing a massive shift in tone from his previous albums. Kanye started becoming a realer person, opening himself to criticism, which reflects the faults of our own society: it shouldn’t be afraid of sincerity, yet it still hides behind irony to shield itself from criticism. The second half of Graduation, while important, was simply a prelude to his true openness on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Before we arrive at My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, we need to make a stop at 808’s and Heartbreak. The outlier of his albums, it was still influential in his development as a persona and as a person, laced with attacks and reflections on his latest break up. He also radicalized his musical style, changing the pace from sampled beats and slick raps to minimal electronica with heavy overtones. While introspective, it often devolved into commentary about his ex rather than himself. He called her a “Spoiled little LA girl,” saying that she needs to “Show some gratitude and leave the attitude back at home.” Eventually, he realized that he can only blame himself. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is Kanye West’s magnum opus, in which he exhibits his split personality. Up until “Runaway,” Kanye plugs his old self, the selfish, egotistical rapper who can never accept blame. “Runaway” is the perfect transition to finally revealing and accepting himself, finally being sincere: “Never was much of a romantic/Could never take the intimacy/And I know I did the damage/’Cause the look in your eyes is killing me.” His whole world crashed and he now sees that it was his own fault. It’d be naïve to ignore the following track, “Hell of a Life,” as it’s radically different than the songs surrounding it. I view it as a reversion to his old self, a last gasp of air before his ego finally departs. He develops his new sincerity on “Blame Game” as he precisely describes the emotions of his tumultuous relationship. “I’d rather be by my fucking self/Till about two a.m. and I call back and I start to blame myself/ Somebody help.” This is in stark contrast to the proud Kanye that once proclaimed on “Bring Me Down” that “I’mma look in the mirror if I need some help.” It’s also the polar opposite of 808’s. Instead of blaming his ex, he blames himself, evolving into a rational human being who acknowledges his own shortcomings by rejecting the idea that it is always someone else’s fault. Throughout My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye finally changes from a persona into a person. What does this have to do with Kanye being the artist of our generation? An artist like this is vital because he exemplifies the zeitgeist of society. He only hinted at true emotions in his first four albums, but embraced them in his fifth. As youth continue to engage in a charade of insincerity in order to hide their real selves, they act out a façade of relationships. By hiding behind the veil of irony and the culture of listing faux symbols of culture to impress, we refuse to reveal what makes our lives so beautiful: sincerity. 11
Chief Keef is the all-consuming hate, the directionless animus that drives the beaten animal to lash out in distrust. He is the rage at his own circumstance, impotent to alter his past. He is the ruthlessness and spite that mocks the deaths of his rivals in public and laughs off accusations of involvement. He is the youthful arrogance that spurs the son to wrestle his father. In absence of a father, gunplay with the Chicago PD is a worthy substitute. Chief Keef is a sinister midnight smile from a stranger on the street, one that births panic, a fumbling for the phone, and a subtly increased pace in the opposite direction. Chief Keef is the personality. He is the priest and God of His own religion, whose acolytes delight in His bacchanalia and find succor in the offertory heroin He provides for His chosen people. He is Ty Cobb, Barack Obama, Jesus of Nazareth. His grace is present in His Word, memoir and manifesto. There are many rappers but one Keef, and Young Chop is His Prophet. chief keef is a boy of seventeen. he is the sorrow of lost innocence and the child of a mother alone. he is named for one of the dead, and pursues his legacy. he is the burgeoning sexuality and youthful stupidity that leads to a picture of a blowjob on Instagram. he is the invincibility of the teenage spirit, filming a major interview at a gun range in defiance of the terms of his parole. he is the frailty and insecurity of the
child at his motherâ€™s breast, for the first time in tears and afraid of the state that has only ignored him, the judge that will incarcerate him. he is the faux impenetrability that will emerge sixty days later trying too hard to convince the world he was in control all along. chief keef is human. Keith Cozart is a man. He is the father of a child at sixteen. He is the obligor of the child support checks. He is the defendant, the prisoner, and again the freed man. He is his motherâ€™s son. He is not the man on Youtube with tens of millions of hits, but he is nevertheless the man Kanye West, 50 Cent, and Wiz Khalifa have made a friend and associate. He is the man to whom the multi-million dollar checks from Interscope are addressed. Keith Cozart breathed Chief Keef to life. Chief Keef led Keith Cozart out of the desert. Chief Keef is Caanan. Keith Cozart is the only one who can destroy Chief Keef. Keith Cozart cannot destroy Chief Keef. Chief Keef cannot be destroyed.
