By: Derek Jung
It's amazing what a change in venue can do for a listening experience. Two weeks ago, I was thoroughly unimpressed by Judah & the Lion's performance at Forecastle Festival, basically calling them X Ambassador wannabes. But Thursday afternoon's intimate performance in front of 100 or so attendees gave me better context for what the band is striving to achieve in their music, and even the poppier songs that I railed on previously sounded sincere and energized.
Being an acoustic set, some of the glamour of their live show had to be drawn back to fit the environment of the room. Frankly, I had my doubts going into the set because of how high energy their Forecastle performance was. To Judah and the band's credit, however, their storytelling, humor, and outward appreciation for the opportunity to do what they love were undeniably endearing. It also helped that our host, a DJ from Cincinnati's Q102, was so much better than the laughable performance by the KISS107 host during the Fitz & the Tantrums in studio performance earlier this year.
The biggest surprise was a cover of Eminem's "Lose Yourself", which Judah had some great flow. They also brought up a fan, who hilariously didn't know what he was volunteering for, to freestyle rap with mandolin player Brain Macdonald. To his credit, he managed to get everyone's hands up and sloppily get one diss out before giving up. While it wasn't good, it was certainly entertaining.
Overall, I was much more impressed by the band's energy and music in this setting than I was in a large festival atmosphere. The band will be back in Cincinnati later this fall.
Suit and Jacket
Back's Against the Wall
Lose Yourself (Eminem cover)
Little Girl of Mine In Tennessee
Take It All Back 2.0
By: Derek Jung
When you enter as many contests and giveaways as I do, the law of averages eventually catches up with you and you win something. That happened yesterday when I won a ticket for an in studio performance of Fitz & the Tantrums from the local alternative radio station The Project 100.7/106.3. I haven't been particularly hot on the group in the past few months, their latest self-titled release was pretty mediocre and their performance at Madison Theater last year was lifeless. That being said, I was excited to see them in such an intimate space and hear what they sound like stripped down without the pop showiness.
About twenty of us were ushered into the seated performance space, a rather bland space compared to Studio 89 at WNKU, but still nice and cozy. Besides Michael and Noelle, only Joseph the bassist (playing guitar) and Jeremy the keyboardist were present for the showcase. After a brief introduction from KISS 107.1 FM DJ Kristie, who was either visibly nervous or strung out on way too much caffeine, the band played a selection of singles from their self-titled album and More Than Just A Dream. Without all of the production additions that turned me off of the newer singles, there are some really catchy hooks underneath. "Rollup", my favorite off the new album, was great stripped down and even "Handclap" was tolerable.
The problem with being in such an intimate environment is that it can be awkward for both the band and the audience. Most in attendance aren't used to being right in front of their musical idols and it's especially evident for those who like to blend in with the crowd and just stand there. Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle are very high energy performers, and dancing and choreography are big parts of their on stage personas. There is a certain expectation that people groove and dance to their music. There wasn't a whole lot of that because we were all seated, so the energy levels were off. This isn't the fault of the band or those in attendance. I'd argue it was mostly the environment.
After a few short Q&A sessions we all got the chance to have our pictures taken with the band. Nothing really revolutionary came from the questions. Noelle is a foodie (although she doesn't like that term). Michael Fitzpatrick loves artisanal coffee and his favorite album is Michael Jackson's Off the Wall. He's also expecting his wife to go into labor any day now. Jeremy likes Star Wars and can do a pretty decent Wookiee noise.
Check out a slideshow photo album of the show by clicking here.
By: Derek Jung
I'm not going to beat around the bush here. I wasn't looking forward to writing this review. After giving their new self-titled record one of our worst ratings of the year so far, I was hoping and praying that hearing the new album live would reinvigorate my love for the band, one that I saw bring down the house in Columbus, Ohio while touring on their debut Pickin' Up The Pieces. Alas, what I saw this time around was a tour fatigued band with little remaining passion. Quite frankly I've never seen a performance more worthy of the description "going through the motions" in recent memory.
Michael Fitzpatrick aka "Fitz" was the worst culprit of them all. His fist pumps were the least enthusiastic that I've ever seen, almost laughable in that it made their already corny choreography look even cornier. He even became grumpy and visibly detached when the crowd magically didn't automatically eat out of the palm of his hands. In fact, by the looks of it, hardly anyone in the crowd participated in the hand clapping, dancing, twirling, etc. that the band urged them to do. So we have a chicken or egg scenario here. Was the band less enthusiastic because the crowd was boring or was the crowd boring because the band wasn't enthusiastic? Having been there, I'd go with the latter. Even saxophonist James King's fantastic performance could not bring the comatose crowd back to life. Shout out to him for the obligatory "WKRP in Cincinnati" theme cover during his solo. Only people over 40 or those that have heard the cover before got the reference. There weren't many of us there. Noelle was a charmer as always despite her noticeable vocal issues. Her voice went out a few times when talking to the crowd in between songs. Props to her for being a trooper. I appreciated it.
