The Sounds of Summer, in Retrospect
I need the smell of summer, I need its noises in my ears” — Brand New, I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light
I’m something of live music junkie. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a bad show, nor have I turned down the opportunity to go to a concert. This year, I’ve seen live shows featuring everyone from Big Boi to Guster to Taylor Swift. There’s nothing quite like being in the middle of a crowd of people, getting slammed with beats (whether it’s hip hop, punk or pop). This summer, I hit up a TON of concerts and toyed around with the idea of doing individual concert posts, but because that seemed like too much of a commitment (and we all know how much I hate commitment), I opted for a summer concert series review instead. Enjoy!
- Taking Back Sunday – There are a small handful of bands I’ve loved for 10 years or more. The list includes Hanson (yeah, I said it), Something Corporate and Taking Back Sunday. When news leaked that the original members of TBS, the 5 guys behind the epic album that soundtracked my high school days, were getting back together; well my emo heart squealed in delight. I was fortunate enough to score an invite to see TBS play a super intimate show at Maxwell’s in Hoboken (and was featured in the video for the first single off their reunion album! Check it out here). That was back in April, so it doesn’t really count as summer. But I did hit the road with my friend/ co-worker Claudia to see Adam and co. take the stage again in May. We rented a car and drove up to Albany on a Sunday afternoon. Crazy, right? Maybe, but it was worth it. One of my favorite things in the world to experience is getting pushed and thrown around in the middle of a crowd screaming words to songs that mean something different, but something big, to everyone. It didn’t matter that I was probably the only one in the audience old enough to have voted in the last election (we ended up standing next to a group of 15 year old boys who were literally 5 when the band’s first album (and the only album they put out together) came out) — it was a fucking great time. It brought me back to why I loved the songs off Tell All Your Friends so much.
Rating: 4.5/ 5 (it would’ve been a 5 had I not shared the mic during “There’s No “I” in Team” with Adam Lazzara 3 weeks before)
- Ray LaMontagne – Good luck struck again for me in the land of concerts and live performances. I won tickets to Ray LaMontagne’s VH1 Storytellers taping. That experience in general was pretty intense and epic (showed up late, almost didn’t get in, then got to sit on the floor in front of Ray while he spoke more than anyone has probably ever heard in public). It was such an intimate performance and I felt extremely fortunate to have been able to experience that as a Ray fan. I don’t think other fans will ever get to see him in that kind of setting. He was charming, sweet and put on a great show. Then, a few weeks later, I headed to Central Park with big hopes of seeing him and the Pariah Dogs hit the stage in an amazing outdoor NYC venue. I was a little let down, to be perfectly honest. While I got to hear some of my favorite songs (including 2 that he didn’t play during Storytellers: Hold You in My Arms, and New York City’s Killing Me) it was just a little blah. I mean, after coming from the mosh pit scene at TBS concerts and the incredibly intimate setting of the VH1 taping, it was a bit of snooze just sitting on the grass so far from the stage. Because Ray is almost uncomfortably shy (and wasn’t being forced to speak by a VH1 producer), he didn’t say 2 words between songs. And because he’s a fantastic musician, there’s not much difference between how he sounds in person and how he sounds coming out of your iPod. So essentially, I could have saved myself the $65 by making a Ray LaMontagne playlist and chilling in the park.
Rating: 3.5/ 5 (for both shows — VH1 was amazing; Central Park was less so)
- Taylor Swift: I know, I know. I went from Taking Back Sunday to Taylor Swift. This is Punk Meets Pink, remember? Tay-Tay is the pink. It has been a LONG time since I’ve seen a real concert. I consider the live acts I see in venues like Irving Plaza or even at larger places like SPAC, to be shows. They’re not spectacles. There are no costume changes. Well this little blonde powerhouse put on a spectacle. I didn’t even know so many sparkley dresses existed! Besides the thousands of girls with light-up signs and handmade I LOVE YOU TAYLOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!! tees, she put on a good show. Her latest album, Speak Now, is fun and catchy and sing-along-able. I went to this show with friends from work and my friend from Charlotte, NC who came to NYC for the occasion. It’s safe to say we all had a great time and momentarily felt like we were 13. I don’t think I’d go see her again (I’m more of a small venue, $25/ ticket, kind of gal) but I’d have felt like I was missing out by not going at least once. Taylor, you rock my socks.
Rating: 4/ 5
- Guster & Jack’s Mannequin: It’s no surprise (or at least I hope it’s no surprise) that I think anything Andrew McMahon touches is gold (I feel the same way about Conor Oberst — see below). Ever since I saw Something Corporate open for New Found Glory my junior year of high school and got to hang out at the merch booth afterwards with Josh, the lead guitarist (do bands still do this??), it was love. When the band went their separate ways, I faithfully followed Andy to his next musical venture of Jack’s Mannequin. I fell in love all over again. It’s a bit softer than what I usually listen to, but I’ve seen him share the stage with everyone from 311 to The Juliana Theory. This summer, Andy and the rest of the Jack’s crew co-headlined with Guster. This ended up being another great pairing because a good group of us from work are big fans of one or the other, so we all headed to Central Park to see them split an evening of awesome music. Jack’s Mannequin was AMAZING. I’ve never been a particularly big Guster fan but I got into the set, enjoyed “Barrel of a Gun” and thought they were overall entertaining as performers and musicians. And they ended the night by joining forces on stage. Fantastic. My only complaint – Jack’s Mannequin played first, it was a short set, and it was still light out. Next time – more Jack’s!
Rating: 4/ 5 (Jack’s gets 4.5 and Guster gets a 3.5 to get this average overall rating)
- Kenny Chesney and Zac Brown Band (w/ guest Billy Currington): Summer, to me, is not complete without at least one outdoor country concert. When Kenny Chesney didn’t tour last year, it was a really sad season. But he more than made up for it this time. The show started promptly at 4:30 with Billy Currington taking the stage. If you’re a country fan, you know Billy’s hits (Must Be Doin’ Something Right, Pretty Good at Drinkin’ Beer, People are Crazy, and Good Directions). It was great to see him on stage and he started the show off right. Next up was Zac Brown Band. LOVE ZBB. Seriously. The man is big and burly, wears a ski cap all year long, and has the voice of a Tennessee angel. Zac, you are amazing. The cover of Devil Went Down to Georgia – my cowboy boots couldn’t keep from dancing. What an amazing act to split the bill with Kenny. And then the man of the hour came on. Say what you will about country; say what you will about Kenny Chesney; but as Zac Brown sings “you got, you got whatever it is, that blows me away.” And Kenny’s got it. Seriously, I’ve seen him a handful of times and I always walk out saying “BEST. CONCERT. EVER” He’s just one of the best live acts out there, in my opinion. If you haven’t seen him live, you’re missing out. I could go to a Kenny concert every night for the rest of my life and not get tired of it. He’s that good. Only complaint, he didn’t sing Keg in the Closet (and I had a little too much beer, so there’s a section of the show that’s a little blurry to me – but that’s my fault :D)
Rating: 5 (yup, he’s that good)
- Bright Eyes: This was the first time I’ve ever seen Conor Oberst take the stage, and to see him with the Bright Eyes crew playing against the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline as seen from Williamsburg was pretty incredible. I’ve long been a sucker for anything Conor does musically and would design my perfect man to be a replica of him (actually, I imagine us drinking craft beer, smoking clove cigarettes down to our knuckles whilst debating the issues of the world and reading each other poems we scrawled in Moleskine notebooks. But I digress…) Anyway, the show took place on the last night of August and was the perfect way to say farewell to another summer in this fair city. Highlights for me included an absolutely stunning performance of Land Locked Blues that literally left the audience in silence, hanging on every chord he strummed and note he sang. The encore capped off the show in brilliance with a hyper-charged version of Road to Joy. For lack of a more hip word, I’ll say the show was beautiful, because to me, it was.
Rating: 4.5/5 (that 1/2 point deduction is more a tsk tsk to the venue for allowing cigarettes and me spending most of the night ingesting second-hand smoke. Yuck)
I guess I was pretty busy this summer with concerts. Anyone else out there see some great (or not so great) shows?
Posted on September 1, 2011, in music and tagged 311, adam lazzara, andrew mcmahon, barrel of a gun, big boi, billy currington, brand new, bright eyes, central park, central park summer stage, concerts, conor oberst, devil went down to georgia, good directions, guster, hanson, hold you in my arms, i will play my game beneath the spin light, irving plaza, keg in the closet, kenny chesney, must be doin' something right, new found glory, new york city's killing me, people are crazy, pretty good at drinkin' beer, ray lamontagne, something corporate, SPAC, taking back sunday, taylor swift, tell all your friends, the juliana theory, there's no i in team, VH1 storytellers, zac brown band. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.