BANG Chief Keef is the American Dream.
by Alex Cousins
Sonic Youth Smart Bar: Chicago 1985 by Daniel Dorough To alleviate the misery inflicted upon Sonic Youth fans after their surprising split in November of 2011 (following the even more surprising split of bassist Kim Gordon and lead guitarist Thurston Moore after 27 years of marriage), the noise rock godheads have recently released a stunning live album entitled Smart Bar: Chicago 1985. Fresh off the release of their second official album Bad Moon Rising, Smart Bar is a document of the band at their height of their mid-‘80s avant-noise era. Taken from a live show in Chicago with new drummer Steve Shelley, the album demonstrates Sonic Youth’s prowess as an intensely fierce live act. As the 1980’s produced a vast array of hardcore punk acts whose stockin-trade was a violent stage presence, the avant-garde Sonic Youth were able to rock just as hard live as Black Flag or Minor Threat. While their esoteric aesthetic could have been perceived as too intellectual for a crowd who was probably more acclimated to the visceral assault of the SST bands, SY proved early in its career that downtown Manhattan bohemians could possess as much power and energy as the heaviest of the hardcore bands. The choice of Chicago is relevant
in understanding the historical context of this record. Chicago was fast becoming a fertile hotbed of the noise rock that Sonic Youth had helped pioneer as a member of New York’s experimental No Wave scene. Indeed, the Chicago “pigfuck” scene centered around the provocative and transgressive Big Black (there is a reference to a barbecue with Steve Albini during the intro to “Making the Nature Scene”), who were becoming figureheads in indie rock, challenging Sonic Youth’s standing as the primary arbiters of noise in the ‘80s underground. Perhaps not wishing to be upstaged, Sonic Youth’s Smart Bar set is an abrasive live performance which does justice to the mythology created by SY’s uber-fans who claim that the 1980’s were the group’s artistic peak. While this assertion is unfair to the group’s admittedly more uneven creative output in the 1990’s, it is difficult to refute the sheer sonic force of the group live and their considerable ability in musical composition. Of course, credit for the latter should be given to guitarists Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo’s studies with minimalist composer Glenn Branca, whose own pioneering work in guitar atonality and alternate tunings informed the group’s lauded experimentation with the instrument. Smart Bar finds Sonic Youth as a band in transition. While the record is dissonant and chaotic, the group were beginning a new era in their approach to songwriting. With their next trio of albums (EVOL, Sister, Daydream Nation), Sonic Youth would begin constructing their avant-noise guitar freakouts within a standardized rock song structure, as opposed to the free-form sprawls of Confusion is Sex and Bad Moon Rising. This is most evident in Smart Bar’s penultimate song (which would later come to appear on EVOL), “Expressway to Yr Skull.” “This is a rock song,” Thurston Moore proudly proclaims as he launches into the track, as if to taunt the self-conscious hipsters in the audience who would have equated this evolution to the nebulous notion of “selling out.” Far from compromising their art, this approach laid the groundwork for what Sonic Youth would finally accomplish on their magnum opus, Daydream Nation: the coalescence of white noise cacophony and a conventional song-oriented rock format. This fusing of high and low culture in SY’s songwriting and their defiant DIY aesthetic would become the primary influence on indie rock in the late 80s and early 90s. Dinosaur Jr., Pavement, My Bloody Valentine, and, perhaps most crucially, Nirvana, simply wouldn’t exist (or, at the very least, sound the way they did) without Sonic Youth’s fearless guitar experimentation. That a band who virtually defined indie rock only disbanded (or went on hiatus) last year is a testament to their legacy and brilliance. While it is easy to throw cliches and trite accolades upon the group, Sonic Youth remain unassailable figureheads of the indie canon. Smart Bar is simply another reminder that rock was improbably changed forever by the adventurous noise experiments of an uncompromising group of New York beatniks. 15
Do You Know About the After-Show? by Jake Day