With the exception of "Roll Up", the songs from the new album were nearly as bad live as they were on the album. Even "Complicated" was surprisingly worse than it was on the album. I didn't realize that was even possible. I will admit that the highlights from More Than Just A Dream and Pickin' Up The Pieces were well done despite the lackluster energy, but it was too little too late on a show that lacked everything that made me fall in love with the band back in 2011. They are merely the shell of what they used to be, and this performance did nothing to change my opinion on the matter.
Let's be real here. Michael Fitzpatrick is 46 years old. Not exactly the age you want to be when your band finally starts breaking out. Ever since More Than Just A Dream dropped, I've always wondered if his plan was to milk as much as he could out of the act before he hangs it up. Not many artists can sustain the same level of popularity, and especially singing power, beyond the age of 50, so I can't help but think that he saw the writing on the wall and took the path of least resistance in becoming a pop rock star. Write the most commercial sounding songs possible, get on Ellen, (twice), be in commercials (1,2,3,4,5, etc.), tv spots, and anything that can possibly use their song, and more or less sell their souls for the big paycheck. This is without even mentioning that he and wife Kaylee DeFer had their first child in 2013, the year their pop breakout More Than Just A Dream was released. Having the future college tuition payment blues, Michael? This is obviously just speculation, but to me he's never had the heart for the newer pop songs like he did for those on Pickin' Up The Pieces. If they had pop stardom as the goal the whole time, well, congratulations, but you've lost a fan in me.
Watch a performance of "Roll Up" below.
By: Derek Jung
Let's get one thing straight here before I even begin this review. Going into the show, I had very little experience with DeLong's music. I had heard his singles, specifically "Long Way Down" and "Global Concepts", but beyond that, I had no idea what to expect; I had no idea if it would be just him, if he'd have a band, or if he'd just be a DJ. In the end, I think I got exactly what I was hoping it'd be.
Robert DeLong is a multi-instrumentalist, but his instruments can be a little unorthodox. During the course of his set he played guitar, drums, keys, and synths. He also used a joystick, a Wii remote, and a steering wheel (among others) plugged into a giant MIDI interface to create his unique sound all the while singing and dancing around the stage. I particularly enjoyed the way he waved his Wii remote all over to distort his vocals. DeLong is definitely a master of his own equipment. He deftly moved from one knob to the next, hitting different drum pads, and using two microphones to sing in, one normal and another with a faded echo effect.
This was a super heavy bass set, exactly what you'd expect from a club atmosphere where everyone's on the dance floor, but my eyes were constantly on DeLong: watching what he was doing, which equipment he was fiddling with, and memorizing background visuals reacting to every twist and turn. Speaking of the visuals, they were something special. Starting from an opening sequence of Seal singing "Kiss From a Rose" live with things like marijuana leaves superimposed in his hands, to Mario and other video game references, there was something new for each song, and usually it was usually triggered by DeLong's playing. On "Long Way Down", the words "ON", "THE", "LONG WAY", and "DOWN" were projected on the screen along with the female vocal part when Delong pressed certain buttons on a board. Some of the coolest parts of his set were started by some element of drumming, and it makes sense because of DeLong's history as a drummer. He had a full drum set (right side of the picture), and a partial set (left side) that he used from time to time, including for a pretty great drum solo on the full set at the end of his set. I really enjoyed how fresh he kept the set, never falling into a rut and always keeping things up tempo and engaging.
DeLong brought out opener Coleman Hell for a song, and the three manned the partial drum set. Coleman Hell had a decent opening set. He doesn't have a lot of material now, and I was disappointed that he didn't have a live banjo for his hit single, but all in all he was a likable, passable opener. As for DeLong, I'd definitely see him again, not because I'm the biggest fan of his music, but because he put on an enjoyable show.
Check out a live version of "Long Way Down" for earlier this year.
By: Joseph Kathmann
Boy do I have some words about this show. So first off, I love Florence + The Machine. Even though I did feel that her new album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful did an unfortunately good job of highlighting her biggest flaw (her inability to deliver decent songs beyond her singles) I still greatly enjoyed the singles off her album, and thought it was.....fine. However, I loved Ceremonials and Between the Lungs. Additionally, the Ascend Amphitheater is a brand new amphitheater in the heart of Nashville. And when Music City announces a giant new Amphitheater is coming, you know that's a big deal. Unfortunately, I left this show extremely disappointed and upset, and I will tell you why.
First off, let's talk about the venue. Aesthetically, it's gorgeous. With one exception. See that blue lining in the picture at the roof of the theater? Really cool right? Well, maybe I'm just being OCD, but I did notice that the entire rest of the city went with red lighting. And Ascend's logo is a red logo. So the blue lighting does stick out a bit overall, and with Ascend's logo being red....why did they ok blue lighting around the venue? A question for the ages. As for the venue itself....it is shockingly huge while feeling small. Even though I was several rows into the GA lawn, (which was still a good 40 seated rows away from the stage) I really felt like I had a great view of the artist. The lawn was a hill, (obviously) but here in lies another complaint. This "hill" was clearly manmade, but it was an extremely minuscule angle. Thus, tall people like me will still block people of even average height behind me. This is far and away my biggest complaint of the venue. I understand that a steeper hill would've been a little uncomfortable, but I think all the average height/short people would've thanked you for it. Finally, why aren't the TVs elevated off the stage? Cause guess what? If you're short and you're behind me you still can't see those TVs. While they were of exceptional quality, they really needed to be elevated. Hopefully the crew will fix this going into their winter break. I do have one other major complaint, but I'll get to that in talking about Florence's set. Fortunately, everything else was awesome. The venue was extremely accessible, and the crew did an excellent job getting thousands of people into the venue in about 30 minutes from a single entrance. A logistical nightmare if there ever was one, but they handled it like a champ. Just.....have someone inform the audience if the band is going to go on an hour later than previously announced. Don't just Tweet it. Because everyone who doesn't follow your Twitter page will get extremely antsy when 8:30 rolls around and they thought the band was supposed to go on at 8 and they actually go on at 9. Those last 20 minutes were pretty tense within the audience to say the least. (Yes, people actually thought Florence was standing them up or super late and was gonna have to do a shortened set to be done by curfew or something. I was worried that the latter was happening.)
But, once 9 rolled around, Florence hit the stage. This was an odd show overall. First off, there was no opener. Which most of the people didn't seem to mind, but it also made for a bit of a warmup for both Florence and her audience as everyone who had been sitting in the cold for hours had to register that music was actually being played. It wasn't until "Shake It Out" that everyone really started having fun. Florence was also clearing warming up in her first two songs, but I'll give her a pass cause this was her first show in a few weeks and the opening show for her US tour in support of the new album. But she clearly had a blast during "Shake It Out" as well. From there, we got a 100 minute set full of wild ups and downs. The ups? When Florence was playing her singles. The downs? When she was playing anything else. That said, there's something special about Florence Welch. She only talked a few times throughout her set, but when she did.....I discovered that her natural talking voice sounds NOTHING like her singing voice. But there's a presence to her. A presence that reminds me very similar of (yes, I'm about to say it) Taylor Swift. Florence is incredibly awkward, and yet when she talked, you listened. You want to be around Florence. Even as she danced around the stage. She is the ultimate hippie.
But then something happened about an hour into her set. I noticed that Florence's energy was starting to dwindle, and I couldn't figure out why at first. Then it hit me: there was no space for a pit up front. Not only that, but there was no room at the front at all for the fans to do anything more than jump up and down. Kinda. Look, Ascend. I get that you want to charge $800 for front row seats. And I know the reason you don't have a pit is so that when the upper class pays $800 for a front row seat, they know they are going to actually be in the front row. But, the artists rely on energy from the crowd. And when the crowd right in front of them can't do anything, their energy is going to suffer. For a musician, this is a HUGE strike against the venue, and I highly doubt Florence will want to come back to it again. It's not just about the money, guys.
So Florence's energy was wavering, but she was still whizzing through her hits and some "deep cuts." After "Dog Days Are Over" wrapped up, Florence left the stage, and the inevitable cheer for the encore ensued. Boy did I wish it hadn't. Florence's encore was.......terrible. Quite possibly the worst encore I have ever heard. Her encore is why I left angry. She came back on awkwardly for a rendition of "What Kind of Man," but after that we get....."Drumming Song?" And that's it? That's IT? A two song encore? More importantly, Florence skipped over two of her biggest hits in "You've Got the Love" and "No Light, No Light." These songs were staples in a Florence set but were nowhere to be found here. I payed a lot of money to see Florence + The Machine. I had a not-so-spectacular seat, got no opener, then watched Florence get on the stage an hour late and still leave 15 minutes before curfew. Maybe I've been spoiled over the years in Cincinnati. (Cough cough) But I realized I was angry because I felt like I didn't get my money's worth. Why was there no opener? Why did we only get a 100 minute set? I mean that would be enough for a normal show but when you have no opener I would expect a 120 minute set at least. An "Evening with" set would be my expectation. (two 75-90 minute sets) But we didn't get any of this. We payed $40 to see Florence play for 100 minutes. And we didn't even get to hear all her biggest hits.
This leads flawlessly into my conclusion. I love Florence + The Machine. But holy crap is she not worth going and seeing live at anywhere other than a music festival. That said, she is worth seeing. But at a (wait for it) music festival. Not by herself. She is quintessential festival material, (I probably sound like a broken record at this point) and if you add a pit her energy would be off the charts. Go see Florence + The Machine, (even you, Derek) but only when she's performing at a festival near you.
1) What the Water Gave Me
2) Ship to Wreck
3) Shake It Out
4) Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)
5) Third Eye
7) How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
8) Cosmic Love
9) Long & Lost
11) Queen of Peace
13) Dog Days Are Over
1) What Kind of Man
2) Drumming Song
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: