By: Derek Jung
There's something about the My Morning Jacket live experience for me that's always transcended the typical, everyday show. Jim James and company evoke this otherworldly, almost god-like presence that, despite my reservations to use this comparison, The Grateful Dead and Phish captured perfectly - jam bands that have such a cult following that scores upon scores of fans travel the length of each tour, meticulously cataloging every set list, cover, and live performance for future use. Such was the case at PNC Pavilion on a rainy Thursday evening when the band took the stage for the opening night of their summer tour.
The evening began with a rousing set from The Record Company. Let me make a suggestion to you, reader. If you have the opportunity to see them, do it. The front man can, to be blunt, rip it on guitar. They were a delight to see, especially considering they mentioned the My Morning Jacket song "Golden" as being life changing to them and how much of an honor it was to perform on the same stage. Humility, ladies and gentleman. What a breath of fresh air from a band with such an old school sound.
After being thoroughly warmed up, My Morning Jacket took the stage, opening with two tracks from their latest release, The Waterfall. At the end of the night, they'd only return to that album once more. Most of the night was spent on their first three albums, At Dawn, Tennessee Fire, and It Still Moves. The band was in full blown jam mode for a good deal of the evening, turning songs like "Off The Record", "War Begun", and "Steam Engine" into multi-part epics that had those dressed in tie-dye Grateful Dead shirts rolling and swaying with delight. For those who love to rock out, however, the lulls and long interludes overstayed their welcome. While those in the front were firmly in the band's grasp, many in the seated areas started to talk. Soon, the chatter was audible during the quieter moments, and it was a little disappointing that the crowd wasn't as invested as I remembered during my last MMJ experience back in 2011.
Perhaps the lesson learned that night was not that the band has lost some of its touch, but instead that the band is much better watched with the diehards - those sweaty, stoned masses in the pit who came hours ahead to snag the latest show poster and dive into the details of yesterday's set list with friends and strangers. There, I think, is the heart of the experience, and one that I won't miss the next time the band's paths cross my own again.
Until next time, my friends.
Spring (Among the Living)
Off The Record
I Will Sing You Songs
A New Live [cover]
O Is the One That Is Real
What a Wonderful Man
Tropics (Erase Traces)
Yes We Can [cover]
Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) [cover]
Holdin On to Black Metal
Phone Went West
By: Joseph Kathmann
New Paint Job, Same Old Roo
Another year, another Roo. I, like many, was pretty disappointed when the 2017 Bonnaroo lineup dropped. Gratuitous amounts of hip hop and EDM found its way into what was once a hippie-fest, and I was very concerned that those fans wouldn't come to Roo in droves. After all there are dozens of EDM festivals out there, why would those fans come to Roo when none of the headliners are in the genre? Well, the answer was.....many. To my surprise, Bonnaroo's attendance actually increased from 50k last year to just over 65k this year. However, this still marks the third lowest-attended Roo since 2006, so we have a long way to go to get back to the 75k average the festival had before Live Nation purchased the festival. And, despite being one of the older fellas at the festival, I still felt like it was the same old Roo. The vibe that brings me back every year was alive and well despite the lackluster lineup, and I still felt like I was right at home on the farm once again. While 2014 is still my favorite Roo, I can say with absolute certainty that this year's Roo was more enjoyable than 2016's. And believe me when I say I was not expecting that heading into the festival this year.
Best Set: Royal Blood
I'm actually pretty surprised I ended up calling this my favorite set of the weekend. Heading into the festival I was looking forward to other sets far more than Royal Blood's. Shows like Future Islands, U2, Lorde, and Portugal. The Man, caught my eye far more than this British rock duo. But boy was I wrong. Frontman Mike Kerr puts on a heck of a show. He is the vocalist, guitarist, and bassist.....all simultaneously. Needless to say it was pretty mesmerizing watching him play these incredibly complex bass/guitar on one instrument while singing. And it also helped that his drummer, Ben Thatcher, was pretty dang good too. Royal Blood is on top of the rock world right now, and with a new album dropping that is my favorite of the year so far, this is one set you shouldn't miss.