I’m awake and it’s Sunday and I think it’s around noon. The sun is spilling through the window across the room and onto the dining room table. All of the empty beer bottles splayed across that half of the room are mercifully absorbing the harsh bright of morning, keeping me in the shade of the drawn curtains—stained by a weekend’s worth of filth—that are clutching the windows on the side of the house that I fell asleep on. I’ve taken my face out of the crevice of the linty couch I slept in and pointed it towards the Ryan Cabrera poster, framed and hanging over the fireplace, that reminds me that the kids who own this house who I’ve barely talked to—one with dreadlocks and strict plans to go the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings, the other with cocaine eyes and official looking Macrock t-shirts—are hilarious. I chuckle, then immediately wince when I try to move. My neck feels like I’d been doing a frightened ostrich impression for the last month, my arms are covered in bruises, my nose feels like I should check in the mirror to see if it’s bent, my ankles are raw and scraped, and my wrist has a rash where the paper wristband that I had been sweating into all weekend used to be. I can smell myself over the embers in the ashtray, my clothes are at least ten percent baggier than when I put them on three days ago, and there’s some unidentifiable crust leering on my collar; I’m pretty sure that cold I had before I left for Macrock, a two day music festival in the sneakily cool town of Harrisonburg, VA has evolved into a full-on sinus infection. This is a general state of un-health and I should go to back to sleep or to a hospital or maybe just a plastic surgeon because my nose really feels like something I could measure with a protractor and when I exhale it sounds like blowing out of a straw with a little bit of crushed ice stuck in it. But the only place I can see myself is buried between sweaty shoulders underneath crumbling ceilings and in front of loud speakers. Diarrhea Planet was really fucking good last night. After arriving in Harrisonburg, I pick up my wristband from the Court House Theater ($18 for the entire weekend, unreal) and walk something like thirty steps before I’m at one of the hosting venues, The Artful Dodger. On the outside is a gate, a line, and an apologetic looking volunteer who can’t let anybody in yet. There’s a canopy that shades the open air seating atop platforms which flank either side of 16
the entrance, whose walls are decorated with murals and hanging plants. The air is choked with cigarette smoke which congeals into a haze in front of the entrance that I’m staring into. The stage is arranged strangely so that the band is tucked into the near right corner instead of the back. I can’t see the music being played, but I can hear it, and I can see the crowd staring at up them, nodding their heads, saving their energy for when the sun goes down and bodies start moving. It’s weird to see the enrapture a crowd experiences but not its source, like they’re being hypnotized by the ghost of Jim Jones that I can’t see from way back here on the street, from behind the smoke, from behind the gate. All the kids on the inside have tattoos and weird hair and leather jackets and I’m wearing a sweater with a gingham collar underneath (and I’ll be wearing it at all weekend) and I’m starting to feel like I might not be alt enough for this festival. I don’t know the band playing and I’m standing out here on an unfamiliar sidewalk with my guidebook sticking out of my pocket but then the gate opens and I’m out of the beating sunlight and I’m inside of the Artful Dodger like all the cool kids. I settle down in the crowd and somebody smiles at me. Ava Luna is playing. They’re from New York, there’s five of them, and they’re an R&B influenced indie rock band. The male singer has unblinking, thoughtless eyes that stare over a ridged nose; he pinches his shoulders and hunches into a short microphone like a proper high register crooner. The female singer has wide eyes and a volatile mouth. The dude is the smooth soul guy, the lady the crazy one who might start yelling, producing screams which might suddenly melt into weeping beauty. The band’s math-rocky guitar lines never last too long, but are abruptly halted by choral harmonies, then Carlos Hernandez’s breathy, James Blake informed almost-falsetto. Their songs oscillate between nervous tension and devastating soul. The crowd nods and sways; the guy in front of me is doing Jay-Z’s “Sounds so soulful don’t you agree?” from the beginning of “Otis.” Later The People’s Temple plays an incredible show but I don’t have space to write about it. There is an after-show. Ava Luna is playing at this thing and I’m pretty excited because I feel like these people are crazy, like they might start whipping each other or having crying fits during their set at this house where I assume “anything goes.” I arrive at the house and there are people spilling off the deck into the backyard, cool kids everywhere like this is a set from Girls or something. I can faintly hear music over the din of the party and I follow it through countless bodies into a living room with a vaulted ceiling that gives the whole place a kind of smirking-baroque quality. It’s packed with more people who I’m starting to recognize from the shows before. Ava Luna definitely has 17
more energy this time, singing into sweaty chests rather than over nodding heads. The room is stuffed but people are really trying to move. There’s plenty of crowd surfing, but mostly this mass of people who all somehow found out where this show was at and therefore likely each share at least one mutual acquaintance is swaying around with each other, tipping against the wall and into the band. The room is bright and hot and the band is spritely and up-tempo with jazzy breakdowns and honeyed harmonies. After lingering around the deck for a while, I decide to call it a night at around 4:00 AM and walk back towards the house where I’ll spend the night sleeping upright in a chair that I learned the next morning leans back. Day 2 of Macrock greets me kind of like the punk girls who worked at the convenience store in town where I bought mixer and solo cups the night before did: with a curt, disinterested nod and an artfully subtle eye-roll. My neck hurts, my face hurts, and my cold has escalated. I’m not going to lie, it took a while for me to get going on this day. I hung out at JMU and got super jealous of their food, but the whole time my un-caffeinated head was throbbing and swollen. I make it back into town and walk back to the Artful Dodger where Lvl Up is halfway through their set. Their final song is their most impressive. It starts slow with a molasses-thick drum beat, plucky guitar and bluesy rhythm splashes. The singer half-screams in a caustic, weary voice. The guitars fade into drones when he stops singing, just echoing across the stage, the drummer still tapping. Suddenly he plays a slowed down snare roll and the band all hammers down a chord, the drone reinvigorated, then allowed to fade again before some cymbal crashes and a new chord. All of a sudden I realize that this drone is a melody, the band is sweating and wincing as they’re playing this, allowing their notes to float long enough to bring everybody’s hands to their chests to clap before more drums hail down from skyward. The song seems like it never ends as these notes just keep progressing and changing this song into some kind of slow motion rager. I am in awe and then it finally ends and it’s like 4:30 in the afternoon and there are still another thirty bands or something today. As soon as I step outside, out of the guitars and crowds, I remember that I’m sick and I go back to the house to sleep. When I open my eyes again it’s nighttime and I rush back to the Clementine because I know that it will fill up. Diarrhea Planet is playing: people are not missing that shit. Diarrhea Planet is six dudes from Nashville. Four of them are guitar players. All of them are essential. They’ve got two or three of them playing a riff in unison, pounding and pulsating all across the stage, while one of them plays a high register 80’s glam-rock style solo, the kind Fang Island likes. I can’t do justice to this set in 18
words. The band were yelling the whole time, the drummer was fat and sweaty, the riffs were perfect and propulsive, the solos gloriously cheesy, the kind of tongueout, front-stage-knee-sliders that got Dewey Finn kicked out of his band in School of Rock. Needless to say, the crowd is going ape-shit to the call and response shouting the band is orchestrating, the impossibly high tempo, these guitars just hitting so hard. I’ll just say my world was rocked and leave it at that. There is an after show. Diarrhea Planet is playing there. This house seems a little less crowded but only because there are more rooms for everybody to be in. I’m still recognizing people. The show is in the basement, which probably shouldn’t be holding house shows. The ceiling is about six feet high and there’s quite a lot of exposed fiber glass raining down on this stuffed crowd. This is extremely dangerous. There are way too many people in a tiny space and it’s super hot and there’s not a lot of air in here. Diarrhea Planet starts playing after getting the crowd to take a few steps back and it’s awesome (see above). The crowd is swaying emphatically and people are still trying to crowd surf even though they’re cutting their noses on the ceiling and inhaling a lot more fiber glass than they’re supposed to. They play “Born to Run” and that’s just incredible and the whole crowd is screaming and hugging and shaking their fists because these are all “born to run” kids, washups and burn-outs, over-educated thirty year olds who never “made anything of their lives,” and people who have never felt comfortable anywhere. But now they’re yelling and none of that shit matters because they’re all together and by now people are learning names and making out in the back before they go out on the porch to talk about their lives and during this song it really seems like Macrock is happening, you know, like it’s hitting its climax and the fiber glass is raining down like fireworks and twinkling in my eyes, not burning them, and everybody is united under positive energy and glory and Bruce Springsteen, and I stop moving for a second and just stand still and stare into people’s backs, arms clutched around adjacent, once foreign now familial shoulders, and I feel like this all matters a lot, like we are really a “we.” Maybe I was just drunk, but that was a really sweet cover. I went home and lay down on that disgusting couch and took a really deep inhale and smelled sweat and beer and cigarettes and weed, but I heard rock and roll. I spent the next three days in a daze of exhaustion and I thought about how I didn’t even see that band Dads whose set was apparently mind-blowing. I didn’t even steal anything or do anything crazy or see the de facto festival headliner, Waxahatchee. But I still slept soundly for three days straight because it’s impossible to go to Macrock without going to Macrock. 19
POP ICON AARON CARTER VISITS W&M:
A Reflection of the First Annual Carter Day Concert
by Caroline Creasey // I N T H E B E G I N N I N G // When I first discovered that AMP had somehow persuaded Aaron Carter to make a stop in Williamsburg as part of his After Party Tour, I was fairly perplexed (and rightly so). I debated the involvement of briefcases of cash, copious amounts of cocaine, or maybe even a guaranteed exchange of sexual favors, but I quickly reached the logical conclusion that all three were most likely a part of the deal. After this brief initial confusion, my instincts promptly assumed complete control over my thoughts and actions, calling forth a repressed glitter-wearing, LisaFrank-loving, preteen version of myself. I scrolled through the annals of filestube.com for a download of Aaron’s Party (Come Get It) circa 2000, thus launching a three-week-long period during which I rediscovered my love for teenybopper dance party hits like “Bounce,” “I Want Candy,” and “Iko Iko,” the lyrics to which had conveniently lain dormant in my memory all these years in anticipation of Aaron’s inevitable comeback tour.
// T H E W E E K E N D // After extensive logistical planning to ensure that I’d return in time to witness the entirety of Aaron’s concert, I decided to embark on a journey to Floyd, Virginia in the days leading up to the show. Bluegrass jamborees, bonfires, hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and even a costly police encounter were all peppered with Aaron’s feisty telephone interludes and impromptu “That’s How I Beat Shaq” sing-a-longs in preparation for the big day. The morning of the Carter Day Concert was foggy, rainy, and
cold, but the glee I experienced knowing I would see Aaron Carter with my very own eyes by the end of the evening overpowered the oppressively ominous gloom resulting from the heinous weather. Unsurprisingly, disaster struck in the early afternoon. A pancake breakfast at a local commune led to a lengthy tour of the facilities, which prompted a deep conversation with our host, which contributed to an overall projected lateness for the concert. As our car of tired, heartbroken, but still semihopeful (read: extremely hungover) girls sped back to Williamsburg, we received the crushing news that due to weather-related concerns, the concert had been moved inside and was now a ticketed event—and all the tickets were gone.
// T H E C O N C E R T // Despite multiple devastating setbacks, our caravan rolled up to Sadler around 5:30, half an hour after Aaron’s anticipated start time. A lightning-fast pregame ensued in the parking lot, and we headed inside with high hopes of bribing an AMP member into letting us into the so-called sold-out concert; however, our fears were immediately assuaged when we entered Sadler and realized that a) the concert hadn’t even started yet and b) tickets weren’t actually gone. After ducking out for another quick pregame, we were ready for the show. Aaron swaggered onstage and proceeded to croon one hit after another in an unnaturally high octave for a 25-year-old man—at one point, he shamelessly boasted that he still sings in the same key that he sang in during his prepubescent years—but the real focus of the show was on Aaron’s “hip-hop” choreography, complemented by his distractingly muscular backup dancers Rook and Rich, who were obviously there for the sole purpose making Aaron appear taller in comparison to the other people on stage. Aaron punctuated his songs with blaring rap interludes and creepily flirtatious winks directed at the adoring girls in the first few rows; at one point Rook and Rich pulled two girls out of the crowd so Aaron could seduce them with lap dances, whispering, and very public makeouts. Looking back, no one was more invested in that concert than Aaron Carter himself. With his (forcibly) optimistic outlook and infectious enthusiasm (almost as contagious as the STDs he is most likely harboring), Aaron Carter’s comeback is definitely a success.