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This past Spring Break, seven Rock Show DJs ventured into the heart of Knoxville, TN for Big Ears music festival. Check out these recaps of their experiences!

Kronos Quartet: 40 Canons with Bryce Dessner

The official Big Ears schedule for Sunday early afternoon told us to expect Canadian throat singer Tanya Tagaq at The Square Room, so when Bryce Dessner walked on stage instead, a large portion of the crowd was genuinely surprised. It took us all a minute to accept the fact that we were about to watch a meticulously composed arrangement rather than a visceral, bodily performance. Despite the initial shock, I was enthusiastic about seeing Dessner.

The first piece sounded disappointingly like a string quartet covering a National song, but other pieces ventured into territories not explored on any National record. While his compositional style still shone through in his use of repetitious phrases and a minimalism-inspired climatic song structure, ‘40 canons’ showed a playful side of Dessner usually masked by the sombre vibes of The National. Dessner joined the quartet on stage with his guitar to play this piece. The five of them exchanged shy smiles of friendship throughout the show. This was quite a charming performance. -JPM

 

Terry Riley with Gyan Riley & Tracy Silverman

 

Time was short on Sunday, so our final hours were carefully planned out: we’d catch the first 30 minutes of Kronos Quartet’s intimate performance with Tanya Tagaq at the Standard–those of us who missed Tagaq’s mind-boggling solo show on Saturday were eager to see what we were missing–before travelling swiftly across town to witness the rare talents of composer and legend Terry Riley.

Riley was scheduled for a two hour set from 4pm to 6pm at the Knoxville Museum of Art. With a strict departure time of 5pm and a ten hour drive ahead, our schedule was tight and anticipation was high. Of course, Kronos pulled a fast one at the last minute and switched the ordering of their set times without announcement: it became clear as they took the stage that Bryce Dessner would join the quartet for the first half, and Tagaq would follow.

If our intuitions were correct, Tagaq and Riley now filled directly conflicting time slots. And as the final notes of Dessner and Kronos resounded through the auditorium, the seven of us were confronted with an existential crisis: Riley’s performance would begin in minutes, Kronos had exited stage temporarily (with Tagaq’s presence still uncertain), and our departure time loomed ever nearer. Which performance to attend?

This was a question to be individually determined, of course, and the consensus was split. I concluded that Riley would probably pass away before I had the opportunity to see him perform again. Intrigued as I was by Tagaq’s throat singing, I have a history with Riley’s music and infinite admiration for his influential work. I scurried over to the KMA with Stephen and Jenna while the rest waited for Kronos to reappear with Tagaq.

Gentle cycles of piano, guitar, and violin washed over us as we entered the museum. We descended into a cavernous hall, towards the sound source, and I felt comforted by the familiar minimalism cascading down the stairs with us. A shiver flowed through my body as we approached the stage. Riley sat at the piano clad in a tunic, vest, Taqiyah cap, and his ever-magnificent beard. The audience was composed primarily of older folks and more children than we had seen all weekend, but the overall turnout was surprisingly sparse. Listeners sat quietly at the foot of the stage, some standing in the back or on the sides, dispersed loosely throughout the space. As we took a seat on the floor and settled into the present moment, my extremities tingled with mixed emotion–an effect I sometimes experience when listening to Riley’s compositions. Piano riffs meandered meaningfully over the walls and back over themselves and I was enveloped in sound. I closed my eyes. Lost in relaxed concentration, I didn’t notice the tingling sensation migrate from my extremities to my throat and up into my head until it began seeping out of my eyes. All the memories and mindsets I’ve come to associate with Riley’s music struggled to the surface, fighting for air, and I drifted with them on a conceptual journey through the soundscapes.

The first movement drew to a close. I dried my eyes as Riley introduced his colleagues, including his son, Gyan, on guitar. When it came time to introduce himself, he concluded: “And I’m an old man,” with a soft-spoken chuckle. Riley briefly spoke about the next piece, a movement inspired by the California desert, as the three musicians settled into their places. A drone creeped warily into the atmosphere. Riley lifted his left hand and began chanting in the tradition of classical Indian music, letting his fingers rise and fall and tremble with the vibrations. Again enveloped in the moment, I bowed my head and prepared to float through time indefinitely, obediently following the trace of Riley’s rasping voice–I had no idea how long the movement would last, but it didn’t matter. I had reached a rare and temporary state of equilibrium that resisted the intrusion of external thought. And I still haven’t fully processed it. -Maddie Higgins

 

Tyondai Braxton: HIVE

 

so many drummers. the sounds made me feel like crimes were taking place all around me. one dood played the drums like a gargoyle and it was awesome. -Jay Smith

Max Richter: The Blue Notebooks & Infra with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble

 

I settled into a middle seat in the balcony of the Bijou Theatre, creating precisely the same vantage point from which I watched Jonny Greenwood’s and Iannis Xenakis’s pieces performed the previous year. “Infra” confined most of the fast-paced movement up to the treble range, complemented by slowly-evolving droning harmonies and textural sounds. His pieces have the effect of confusing the listener’s perception of time by drawing attention to the dramatic foreground while subtler elements of the piece continue to evolve. I kept finding myself completely absorbed in the feeling of one moment of the piece, then suddenly, with no recollection of how it got there, I’d realize the piece had entered a different stage entirely. Richter has an interesting compositional ear that is creative at the least and downright extraterrestrial when in full force. -JPM

 

2Ben Frost

 

I’m writing this re/+/cap as if it contains a typog/+/raphic strobe light because by /+/far the most mem/+/orable sensation from F/+/rost’s show was the incessant fl/+/ickering of a collection of str/+/obes. Ben Frost’s sh/+/ow was one of t/+/he more energetic performa/+/nces of the weeke/+/nd. Frost himself coolly/+/ let the music guide his moveme/+/nts and a continual head bob rippled t/+/hrough the crowd. Frost’s fu/+/zzes, tings, and glitches some/+/times took on the persona of IDM, so/+/metimes ethereal soundscapes, and s/+/ometimes mechanical ind/+/ustrialism–most of the time all/+/ three simultaneously. Similar to his strag/+/gly yet sculpted beard, his /+/music is in many ways fr/+/ee yet structured. The quietly confide/+/nt Ben Frost is a powerf/+/ul force in the experimental elect//ronic world and it w/+/as a real pleasure to get to see him in s/+/uch an intimate ven/+/ue. -JPM

 

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Jamie XX

 

Jamie XX reminded us that WNUR knows how to shake its groove thang.

 

Tanya Tagaq

 

yoo this performance was WILD. probably my favorite of the weekend. I wasn’t sure if Tanya was an exorcist or an exorcisee or somewhere in between, but this set was DOWNRIGHT ANIMALISTIC. That shit was primal af. WOW. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever experienced a more psychedelic performance (and I’ve seen String Cheese Incident like twice!!) Tanya’s one of the illest throat singers in the game right now. all the way turnt 10/10 -Jay Smith

 

Clark

 

Maddie had the gnarly opportunity to interview Clark! Check it out here.

 

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Nels Cline & Norton Wisdom: Stained Radiance

 

My only exposure to Nels Cline before this performance was through his work with Wilco, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. We joined a seemingly aimless line that wound back into a long, narrow amphitheater with no windows. All the seats were filled, so we lined up along the stairs, one of us on each stair. Cline began the set by requesting that audience members look at painter Norton Wisdom, not at him. The duo blew us away with Cline’s seemingly effortless ability to reflect the mood and tone of Wisdom’s painting in real time. This was a “whole is bigger than the sum of its parts” situation–Cline’s strands of ambient electric guitar dictated how the audience perceived the figures spewing from the tip of Wisdom’s brush. The two had obvious chemistry with each other and with their respective media. Wisdom’s wizardry with a paint brush awed the audience, while Cline’s reflective drones tied the artwork to their hearts. A once-in-a-lifetime experience I’m feelin’ lucky to have witnessed once in my lifetime! -JPM

 

 

Grouper

 

        “Once a song has left me I want it to belong to whoever finds it”

                                                                            -Grouper

        “Everything subjective, which due to its dialectical inwardness eludes a direct form of expression, is an essential secret”

                                                                                -Kierkegaard

So an impasse. I thought really that Grouper’s performance suggested that she would not, could not escape the fundamental inwardness of her art and offer something readily available to the audience. I would have said that of all the artists we deem confessional, the music that is called so deeply personal, Grouper and her performance stand out in taking seriously the claim that this type of expression is necessarily not for the taking. Any attempt by Grouper to directly express the kind of really inner things she has in mind will only mislead, and the performance indicates an awareness of this difficulty. Phrases bleed into one another and sounds collapse into noise just as they become discernable. She almost hides herself on stage, sitting on the ground surrounded her gear. I thought it was stunning despite my being necessarily outside her world.

Kierkegaard describes his “knight of faith” as admirable but not comprehensible. We can watch the truly subjective person dance between infinity and materiality, but in doing so gain no knowledge of how we ourselves might emulate the motion. The direct relationship between the individual and God, or for Grouper between herself and Love, is something for which observation offers no education, as everyone must work out their salvation in radical isolation. If all of this seems ridiculous then everything is in order, because gleaning anything other than awe and mystification from the story of Abraham or a live set by Grouper is the highest of comedic paradox. Two thumbs up. -Brian Campbell

 

 

Loscil

 

Lovely midday set in Knoxville’s Modern Art museum. Loscil provided subdued, watery vibes whilst surrounded by some sweet glass sculptures. Pleasing sub-bass tones. Heavy low pass filter. Grainy textures. Contemplative. Everything you’d want from an ambient set. It was hot. -Stephen Antonoplis

 

Steve Gunn

 

this guy’s gnarly. no better place to listen to Steve Gunn than Knoxville. Hints of Appalachia bleed through Steve’s pensive guitar licks and weathered vocals. It’s impossible to overstate how phenomenal this performance was. Fans of Kurt Vile look no further; a former Violator himself, Steve’s melancholic melodies hit at the same feels. Me and Emai got to meet Jim Jarmusch after the show which was also cool. Sweet dood, former Wildcat (meow).

-Jay Smith

 

Amen Dunes

 

These gents are righteous. Big Ears was kind of light on the traditional bands (at least traditional for me: guitar, bass, drums… discernible melodies), but Amen Dunes hit the spot and provided a nice dose of downright listenable grooves. LISTEN: you gotta listen to these guys.

 

Holly Herndon

 

Stephen interviewed Herndon! Checkout the killer feature here.

 

Images via the WNUR Fam.

 

The Beat Goes On… Streetbeat  and Chicago House at Dittmar

From late June through July 2nd, Northwestern’s Dittmar Gallery housed an exhibition curated by the Modern Dance Music Research & Archiving Foundation. The gallery included archival materials courtesy of WNUR Streetbeat on display alongside handwritten set lists written by the late Frankie Knuckles and memorabilia from the Power Plant, both of whose legacies were the focus of the exhibit.

With the opening panel, outgoing Streetbeat Music Director Nick Harwood considered the role of Chicago House in both African-American culture and in the evolution of dance music. A second panel specifically considered WNUR’s night-time programming from the ‘70s through the birth of the Streetbeat program in the ‘80s. The second panel was composed entirely of former NUR DJ’s who afterwards dropped by the studio in Louis Hall for a tour of the facilities. The beat does indeed go on.

The Beat Goes On… was curated and hosted by Dr. Charles Matlock and Lauren Lowery, who kick ass and work to preserve Chicago’s musical heritage at the foundation.

Pitchfork Music Festival

This year WNUR partnered with Pitchfork Music Festival to send two of our own with VIP passes, give away tickets to listeners on-air, as well as to fans on Facebook. Friends of Streetbeat and frequent guest DJs of the Teklife crew like Taso, DJ Taye, and Sirr Tmo all joined DJ Spinn (plus Treated Crew and Era dance crew) on stage to pay tribute to the late great DJ Rashad. While the Teklife set was an obvious highlight of the weekend, Rock Show favorites like Jon Hopkins, Deafheaven, and The Haxan Cloak all brought their talents out to Chicago’s beautiful Union Park. And it didn’t rain even once!

 

In the Studio with… Obama’s African Leaders, Malafacha Skajuly 4

This summer some 20+ scholars from Africa had the opportunity to study at Northwestern through President Obama’s African Leaders Initiative. As a way of thanking the president, the fellows recorded a song at WNUR. Keep an eye out for the track, “Yali”, on WNUR’s soundcloud page. Later in July, Chicago rockers Malafacha Ska came in for a live set during El Zilencio (link to El Zinlencio page)! Stay tuned and keep your ears and eyes on WNUR as we continue to offer Chicago’s finest in experimental music, news broadcasting, and Northwestern sports.

 

And finally, here are our recaps of the final day of Big Ears 2014. Content by Gillian Levy, Harlynn Siler, and Ethan Simonoff.

Stephen O’Malley & Oren Ambarchi
12:00PM @ Knoxville Museum of Art

O’Malley and Ambarchi performed two tracks together specifically written for the duo by other composers. The first was “Criss-Cross,” by Alvin Lucier, which involved the two men creating single-note drone from their guitars which were lying on the table for about fifteen minutes. It was hypnotizing and bizarre, and the crowd sat silently in awe watching the masters work. The second piece was entitled “South Pole” and was written by Romanian composer Iancu Dumitrescu. Featuring tape sounds, guitar, and percussion by Tim Barnes (who stood at the opposite side of the room from Ambarchi & O’Malley), this second piece took us to deep zones and back and left us wanting more. The set was short and sweet. Too short, too sweet.

Keiji Haino
2:30PM @ Scruffy City Hall

We piled into the pitch black, already packed full, and already incredibly loud hall to catch the legendary Keiji Haino perform a solo set. His instrumentation and set were similar to his performance during Nazoranai’s set: heavy guitar riffs, harsh power electronics, screamed vocals from his magic book of words. He would lay down a noisy guitar riff into a loop, and then continue to play and improvise over that, stopping every so often to scream a few random phrases over the PA. Haino’s stage presence and visceral intensity is what makes him such a joy to watch. He exerts himself nearly to point of breathlessness and commands great attention as he wanders and wavers around the stage.

Lonnie Holley
4:00PM @ Scruffy City Hall

Steve Reich & friends
Performances of “Clapping Music,” “Electric Counterpoint,” “Music for 18 Musicians,” and “Radio Rewrite”
7:30PM @ Tennessee Theater

The final show of the festival started with a brief performance of ‘Clapping Music’ performed by Steve Reich, among others. Following that was a performance of ‘Electric Counterpoint,’ with Jonny Greenwood playing the lead guitar part. After Greenwood shuffled off the stage, Steve Reich premiered his newest work, ‘Radio Rewrite.’ However, the real meat of the concert was an immaculate performance of ‘Music for 18 Musicians,’ arguably one of Reich’s most important and popular works. Hypnotic as ever, the pulsing xylophones, bells, and metallophones signaling new motifs, with phasing vocals, strings, and clarinets filled the auditorium. Musicians could be seen crossing the stage in sequence, as their respective parts gradually came up, and crossing back to their seats just off to the side from the rest of the ensemble as they inevitably came to pass. Following the final few pulses, a long pause, and the theatre erupted in applause. After about a minute, Reich came up to the stage, and led the group in a bow, before exiting the stage. The group was called out no fewer than four more times to appease the audience after approximately 5 minutes of applause. The theatre eventually died down, and everyone stumbled outside, no doubt satisfied with an extraordinary close to the festival and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

We’re continuing to roll out our coverage of Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, TN! Here’s a recap of what Rock Show saw on Saturday. Content by Ethan Simonoff, Jenna Powell-Malloy, Harlynn Siler, Jason Vanderlinden, and Gillian Levy. Photos by Gillian Levy.

Laraaji: A Laughter Meditation Playshop/Workshop
12:00PM @ Knoxville Museum of Art

Helen Money
1:30PM @ Knoxville Museum of Art

Outside it was raining; inside at the Knoxville Museum of Art Helen Money was shredding. Helen Money, real name Alison Chesley, is a cellist and an NU alum who has played in the groups Verbow and Poi Dog Pondering. Her set consisted of a few songs ranging from sparse, loop-based, droning pieces to her accompanying sampled metal drums. Following her set, festival-goers could be seen crowding the exit of the museum, waiting for the pouring rain to subside.

Dawn of Midi
2:30PM @ Bijou Theater

This performance was definitely a highlight of the festival. Dawn of Midi is a trio of pianist Amino Belyamani, bassist Aakaash Israni, and drummer Qasim Naqvi. Belyamani played grand piano, using his hand to effectively ‘prepare’ the piano in various ways by stimulating various harmonics or muting certain strings. The entire performance was an amazing display of dexterity, and the music was mesmerizing. Small patterns and musical phrases would repeat over and over again, until you suddenly realized that the entire song had changed. As such, the entire set was continuous, these small changed comprising the vehicle for changing songs.

Glenn Kotche
3:00PM @ Square Room

Glenn Kotche’s second performance of the festival was a dream for fans of percussion. His drumset took up half the large stage, and many tracks were accompanied by video (for a more detailed description of the performance described by Glenn himself, check our interview with him here). We got to see chunks of “Anomaly,” a piece written by Glenn for Kronos Quartet featured on his new album; Drum Kit Quartet #1, originally written for So Percussion but performed for solo drumset; his famous “Monkey Chant” accompanied by a film by drum tech Nathaniel Murphy; and a first time ever performance of a new piece written for Kotche called “Come With Me If You Want to Live,” featuring air raid sirens.
Check out our interview with Glenn here!

Oneohtrix Point Never
3:30PM @ Bijou Theater

In the pitch blackness of the Bijou, Daniel Lopatin stood behind his computer morphing glitches and gusts into emotive compositions. Behind Lopatin was a large screen displaying optical illusions that looked straight out of the world of R Plus Seven’s album art. The interplay of the images and sounds created a psychedelic narrative tempting any mind willing to indulge.

Wordless Music Orchestra
4:30 PM @ Tennessee Theater

The Wordless Music Orchestra approached Jonny Greenwood’s pieces with a detectable comfort and pride. For the majority of the show, a septet performed various pieces from There Will Be Blood, The Master, and Norwegian Wood. A few pieces for violin written by Iannis Xennakis were also performed. For the last few songs, Greenwood joined on stage with his electric guitar. Greenwood’s compositions begin by going somewhere familiar, only to drift into an uncharted realm founded on a nervous eeriness. His pieces open the imagination and guide one’s mind on a journey that is both challenging and actualizing.

Buke & Gase
5:00PM @ Square ROom

Mark McGuire
6:45PM @ Scruffy City Hall

Mark McGuire’s set began with him building layer upon layer to create a beat-driven track with ribbons of guitar riffage. By the middle of his set, McGuire was full-on shredding. Combining airy guitar tones with quirky beats, McGuire created ethereal dance tunes that seemed to add color to the drab atmosphere of Scruffy City Hall.
Check out our interview with Mark here, and come see him perform at Sonic Celluloid XII on May 9th at Block Cinema here in Evanston!

Steve Reich’s DRUMMING Performed by So Percussion & nief-norf project
8:00PM @ Tennesee Theater

Julia Holter
8:30PM @ Bijou Theater

Julia Holter has received widespread critical acclaim and Album of the Year accolades for her latest album, Loud City Song, and her Big Ears performance did not disappoint. Her band, comprised of a saxophonist, drummer, celloist, and violinist, provided vivid, intricate backing to Holter’s dramatic, shifting vocalizations. A classically trained musician who studied composition at CalArts, Holter’s style on Loud City Song is eerily evocative of bygone decades. The set consisted of varied moods, as Holter’s gifted singing led both knotty jazz and dreamy refrains. The songwriter, sipping from a glass of wine between pieces, also engaged in playful asides with the audience, remarking that the festival’s name was fun to hear and leading members to say ‘Big Ears’ in unison. The Bijou Theatre in Knoxville offered an ornate soundstage, ideal for Holter’s music; however, occasionally the band was amplified far too loudly, though that was more likely the fault of a sound mistake at the festival.

Bill Orcutt
8:30PM @ Scruffy City Hall

As Bill Orcutt took the stage and started playing we all wondered if this was the performance or just soundcheck. It was, in fact, soundcheck, following which, Orcutt grabbed a beer and hung out in the audience talking to fans before climbing back on stage and playing a truly remarkable set of acoustic guitar songs. Orcutt, formerly of the band Harry Pussy, was as modest as he was talented, his set littered with bursts of virtuosity. It would be a stretch to call his music ‘soulful’ in the traditional sense, but as he plays his guitar and is moving his entire body, and his humming oscillates in and out as he sways closer to and farther from the microphone, it becomes evident that his music is deeply emotional and expressive, and strangely meditative for being so rapid and agile.

Television
10:00PM @ Tennessee Theater

It’s always weird to see a band you grew up listening to perform live. Television is now dad rock, of which I’m sure because everyone sitting around me was a dad wearing the Marquee Moon shirt they’d bought 20 minutes before the show. In between cuts from their debut album, the group (founding members Tom Verlaine, Billy Ficca, and Fred Smith, along with new guitarist Jimmy Rip) jammed to tracks from their later and less memorable albums. It was a nostalgic evening for the aging CBGB’s set, and Verlaine can certainly still shred.

Nazoranai
1:00AM @ Bijou Theater

After pushing the show back 45 minutes, Stephen O’Malley, Keiji Haino, and Oren Ambarchi took the stage at one o’clock AM. Ambarchi kept the rhythm full of bass drum while O’Malley bowed his bass and kept a dull thud throughout. Haino alternately screamed in the microphone, shredded on his guitar, and played power electronics in the most dramatic way I think any of us have ever seen. Haino dared us and taunted us, even yelling, “ARE YOU BRAVE? IT’S… NAZORANAI!” A shredtime story for the ages.

It’s #throwbackthursday , so we’re taking you back to Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, TN. Here are some belated recaps of shows that Rock Show DJs attended. Words contributed by Ethan Simonoff, Jenna Powell-Malloy, Harlynn Siler, and Gillian Levy. Pictures by Gillian Levy.

Big Ears is unique among music festivals. Spanning five venues in downtown Knoxville, attendees are encouraged to jump between theaters and concert halls to catch the best of each performer. Curated by Steve Reich, this year placed heavy emphasis on minimalism with maximal sonic effects.

Big Ears Launch Party w/ Steve Reich, So Percussion, and Laraaji
5:00PM @ Knoxville Museum of Art

Steve Reich
Steve Reich kicks off the festival @ Knoxville Museum of Art

Laaraji
Laraaji @ Knoxville Museum of Art

Big Ears kicked off at the Knoxville Museum of Art with an opening address from festival organizers and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, who threw some shade at Brooklyn hipsters: “We had scruffy guys with banjos way before Brooklyn did.” After some polite clapping and thanking of sponsors, So Percussion took the stage with Steve Reich himself to perform “Clapping.” Reich gave some quick opening remarks on how grateful and excited he was to be at the festival, and then handed the stage over to Laraaji for a short set. Thus we began our Big Ears experience!

So Percussion w/ Glenn Kotche, Buke & Gase
6:30PM @ Bijou Theater

So Percussion takes your picture @ Bijou Theater

So Percussion takes your picture @ Bijou Theater

So Percussion rocks it out with Glenn Kotche

So Percussion rocks it out with Glenn Kotche

The first official show I attended was So Percussion at the Bijou Theater. So is Eric Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, and Jason Treuting, percussionists who met as graduate students at Yale. They opened their set by coming out with disposable cameras, clicking and winding away at the audience, which led to ripples of laughter throughout the crowd. Each member performed alternately on a drum set or another percussive instrument; marimbas were prominently featured. After their openers, Glenn Kotche came out to accompany them for some drumkit pieces he wrote specifically for the group through Meet the Composer, and he also stayed for a performance for Steve Reich’s “Pieces of Wood” with one member of the quartet. The last half of the show featured Buke & Gase on guitar, bass, and vocals, which added a decidedly twee element to the show.

Stephen O’Malley (solo)
7:00PM @ Scruffy City Hall

As the rain picked up outside, we retreated to the doom metal cave that Stephen O’Malley was creating inside Scruffy City Hall. With his signature clear guitar and spread of effects pedals, O’Malley performed haunting pieces that had as much to say over their sparse buildups as they did in their abrasive peaks. His pieces went through slowly evolving phases, each one just subtly distinct enough to create a hypnotic yet accelerating soundscape.

Colin Stetson
8:30PM @ Scruffy City Hall

Colin Stetson and his saxophones @ Scruffy City Hall

Colin Stetson and his saxophones @ Scruffy City Hall

Colin Stetson and his giant sax

Colin Stetson and his giant sax

Colin Stetson is a one-man powerhouse. It’s hard to listen to his records and imagine what it might look like live, especially knowing that Stetson doesn’t use looping at all. In person, he is a force of nature, alternating between three different saxophones and thrusting his entire physical being into the performance, rippling muscles and all. Just seeing the title track of his new record (New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light) was definitely a festival highlight and I think we all have huge crushes on him.

Body/Head
9:30PM @ Bijou Theater

Kim shreds the night away @ Bijou Theater

Kim shreds the night away @ Bijou Theater

You can’t talk about Body/Head without focusing on its most famous element: Kim Gordon, the mother of all things noise rock and founding member of Sonic Youth. Since her split with Thurston Moore ended Sonic Youth, Gordon has kept busy with her experimental guitar duo with Bill Nace. I had the opportunity to see Body/Head back in September at the MCA in Chicago, and this performance was pretty much exactly the same thing: Bill & Kim shredding, Kim yelping into a microphone, and a poorly executed “art-school” film playing in the background. It’s quite an experience to see Kim Gordon in person (and we did see her walking around downtown Knoxville twice!), but I’d suggest waiting for a more innovative new project.

John Cale
10:30PM @ Tennessee Theater

John Cale strums it out @ Tennessee Theater

John Cale strums it out @ Tennessee Theater

We piled into the Tennessee Theater, the largest and most beautiful of the venues, to catch a set from famed multi-instrumentalist John Cale, of Velvet Underground fame. Cale’s set lasted an hour and a half and consisted of the best of his glam-rock pieces spanning decades of work. While it was enjoyable to the older crowd, I think the glamour of glam rock escaped us.

Tim Hecker
12:00AM @ Bijou Theater

After a day of bopping from venue to venue in Knoxville we headed over to the Bijou to check out Tim Hecker. Exhausted but ready to go for an aural ride we settled in. Due to unfortunate acoustics or sound engineering the music was much too loud. Instead of the aural bliss we were expecting, we were cocooned in a vibrating bed of sound. Shrouded in smoke and wearing his ever-present beanie, Hecker intently worked away. That vibrating bed quickly became equal part lullabies. It was only the slow cessation of vibrations at the end of his set that pulled us out of our reverie.
Tl;dr we all fell into a lovely sleep and aren’t apologizing for it.

That’s it for our Friday recaps! Stay tuned for Saturday and Sunday for more shredding and droning and drumming.

 

Hopscotch

Additional contributions from Lily Oberman, Ethan Simonoff, and Dan Sloan

This is Part Three of WNUR’s Hopscotch coverage. Part One | Part Two

Our last day in Raleigh came to a rainy close with a great mix of acts. After the jump, our thoughts on Sunn O))), Oren Ambarchi, Oneida, and more.

 

Hopscotch

Day two of Hopscotch brought even more activity, as we ventured to some of the free day-parties in town to check out even more of the acts on display. After the jump, our thoughts (and GIFs):

 

Hopscotch

Additional contributions from Lily Oberman, Ethan Simonoff, and Dan Sloan

You may be wondering why WNUR, based out of Chicago, would choose to send four of its staff to Hopscotch, a music festival in Raleigh—especially in a day-and-age when everyone’s busy talking about the SXSWs and the Pitchforks of the world.

This year’s lineup has some great acts, and the scheduling of it is perfect for Northwestern’s perennially screwed-up academic calendar. The reality is it’s cheaper, it’s less crowded, and so far North Carolina’s done nothing but good by us. And it lets us do what we do best, which is talking about stuff other people don’t always talk about. After the jump, our thoughts on the first night of the festival, with GIFs!