Best/Worst Set: Lorde
I wanted to include Lorde's set on here for one main reason:. From the get-go her set was marred by technical problems, as it actually started with a 30 minute delay as the crew tried desperately to fix her monitors. Whatever solution they finally presented was a very shoddy one, as it seemed the crew merely put a band-aid over the problem and told Lorde that was the best they could do. What followed was confirmation of why Lorde is one of my favorite people in the business: she came out and she gave Roo her all, despite the fact that her sound issues were nowhere near solved. She kept signaling off-stage for the crew to adjust her monitor's EQ, and several times she just took out her in-ears so she could actually hear. She was clearly frustrated, and yet she did everything she possibly could to give her fans the best possible show she could. Lorde may only be 20 years old, but that night on the farm she acted like a 20 year veteran.
Worst Set: Cage the Elephant
I really didn't see a bad set at Roo this year. Cage just gets this title because frontman Matt Shultz was sick. No fault of his, just bad luck, but because of this their songs sounded, well, terrible. Shultz had to take most of the songs down an octave to compensate, and he didn't even try any of the screams. Fortunately for his fans, he didn't hold back in his performance. He was the same ol' Shultz we know and love there, he just sounded terrible. That and the fact that I have to have a "Worst Set" category are the only two reasons Cage finds itself on this list. Thank God the great Red Hot Chili Peppers followed them up.
WTF Set: Travis Scott
I came into this set a bit late as Lorde's technical difficulties caused her to go 30 minutes over, but once I got there I was almost wishing I had made my way over earlier. Apart from the rapper putting on a really solid set, the dude had a GIANT eagle animatronic on stage. See him in the picture? Kind of? Ya, that's a freaking eagle, because why not? As I continue to watch more and more rap sets, I've seen a certain trend develop: memorability comes not from your skills as a rapper, but the show you put on. The more crap you put on your stage, whether it be fire or confetti or whatever, the more people will go nuts. Travis Scott definitely recognized this. Did I mention it also breathed fire? Because.... why not?
Biggest Disappointment: Chance the Rapper
Heading into Bonnaroo, this was one of my most anticipated sets. After all, Chance had become the unofficial "Mayer of Bonnaroo" over the past few years, frequently making surprise appearances at various sets (he made a cameo at Macklemore's set last year) and even stealing a surprise set at the Silent Disco back in 2016. But he was never given a full set until now. Who was going to show? Was fellow Chicago native Kanye West going to make an appearance? Lil Wayne? Future? Francis & The Lights? (Who was at the festival just a day earlier, too) Anyone? Sadly, the answer was no, and Chance stayed on stage for his 75 minute set (that might as well have been a headlining one) by himself. While his set was good, I couldn't help but be devastated by the thought of what could have been. This was an easy choice for biggest disappointment of the weekend.
Biggest Surprise: Tank and The Bangas
A very last-minute addition to the festival, Tank and The Bangas have been riding a wave of success after NPR named them the unanimous victor of their 2017 Tiny Desk concert. Their set was clearly tacked on-they found themselves opening one of the tents at 12:30 (which is stupid-early for a festival that goes until 4 or 5 AM every day) on the final day of the festival. A small, very exhausted group of festival-goers (including myself) stumbled over to the "This Tent" for their early set, most brought together by NPR's coverage. And we quickly discovered that the hype was real. The group's marvelous (and unique) combination of gospel, psychedelia, and hip hop plus the energy and vigor of the group's frontwoman, Tarriona "Tank" Ball, helped the small crowd wake up for the final day of the festival in a big way. While the band will probably never reach star status, they will likely be a festival staple of years to come. Thank you, NPR.
