Swans_To_Be_Kind

"To Be Kind" Swans

Swans

To Be Kind Album Review

Young God/Mute Records

Released May 12, 2014

Genre: Experimental Rock, Art Rock, No Wave, Noise Rock, Post Rock

Describing a band like Swans is like describing the taste of water, it’s practically impossible. First off, the band has been around for more than THIRTY years, and, despite a few hiatuses, they have become one of the most well-known names in underground music. Second, if you do have the ambition and guts to listen to a song by Swans, you will be heavily overwhelmed, yet undeniably interested. Known for their experimental instrumentation (gongs, dulcimers, bells) and long, repetitive song structures, the band makes heavy, disturbingly loud and alienating music. Stemming from the no-wave movement in New York in the early 80s (For those who know nothing about sub genres, no-wave was basically a big “f*** you” to the synth heavy, commercial new wave (Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, DEVO) and punk rock (Sex Pistols, The Stooges, Black Flag) music in the 80s), Swans have been one of the longest running acts out there in rock music. Since then, the band’s music has intrigued many and garnered a large following (trust me, people, like myself, actually love this stuff). With their reunion back in the 2010, and their impressive twelfth album The Seer back in 2011, the band show no sign of stopping with their thirteenth release, To Be Kind.

Starting off the album, the eight minute long “Screen Shot”, an eerie, yet fun track, features frontman Michael Gira’s notable vocals, and a very, very creepy piano lead. Intertwining, swirling guitar leads and very primal drumming slithers in the background; Gira’s barks keep the song operating under Swans’ common motif: repetition. Now this isn’t repetition that bores you to death, this is repetition that builds on itself before culminating and swelling into an epic, visceral wave of noise, chants, and frilly instrumentation. But the brutality doesn’t end there; the rest of the album makes the intro seem like children’s music.

Another aspect of Swans music are the vocals, they vacillate between somewhat melodic (“Oxygen”) to nonsensical (“Bring The Sun/Toussaint L’Ouverture”) to straight up babbling (“Just A Little Boy (For Chester Burnett)”). Swans’ last attempt to work melodically happened way back in the day when they recruited singer/songwriter vocalist Jarboe, culminating in an era that pushed Swans towards a more folky, country toned direction. However, with this new album, those folky influences (last seen on 2012’s The Seer) appear to be pushed far away, and for all the right reasons. For album number thirteen, To Be Kind is the heaviest of its nature, brutally cutting deep into our eardrums, all while piquing our interests The opening ten minutes of the 34-minute epic “Bring The Sun/Toussaint L’Ouverture” is one of the most raw, gut wrenching, exciting and entertaining moments of music I have heard all year. A FANTASTIC way to build up a reformation period.

Age rarely comes into conflict with the pacing of this album. For a band that is more than 30 years old with a 60 year old frontman, the band is more exciting, intriguing and heavy than most acts out there.Now with a plethora of powerhouse musicians, and the forward thinking of Gira, the band seems to have gotten the hang of improving their music, shooting it up to IMAX screen proportions, with enough vibrant energy and brutality to back it up. In a strange and intriguing way, this formula they’re dealing with feels, new. Swans have discovered ways to branch out from their simple formula of music, towards songs that are incredibly heavy to songs that are incredibly meditative. In addition, most of the songs here focus a lot on groove. There’s the Primus-like “Oxygen”, a ferocious, teeth gnashing odyssey that trumps most of Swans’ discography; Gira’s maniacal screaming adds a ton of character and manic insanity to the track as well: “I CAN’T BREATHE!!”, “I STEALL ALL THE OXYGEN!!”, “OXYYGEEEENNN!” Complete with horns, the song is a massive kick to the face; and as insidious as it sounds, Swans sound like they’re having fun with it too.

As the album cover suggests, there’s tons of character to this album. “A Little God In My Hands” will support the cruelest, cartoonish villain out there with its cajun, funky-groove romp and “To Be Kind”, contrary to how it sounds, will be the soundtrack to the apocalypse. But with all this heaviness surrounding the album, there are moments of meditative tranquility. The track “Some Things We Do” follows the same lyrical structure of the opening track “Screen Shot”, with Gira listing all the things that ‘we” do: “we seed, we feel, we need, we fight, We seal, we cut, we seek, we love”; it’s creepy and hypnotic, yet slow and oddly reflective and pensive. In a way it works as a calm interlude, for the  tracks preceding it are pretty brutal and dark. It also closes off the first disc sweetly, on a slow yet admirable note.

The opening bass riff to “She Loves Us” kicks off the second disc, further reiterating the groove-heavy nature of the tracks on To Be Kind as it builds up to a chaotic, bass heavy wonderland, which then closes off with cultist chants and Gira’s manic barking. Swans always strive to push their music as far as it can, even up to transcendent proportions. And they won’t hesitate, even if it means repeatedly hitting you over and over again with massive amounts of noise, riffs, and grooves to make you see stars and hallucinations. But they do know when to put an ice pack on the listeners, however it may be a  numbing experience. The following track, “Kirsten Surpine”, inspired by the Lars Von Trier film Melancholia, starring Kirsten Dunst, starts off incredibly calm, with hypnotic post rock guitar leads. It then builds up adding drone, chants, and steady bass and drum arrangements that occur over and over again as if the metronome counts down the last four minutes of the song. It may sound horrible, but it was one of the most beautiful pieces I’ve heard Swans put out so far. It isn’t until the climatic closer “To Be Kind”, a track that’s been on their setlist for a few years now, which again slowly builds up to close the album off on an epic and grandiose note; and as it reaches the peak of its ever growing sounds, it gets so overwhelming that it’s just as affirming as it is unsettling. After almost two hours, this is the moment where we finally see that Swans can still orchestrate a malevolent, chaotic ending, that feels disorganized, but ultimately falls into its own place.

Granted, all these elements sound alienating and horrible: cult chants, disturbingly loud noise, long repetition, babbling, nonsensical lyrics, and incredibly heavy instrumentation. What makes an album like To Be Kind so intriguing is the power it contains; it’s presence can be felt when it’s played, yet it comes unexpected every time. Talk to any parent, a crying baby is one of the most volatile stages of childhood out there, and in a way it reflects the album as a whole. Not because they’re annoying, unpredictable, and unbearable, but because they  represents much more than the beginning of new life. They represent  the fears of new life, the fears of new experiences, and the fears of your surroundings. When you first listen to this album, you will be overwhelmed, but I just hope that  you will grow more comfortable with To Be Kind ’till it’s as pleasing as life itself.

 

 PRETTY NEAT MUSIC

FAV TRACKS: Screen Shot, Just A Little Boy (For Chester Burnett), Some Things We Do A Little God In My Hands, Bring The Sun/ Toussaint L’Ouverture, She Loves Us, Kirsten Supine, Oxygen,To Be Kind

LEAST FAV TRACK: Nathalie Neal

SCORE: (9.5/10)

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STREAM PARQUET COURTS’ NEW ALBUM “SUNBATHING ANIMAL”

Brooklyn based punk rock outfit Parquet Courts are streaming their upcoming album Sunbathing Animal exclusively via NPR. Subathing Animal is the band’s follow up to the 2013 album Light Up Gold and EP Tally All The Things That You Broke. The album will include the track “Sunbathing Animal”, which was released as a 7” single on Record Store Day. Listen to it down below.

Click here for the link to the stream.

Listen to “Sunbathing Animal”:

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F***ed UP STREAMING NEW ALBUM, GLASS BOYS

*Editor’s Note: Our parents read this stuff, so we have to keep it a PG as possible. For our friends in foreign countries, PG is part of the American movie rating system, and it means family friendly. Thank you.

F’ed up are a Canadian punk rock band that have been consistently gaining attention from fans and critics for the better half of the new millennium so far. They are temporarily streaming their follow-up to the critically acclaimed David Comes To Life. Here is the link.

 

2nd Note: This is Pitchfork Advance, so this link may not work after a few days. Get on dat quick, doe!

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“Recess” Skrillex

Skrillex

Recess

OWSLA Records, Big Beat, Atlantic, Asylum Records

Released March 14th, 2014

Genre: Brostep, Dubstep, Moombahton, Raggaeton, Trap, experimental

Project and moniker of Sonny Moore, Skrillex has, in one way or another, blown up with his unique brand of dance music in the past three or so years. The dance music mogul first appeared on the scene when his single “My Name Is Skrillex” set MySpace on fire in 2010. His claim to fame really came when he released his Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites EP on Big Beat and mau5trap recordings. Since then, the 26-year-old producer has toured from South America to Australia spinning tracks from supported artists on his label OWSLA

Moore teased at the idea of a full-length album by releasing his own personal app containing iTunes URLs to the unreleased tracks that make up ‘Recess.’ In fact, the track ‘Try It Out’ was streamable on the app before it could be purchased. With that being said, when the album finally dropped, it came as a surprise to the growing dance music scene Skrillex left behind.

The first track off of the album allowed Sonny to show his sense of humor by titling it ‘All Is Fair In Love and Brostep’ because his brand of dubstep/Raggaeton EDM has been tagged as such since its inception. What went from a mockery on a surface quickly transformed into an obliterating, brutal ‘brostep’ song that offers a thick beat while laser sounds accompany an eerie vocal performance.

Of course, the track that spawned the album’s name must be good, right? Well, Skrillex set the standard for his own genre by collaborating with legendary Kill The Noise. Using echoing synths, samples of children cheering (a staple for Skrillex), and a bassline that attests to how unique this genre can become. What really impressed most EDM fans is the vocals used at the beginning, it being so catchy and bright. This is one of my favorite tracks on the album because of it’s ability to encompass so many genres into one classic track.

‘Try It Out’ first turned the heads of gamers because it appears on Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (it’s the song in the club) by its catchy synth line, tingling lyrics, and absolutely insane drop. ‘Dirty Vibe’ certainly turned heads as Skrillex and legendary producer Diplo teamed up to produce the track. This track actually impressed me at first because of its rapid trap elements and rap that rounds out the song.

‘Stranger’ certainly doesn’t sound anything close to the other tracks on the album because of its soft, deep house tempo and easy lyrics. Suddenly, the track goes into a section that features a squeaking, high pitch synth, something I personally wasn’t fond of because the song would’ve maintained the same integrity without it. Similarly, ‘F*** That’ maintains the same soundscape while maintaining classic Skrillex elements embedded within.

‘Doompy Poomp’ took a dive off the deep end by emerging itself within experimental sounds and a cumbersome beat. The song is impressive for the young producer, but not for the dance music scene he’s revolutionized before.Finally, ‘Ragga Bomb’ is possibly the sickest (for lack of a better term) track the genre has yet seen. It’s hard beat and fuzzy, thick bass provide the listener with an euphoric experience.

Overall, this album definitely reflected the direction Skrillex is going and flaunts his ability to jump from style to style while maintaining a dark dance feel to it.

FAV TRACKS: Recess, Stranger, Dirty Vibe, F*** That

LEAST FAV TRACKS: Doompy Poomp, Coast Is Clear, Ease My Mind, Ragga Bomb

Score: (6.8/10)

 

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SHELLSHOCK LULLABY RELEASE NEW MUSIC VIDEO FOR “ALL I NEED”

The Montana based rock project, Shellshock Lullaby, has just released their music video for “All I Need” off their debut LP Shades of Grey which debuted on May 1st.  Shades Of Grey was recorded at Interlace Studios with producer Stephen Hawkes (Jonny Craig, Tides Of Man, Closure In Moscow)

Shades of Grey is available to stream & buy via Bandcamp.

“(Nelson) has taken his melodic pop punk tunes to the next level” – Pure Volume
 
“We couldn’t be more excited…a cross between Midtown and Somos” – Absolute Punk
 
“…the EP fills its duty by giving pop-punk listeners some catchy tunes to fill their music fix” – Mind Equals Blown
 

“Shellshock Lullaby are a hard–hitting kick-ass rock band from Butte, Montana, (US). If you’re looking for heavy riffs and mind blowing melodies… then stop looking!” – Alt Sounds

Watch “All I Need” here:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXJhjoQeTIw]

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The Killers Concert Review

NCAA March Madness Music Festival: The Killers

Reunion Tower

Dallas, TX

April 5, 2014

If you haven’t heard of The Killers, you must be really sheltered from music. The Killers are a Las Vegas rock band who fuses 80’s styled synth pop, heartland rock choruses, and indie rock bravada along with fashionista charm; having rose to stardom in the early 2000s, the band are four studio albums into their career. Their music has been featured in many movies and video games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Popular songs include but are not limited to “Mr. Brightside,” “Somebody Told Me,” and “When You Were Young.”

It was a rainy day and many people were just finishing watching the Florida vs UCONN college basketball game on the big screen on stage. Many Florida fans were very upset with their team being upset by UCONN and were looking to find happiness through The Killers. Right when the final buzzer went off for the game, there was a huge crowd accumulating in front of the stage. The event organizer walks out with a microphone and warns the crowd that because of severe weather the concert may be cancelled or cut short. This was received with loud boos and middle fingers being raised towards the event organizer.

Afterwards, The Killers takes the stage and opens with the guitar riff of “Mr. Brightside” from their debut album, Hot Fuss. The crowd cheers and everyone begins to sing along with the lead singer, Brandon Flowers. As the concert progressed, Brandon gets the crowd going by getting them to sing along on tracks such as “Spaceman,” “From Here On Out,” and “All These Thing I’ve Done.” The latter, long before the song started playing, had the crowd begin to sing the phrase “I got soul, but I’m not a soldier” until the band started to play the song which was amazing, IMO. The concert slowed down a bit with tracks that weren’t as popular or well-known, but picked up when songs such as “Somebody Told Me” and “When You Were Young” began playing. Furthermore, there were crowd-surfers, a beach ball, and drum sticks being thrown towards the crowd by drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. and the crowd was very crazed and hyped up. Speaking of the crowd, the age demographic ranged from elementary-middle school kids to senior citizens, but hey! who would pass up a free concert especially if The Killers are playing?

View the full performance below along with the setlist.

 

SETLIST

Mr. Brightside
Shot at the Night
Spaceman
The Way It Was
Smile Like You Mean It
Somebody Told Me
Human
I Think We’re Alone Now (Tommy James & the Shondells cover)
For Reasons Unknown
From Here On Out
A Dustland Fairytale
Read My Mind
Runaways
All These Things That I’ve Done

  •  Encore:

Jenny Was a Friend of Mine
When You Were Young

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“Piñata” Freddie Gibbs & Madlib

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
Piñata Album Review
Madlib Invasion
Released March 18, 2014
Genre: Hip Hop, Abstract Hip Hop, Gangster Rap
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In hindsight, the idea of a Madlib/Freddie Gibbs collaboration album seems slightly nonsensical. Not necessarily bad or wrong, just… “what?!” The production of Madlib spans across an eclectic array of jazz, latin, and rap to create incredibly diverse and pleasant hip-hop music. On the other hand, Freddie Gibbs is, in essence, a gangsta rapper who spits over beats that frequently make even the most noble of Honda Fit drivers want to ride slow and bend corners. Pairing the two makes about as much sense as MF DOOM spitting on a Young Chop remix, even when considering Gibbs’ occasional endeavors in rapping over more relaxed and blunted beats (as seen on a good chunk of 2012’s Baby Face Killa). The word hindsight was aforementioned for a reason, since Piñata not only defies the expectation of being an unnatural mixed bag, but casts itself out as one of the most interesting and impressive major hip-hop releases in quite a while.
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Gibbs lyricism mostly stays in it’s usual pocket of keeping-it-real thug rap throughout the record, however there are many instances of branching out and an undertone of harsh introspection on Freddie’s gangster lifestyle. Tracks like “Knicks” and “Thuggin'” don’t exactly condemn or praise said lifestyle, but raise and answer questions of the necessity and origins of, for lack of a better term, trapping; “F*ck a job, I’m whipping this butter cause crime pays/In these last days, on my last page”. “Shitsville” stands as a bold statement to those who look down on people like Gibbs, explaining not only the power of circumstance and birth into a dangerous living, but equating humans from all walks of life to be on their grind in some way or another for the same reasons Gibbs hustles. But none of Gibbs’ gospel is delivered in the brag-rap fashion that many so-called ganster rappers use, but in an earnest and personal way that doesn’t want to glorify or excuse anything that it explains.
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Freddie Gibbs has explored similar themes in the past, but they are a lot harder to take seriously over 808s and slow, lazy rapping. It’s Madlib’s traditional melancholy and jazz-heavy production that allows Gibbs to branch out creatively, and not only help the lyrics, but change the way Gibbs raps entirely. The beats give a lot more room for Gibbs to spit in new directions, which is probably why there’s so much more diversity and personality in his rhymes on Piñata than on any of his previous outputs. There’s some crafty tempo changing and even spontaneous double-time as seen in parts of “Real” and most of “Shitsville”. The production is simply phenomenal, as is usual for Madlib. There’s an extensive amount of string and synth sampling that bring a strong 90s west coast vibe to the album, especially tracks like “High”, “Harold’s” and “Bomb”. My personal highlight of Lib’s instrumentation lie in the Jeezy diss-track “Real”: I was driving when I first heard the beat change a minute in, and almost crashed out of excitement. Seriously the coolest moment on this album.
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It’s inevitable to bring up 2004’s Madvillainy when talking about this record. While yes, they are both incredibly unique collaboration albums featuring Madlib, the comparison brought up in most circles is just unfair. Madlib’s production is brought out completely differently in the two releases, with one being a new creative approach in abstract hip-hop, and the other a new creative approach in gangster rap. Piñata is probably my favorite hip-hop album of the 2010’s so far, and it is not the next Madvillainy; it’s the first Piñata.
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PRETTY NEAT MUSIC

FAV TRACKS: Real, Thuggin’, Knicks, High (Basically all the tracks, these are just highlights)
LEAST FAV TRACK: Watts

 

Score: (9.0/10)

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FUN FUN FUN FEST LINEUP ANNOUNCED

The prestigious Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin will return on November 7 – 9, 2014 at Auditorium Shores and Butler Park in Austin, Texas. Today, the lineup, which once again spans everything from hip-hop to garage rock to metal to dance to comedy, has been announced.

The lineup includes Neutral Milk Hotel, Nas, Judas Priest, Death From Above 1979, Flying Lotus, Death Cab for Cutie, Alt J, the New Pornographers, Girl Talk, Death Grips, Deafheaven, Sky Ferreira, Sun Kil Moon, Dinosaur Jr., Madlib and Freddie Gibbs, Run the Jewels, Angel Olsen, Deafheaven, Wiz Khalida, Guided By Voices, Yo La Tengo, Ginuwine, Dum Dum Girls, Majical Cloudz, 2 Chainz, Iceage, Foxygen, Courtney Barnett, Rocket From the Crypt, Ryan Hemsworth, Black Lips, Metz, Atmosphere, First Aid Kit, Pallbearer, King Tuff, King Diamond, Julianna Barwick, Tinariwen, J Mascis, Thundercat, Pissed Jeans, the Blood Brothers, Mas Ysa, Gary Numan, Chelsea Wolfe, Lunice, SZA, Cities Aviv, and many others.

Tickets go on sale tomorrow, May 20.  View the full lineup below and watch a video detailing the festival. The comedy stage lineup will be announced on July 1, and the action sports portion of the fest will be detailed in August.

FFF Fest

Fun Fun Fun 2014 Lineup from funfunfunfestival on Vimeo.

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“Passenger” Black Monolith

Black Monolith

Passenger Album Review

All Black Recording Company

Released April 29, 2014

Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal, Crust Punk

The first release off of the George Clarke (of Deafheaven) co-run record label ABRC, Black Monolith’s Passenger, make music that you’d probably expect from a band with the name Black Monolith. However, this record is filled to the brim with great ideas, a compositionally very well-executed release. Each chord progression is masterfully done, each semi-wretched vocal is true to the craft, although not sounding exactly like boiling water. This may not make the record more accessible for a non-kvlt expert, but it doesn’t alienate newcomers to black metal either; instead, it invites them to invest themselves into the record more easily.

The other core attributes of black metal are here; tremolo picking, blast beats, etc. However, there are many crusty breaks interspersed between various parts of the album. For me, this interrupted the flow of the album, detracting from the moodiness established by more black metal-centric parts of the album. Other than that, I have no gripes about this album. Definitely check out every long track on here (most of them are over 6 minutes), especially the opener and closer. The closer is a beautiful and melodic opus, and every melodic music fan should hear it.

If you like black metal, definitely let this one assault your ears.

 PRETTY NEAT MUSIC

FAV TRACKS: Intro/Void, Adhere, Gold Watch, Eris

LEAST FAV TRACK:Dead Hand

Score: (8.7/10)

 

 

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Recap: Edgefest 24

Editor’s Note: Contributing Writer Spencer Vilicic attended this Frisco, Texas music festival, sponsored by the local alternative radio station, 102.1 The Edge, on April 26, 2014. Here’s what he had to say about the performances he attended.
 

Smallpools

 

To close their short, five-song set, Smallpools performed their hit single “Dreaming”, which really set the tone for the rest of the day as people passed beachballs around, sang along jubilantly, and crowdsurfed (or at least attempted to).

“Dreaming” Smallpools

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8EW4UwhUM8]

MS MR

 

With confidence in their performance, MS MR decided to switch up their set in the middle, and cover an Arctic Monkeys song. For the face of the band being only two people, they had a phenomenal stage presence.

“Do I Wanna Know?” Arctic Monkeys (Ms Mr Cover)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_X6Axix3gn8]

The Neighbourhood

The Neighbourhood was on stage from about 4 pm to 4:45, performing a great set of about nine songs. The bass was loud on the mixing board and the crowd was going crazy, especially during their performance of “Jealou$y”, an unreleased song that featured catchy rapcore verses split up by a melodic saxophone loop. Many people took their chances at crowdsurfing, including the lead singer of the band, Jesse Rutherford. During their closing song, “Afraid”, Rutherford dove into the sea of hands and managed to get carried all the way back to the Toni & Guy tent, right next to the merchandise tent.

“Female Robbery” The Neighbourhood
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYSqRkqMuLA]

“Let It Go” The Neighbourhood
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mu04NdyStFQ]

“Jealou$y” The Neighbourhood (Unreleased)
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuHYzBBBgxM]

“Sweater Weather” The Neighbourhood
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZPLrilJIKk]

“Afraid” The Neighbourhood
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJmGm_1JGag]

Grouplove

First to come out on stage for Grouplove was their drummer, who pumped up the crowd by accompanying a dubstep song with very intense drumming. When the rest of the band joined him on stage the crowd went wild, and they opened with a passionate performance of “I’m With You”, the opening track of their recently released album, Spreading Rumors. About halfway through their performance, Grouplove covered Beyoncé’s song, “Drunk in Love (featuring Jay-Z)”. Christian Zucconi sang Beyoncé’s part, and Hannah Hooper had the responsibility of rapping Jay-Z’s lines. Grouplove closed their great set with the encouraging song “Colours”, which the crowd responded quite well to.

“I’m With You” Grouplove
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXkAWYUEW58]

“Shark Attack” Grouplove
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Up5gg8hqt4]

“Borderlines And Aliens” Grouplove
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvnB_TnJzmc]

Bastille

As always, London, England’s Bastille opened with their favorite song, Bad Blood. Dan Smith rocked the stadium with his great voice. During their performance of “Of The Night”, he asked the entire crowd to get down and then cued everyone to jump at once, it was a surreal and exciting experience. When Smith performed “Flaws”, he threw on his grey sweatshirt and took a stroll around Toyota Stadium. He exited downstage right directly into the crowd, hiked up the stairs towards the stadium club, then took a right, and came all the way around, back down the stairs behind the stage, entering it upstage right, just as the song ended. All the while, he sang, which put him a little out of breath. They closed with their hit single “Pompeii”; overall it was a great show.

“Bad Blood” Bastille
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AkokTdnogA]

“Overjoyed” Bastille
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mjIdlA4oPY]

“Icarus” Bastille
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRHWxgpjp8E]

“The Draw” Bastille
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmbZsNJB4ow]