Overall, Bonnaroo continues to set a great standard for how a big festival should be run. The flush-able toilets continue to be a wonderful addition for the festival, but it still didn't prevent the port-o-lets from being a crap shoot by Sunday, despite considerable efforts to keep them at least somewhat clean. Food is crazy-expensive, which can be a little frustrating since you're on an island at Bonnaroo, but the food out in the campgrounds was very reasonable and delicious. Nothing like a coffee and a breakfast burrito for $5 to get your day started. I also made it over to the cinema tent for the first time this year, as I had the chance to get in Centeroo early on Saturday to check out a screening of Donnie Darko with director Richard Kelly on hand to answer questions afterwards. Personally I don't see much appeal in skipping out on music to see a comedian or movie (though I know that's one of the things that makes Roo so unique) but the space is certainly nice, and it's always great to get into some a/c to escape the Tennessee heat. I'm also glad Bonnaroo is going the route of Lollapalooza and giving EDM its own stage. "The Other Tent" has increasingly housed the EDM acts of Roo, (last year the only set I saw there was Third Eye Blind) and this year the festival finally built the stage from the ground up for EDM, removed the tent, and changed the name to "The Other." I went over there for a bit just to check it out, and the stage seemed to be a wonderful haven for EDM/hip hop fans, as there were ample video screens on the stage for the artist to play with and the EQ was overwhelming bass-heavy. This is how all festivals should do it because if not you'll get a bass heavy EQ at the main stage like Bunbury did just a week prior. Dear God, PromoWest, can you please look at Bonnaroo and run your festival even half as efficiently as Live Nation does?
At the end of the day, despite the less-than-stellar lineup that featured WAY too much EDM, my love for these few short days spent on the farm has never been stronger. I have every intention of making the pilgrimage again next year, no matter how EDM-heavy the lineup is. Bonnaroo will never die, it just has a new makeover.
By: Joseph Kathmann
A Festival Without an Identity
To say I wasn't all that excited for this year's Bunbury is something of an understatement. After the festival dropped its clusterf*** of a lineup, it quickly became one of the laughing stocks of the festival season, despite its undeniable uniqueness. The lineup was so lackluster that Derek sold one of his passes to me and took a rather large loss on his second pass. By the time he sold it, passes were going for $60 UNDER face value. Despite the fact that PromoWest announced that 3 day passes conveniently sold out the day before the festival began, there was a noticeable lack of crowds from start to finish.
However, there was a strong presence of day passes, as the festival did do a good job of organizing the genres into daily schedules. (hip hop on Friday, EDM on Saturday, rock on Sunday) Overall the festival has taken a lot of the feedback it's received over the years to heart, however why can't they figure out how to incorporate Square at food/beer booths???? Last year the festival had this totally ridiculous cashless system that everybody hated, so they took the feedback by dropping that system and replacing it with....? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Having the entire festival cash-only just seemed lazy on the part of PromoWest. I was definitely disappointed by this. Fortunately, outside of this the rest of the festival was run fairly well. Though it helps when you have lower attendance numbers. But sadly for me the festival went pretty much exactly how I expected it to. The shows I expected to be good were good, and the shows I expected to be bad were bad. I expected Saturday to be crazy and ridiculous, and Saturday was.....you guessed it, crazy and ridiculous. So let's get into the shows, shall we?
Best Set: Muse
It's almost unfortunate that Muse was the best set of the weekend, but it comes as no surprise because Muse still puts on a heck of a show. The band was easily my favorite group during my high school years, and I haven't seen them in 7 years but I worried, not excited. The band is coming off easily its worst album to date in Drones, and before that another lackluster album in The 2nd Law. Fortunately the band's festival set is composed mostly of hits, and the band played more songs from albums like Absolution and Black Holes and Revelations than their newer material. Additionally, the band just shreds it live, as their performances are full of jams and breakdowns. Not to mention the entire video show, which has been a staple of their sets since the before I saw them for the first time in the late 2000s. Seriously, even if you are just a casual fan of the band, there aren't many better groups to see live than Muse. Bunbury saved the best for last, and I am definitely happy that Muse closed out the festival.
Worst Set: Tech N9ne
I don't deny that I am not the biggest fan of hip hop, but there's no doubt that fans of the genre worship acts like Tech N9ne. So I was definitely excited to see them. While their show is pretty over-the-top, I was very disappointed by the fact that the rapper was.....lip syncing. That's right. It's 2017, and we are still seeing artists lip sync at their shows. Unbelievable. Oh! Something I didn't mention earlier. The balancing at the main stage was TERRIBLE all the way until Muse's closing set, and with Tech N9ne the bass was so overwhelming I couldn't even hear the vocals. While there seemed to be plenty of people having a blast at his set, I pity them. Because this is not just the worst set I saw at Bunbury, it is easily the worst set I've seen to date this year.
WTF Set: Wiz Khalifa
This was an interesting set. Part of me has always wanted to see Wiz live, and I am certainly glad that I can cross him off the list, but.....what? There was the blatantly weird-Wiz smoking a joint on stage and passing out to the crowd-as well as the strange-Wiz playing popular songs he's only featured in simply because they're popular songs. Heck some of the songs, like "Sucker for Pain," he only played snippets of....for some reason. Not quite sure the rationale behind this other than Wiz basically saying "Hey everyone! Look at all the pop music I've been featured on!" While I did enjoy hearing some of these hits, like "See You Again" and Wiz's classic "Black and Yellow," it was definitely the weirdest set of the weekend.
Biggest Surprise: Arkells
I didn't know much about this band going into their early Sunday afternoon set, but I was hooked within a matter of moments. Frontman Max Kerman is absurdly charming and charismatic, and he knew exactly how to woo the small crowd that showed up early. He had a wireless mic-unusual for a band the size of Arkells-but I quickly found out why. Kerman didn't just hop into the crowd to get them fired up, he hopped into the crowd and ran to the back of it so he could get EVERYONE fired up. He also brought up a random guy (the dude wearing the green bandanna in the photo above) to play some guitar chords for one song. Because why not? All of this on top of some pretty good music too. Discovering bands like Arkells is the reason why I go to festivals.
While there was enough to like at this festival to keep me entertained, I couldn't help but leave feeling unsatisfied. PromoWest definitely went for the most diverse lineup they could find, but in the process left everyone wanting more. Additionally, because of the heavy hip hop/EDM presence at the main stage, the balancing there was terrible. I hinted at it before, but every act that performed, with the exception of Muse, had to deal with overpowering bass during their set, and it was really really frustrating. Hopefully next year they just embrace one side of the spectrum or the other, versus trying to appeal to everyone. Either way, I can't help but be excited to see what PromoWest has in store for the festival next year. And yes, I do feel like something of a sucker for feeling that way.....
By: Derek Jung
When you have the voice of a young Bob Dylan and mix it with the modern rock sensibilities of a band like Kasabian, you have a recipe for greatness. That's what Mondo Cozmo, aka Joshua Ostrander, has brought to the table over the last six months. His debut album hasn't even dropped yet, but riding the wave of popularity of his first two singles, the stoner anthem "Shine" and its follow-up "Hold Onto Me", Mondo Cozmo has cemented himself as one of the most hyped new artists of the year. When I heard that he'd be stopping at Madison Live! for a pre-Bonnaroo set, I couldn't miss it. Unfortunately for the Cincinnati music scene, most everyone else in the city did.
Joseph and I walked into an almost completely empty room. We're not exaggerating. There were probably twenty-five people there. Now, I'm all for intimate shows, but with the hype surrounding the band, I was surprised and disappointed by the Tuesday night turnout.
I was also curious what Mondo Cozmo would play. Would we get his upcoming album in full? No, unfortunately, but we did get all of the released singles and a killer cover of The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony". I'm telling you, they absolutely killed it. Joshua's vocals sound so crisp live and his stage presence is a mix of business professional and straight swagger. The band is also tight, like they've been playing together for years. The hype is definitely realized, and I can't wait to hear the full album. I'm guessing next time they come to Cincinnati, there'll be a few more people in attendance.
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary (debatable) guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here: