Life Is Beautiful >> 2014 Festival Circuit Winner

LIB 2014 >> From Coachella, to Outside Lands, to Life is Beautiful, I am pleased to announce that I am ending my year of music festival attendance on a high note. There were many goods and very few bads for the Las Vegas festival's second year. Now let’s break it down.

Life Is Beautiful 2014

Venue

In the 3 days of musical paradise in the one and only sin city, Downtown Las Vegas served as a metropolitan jungle of music, food, and drink. Roped off just outside the heart of Fremont Street, amongst the prodigious buildings of fantasy and visual pleasure, there were many reminders that you were in a land of entertainment.

I didn’t know what to expect at a festival in the middle of a busy city, especially this being Las Vegas which already straddles a very fine line between tacky and incredible. What I found was surprisingly easy access to not only the venue but to the front of each show, options for things to do just outside the gate [if you needed a breather], and what I consider optimal festival weather, aka mildly hot and dry with a light breeze and warm nights.

Aside from the lack of grass causing constant pangs from the concrete below your feet, the location is unique from the typical festival polo field. This being the desert, it’s not exactly easy to make this work, though it would be a bonus if this could be accommodated in the future.

Organization

One of the top highlights of this festival [apart from the music]: no lines for bathrooms, food, or drink [!]. I mean, can it get any better? With each section strategically placed, there was never a long wait for much of anything. Maybe people went outside the festival for some cheaper food, and if that’s their choice then so be it. Personally, I don’t mind spending the money to try something fun and different.

The other highlight would be the fact that there was time to catch just about every show you wanted to see without overlap with equally popular bands. I only missed a couple of sets I wanted to go to, though that was largely in part to the fact that it is always difficult to get a group of people ready and at an event just as it starts.

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Food and Drink

For how many good chefs LiB had on the presentation roster, I was disappointed to not see more unique food options available to the masses. Yes, the Fleur by Hubert Keller tacos were amazing [as well as getting to meet him!]. The pork belly and quail egg sliders were pretty darn good as well. However, not all the chefs had booths, every other stand had either pork or sliders as options which became redundant, and there was nothing particularly unique such as the bacon flight or chocolate dipped s’mores I experienced at OSL.

Same with the beer. Maybe I’m just a craft beer junkie, but the options were limited. Though I will give mad props to the cocktails, as all were fantastic and unique. I’m a tequila drinker, yet that Jan Collins with vodka and a brandied cherry had me sold.

Fashion & Culture

Unlike Coachella, LiB felt less hippie flowery/EDM spikes & furry boots, and more urban just-be-who-you-are. There was no right or wrong way to dress, with the noticeable exceptions of the Sergeant Pepper lookalike and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers [aka my crew].

Life Is Beautiful 2014 >> LIB Rangers

Drugs and over-drinking also didn’t seem to be the issue it is at other festivals, which is surprising given that it seems almost expected in LV. If anyone was tripping out I failed to notice, with the exception of the guy who walked up to me during Skrillex and randomly punched me in the ribcage [I have the bruises to prove it]. I also didn’t see a lot of police or paramedics. I really can’t say why, though I’m glad they weren’t necessary.

The moment you’ve been waiting for...the music!!!

Hooray, live music! For once I have to say I was pleased with every band I saw, the music was great all around, the sound quality was perfect, and the performances were full of energy and each group seemed happy to be there.

On Friday, I’d have to say the highlight was Girl Talk. I’ve seen him perform at Coachella, and both times the only thing my body can do 'It Was A Good Day’ lyrics with the Pixies ‘Where is my Mind’ beat? Let me tell you—it works!

Other Friday shout outs include: Holy Ghost! suffering in the face of the sun while still sounding epic, Priory for being so ‘Portland,’ Sleeper Agent for making me have fun, RAC for being bubbly and light, Kanye West for being on-key for his first live performance ever, and Panic at the Disco for having a great live sound and show.

Despite day 2’s hangovers and swollen feet, there were too many good bands that we had to rally to get the most out of the day.

Saturday highlights are aplenty, so I’ll try to cover them all.

One thing I had to accomplish this weekend was FINALLY seeing Fitz and the Tantrums [woohoo!], and I was not disappointed in the least. I love their sound and the harmony of Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs in sync together, as well as the distinctive instrumentals. I’m pretty sure they covered the entire stage between the two of them and knew how to get the crowd going.

Tycho was fun as always. Mellow, refreshing, and perfect to enjoy with a drink and some food.

MS MR—whom I adore—sounded great as always. I love me some Lizzy Plapinger, who inspired the pink ‘do I rocked over the weekend. She knows how to work a show and performs as if no one is watching and looks amazing doing it. I love her checkered pants and crazy platform wedges, though I don’t think I can say the same about Max Hershenow’s sheer top which weirded me out a little. It’s OK, I still love them!

Lionel Richie worked it like the seasoned performer he is. I didn’t have it in me to stay the entire hour and half set or I would have fallen asleep with his slow ballads, though I loved the electronic backdrop that made you feel like you were flying the world with him.

I bumped into the extremely tall and deliciously handsome G-Eazy, though I unfortunately got caught up between Alt-J [so good!] and the Matt & Kim show that I missed his set. Until next time, G!

Life Is Beautiful 2014 >> G-Eazy

Speaking of Matt & Kim, can I just say, RI-DIC-U-LOUS!!! I can’t believe how much fun I had at their set! I like but don’t love their music, though after this performance I plan to see them as often as possible. The fashion choice of black and white leopard print jeans paired with a sheer black top and bra showed the tight body that is Kim’s, who twerked her ass out while standing on the drums. Matt nailed the vocals and got everyone jazzed up. The mashup between songs worked oh-so-well and have officially inspired my at-bat song. The best part of their set is when they threw out boxes worth of deflated balloons, asked everyone to blow them up, and then shouted out when to toss them into the air to which the sky lit up with yellow and orange balls and people jumping up and down to their next single. Clearly this was my favorite show of the day.

I can’t finish off Saturday without a shout out to Outkast, who played all of their top singles in the lengthy 2 hour set. Special thanks to friends of friends who got us into a cabana during the set, to which we drank extravagantly and lead to day 3 hangovers.

Sunday was rough, to say the least. I’m not sure how or why our group split up in the wee hours of the night, though fortunately we decided there was no rush to get downtown given how the majority were feeling.

Despite not being a big Mayer Hawthorne fan, I decided to check him out. Surprisingly I liked his set, particularly the band and his vocals, though I have mixed feelings about him as a person. Not sure I can explain why, he just seemed…odd. Oh well, maybe it’s just me.

Next up was Broken Bells, who I was bummed had bad speakers at Coachella, but sounded perfect here at LiB. James Mercer has beautiful vocals, and the harmonic sound of the band gets me in the mood every time. The backdrop was enchanting, encompassing the likes of astronauts and a rotating image of the big pink sphere of their self-titled album cover. With the exception of the drunk douche behind us in the Aaron Rodgers jersey yelling [not singing] every lyric to every song louder than Mercer, the set was great.

We caught the beginning of Galantis, and this duo is nothing but adorable. I couldn’t resist the ecstatic smiles on the faces of the two guys from Sweden, and I’m looking forward to what they have in their future.

On our way to Arctic Monkeys we stopped for food and ended up talking to a local singer who hails from Belgium. We enjoyed her conversation so much we missed all of AM [up close, at least], so we made our way back to Little Dragon and got our 'Ritual Union' on. Didn’t quite understand the tight white dress with giant furry coat and sparkly cap ensemble, though the set was fun and lively and her petite body worked the stage.

St. Lucia was on our way to Foo Fighters, and despite not being as well-known I was impressed with their sound and look. They might be my new band to watch, and I think they have a lot of potential as artists.

Foo Fighters. Oh, Foo Fighters. The band has been doing this so long they know how to get an audience moving. I’m bummed I couldn’t stay longer, as something in me needed to end the festival with Skrillex. I had such a blast dancing that I wasn’t paying attention when the dumbass punched me, so I walked off to get some water and air before heading back into the madness. The DJ himself had an interesting show. I was just so into dancing off the last bit of the night that I didn’t pay as much attention as I should have. Oh well, that means it was good, right?

To Sum it Up

All in all, I’d have to say the festival was better than I anticipated. Sure, there are some things I’d like to see more of, but overall the band and sound quality were great and music is ultimately why you’re going to a festival.

Other things to note:

I won two free hotel nights in Vegas while buzzed munching on vegan pizza.

I got some free swag, like temporary tattoos and a customized tote bag.

Many of the bands walked around enjoying the shows themselves. All were really cool about taking pictures and saying hello and appeared to be having an equally good time as everyone else.

I ate and drank more than my fair share of good options [that I wish there were more of].

I danced off all the calories I gained because the music was so good and exactly what I was looking for.

I will be going again next year.

~ Dancing Queen

 
Danielle

Danielle

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Of Montreal >> Take Over Atlanta [Terminal West]

Of Montreal >> got me through University. They were there for everything. Their music was there when I studied, after bad breakups and was always there when just having fun. Ah, yes the good times had. Their music is like a rhythmic fantastical for me, what great talent, what great sounds and voice - I love it! How I miss being young and at University but I’m lucky one of my fav bands is still alive and rockin’.

Of Montreal >> Terminal West

Of Montreal came into Atlanta on Saturday night to play Terminal West at Kings Plow. Terminal West is a quaint and cozy venue in a now trendy part of Atlanta. I usually watch shows from the balcony of the rooftop deck which provides a better view of the stage for me because, unfortunately, being five-two is not fun at concerts. Of Montreal has been a great band since the early days of their musical adventure in the mid-90’s. This band is truly magical when it comes to their music making and even more magical when it comes to their live performances. If you have ever seen The Flaming Lips before and enjoyed yourself, then you will be in awe with Of Montreal's live performance. No one can top The Flaming Lips when it comes to adventurists’ theatrics in their live shows but Of Montreal comes extremely close.

Experimental rock, alternative rock, discoteque party music, rock with synth. All these terms have been used to describe their sound and all these are true.

I was wowed right from the get go of the show. There were two opening acts before Of Montreal hit the stage for a sold out crowd. Pillar Point is a good band with a sound of a synth/alternative rock band. Monsoon is a trio with a punk/swing sound that rocks. After both opening acts, it was time for the main event. This is what I had been waiting for and I was not disappointed in any way.

You think that you are on a trip when you see Of Montreal perform live. The theatrics of having an all-white backdrop along with all white clothing is something interesting when the band first enters onto the stage. Once the projection of images scrolls on to the all-white it all works beautifully together for an awesome night of theater. The imagery was one of a mish-mosh of different graffiti and some other pictures that some would say did not have anything to do with the music. I, on the other hand would have it no other way. To actually understand everything on the screen or on the white fabric of their outfits as it went scrolling across their clothes is not the point of the Of Montreal concert experience. It is meant to be fun and a fun time was had by all indeed.

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Excitement of the atmosphere was at a mind-blowing high from the first song to the last song. The different elements of surprises that included the various images on the backdrop to different costumed characters [all in white] coming onto the stage made for a theater show along with a concert. These characters only added to the imagery whether it was to be a cat with smoke coming out of its mouth or a boxing hero against a boxing animal character. The cat was especially interesting to me because, not only do I love cats, but it was a costume of all white holding a round circle with white fabric covering that used the bass player as the hind part of the cat. There was someone inside blowing a smoke machine out of the cats mouth cut-out. All of this was white until the imagery of paisley/calico imager were projected onto to it. Then you could figure out that it was a cat. Very good use of projectory of images into all-white fabric was used throughout this performance. I really liked the use of the white fabric with projections to add a 3-D effect to the concert. At one point during the Of Montreal performance there was what looked to be a ghost like angel that had imagery projected onto the costume character to make it more like a prism, with all its sparkling colors of light encompassing it. Spinning around with arm like movements to where it appears to be an angel. This was the biggest highlight of the performance for me.

The sound of the band were all in tune and it was what makes the show. With the keyboards going, guitarists and bass along with drums were all keeping with the beat to make this whole magic of music work together for the crowd. The vocals were on point which was no surprise from such a rockin’ band. Many things can be said about the abundance of imagery that was given to the audience that Saturday night, but it didn’t matter. The performance itself was entertaining. Of Montreal performance took you, the audience, on an audio and visual journey!

 
Tiffini

Tiffini

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Spotify Playlist >> Life Is Beautiful 2014

Life Is Beautiful 2014 >> is nearly upon us and if you're having a hard time containing those pre-festival ants in your pants prior to the best of fests in fabulous Las Vegas then let this glorious Spotify playlist be your solace.

Expedia's Top Deals

Yeah, the Life Is Beautiful lineup this year is pretty fucking stellar and what better way to pre-party than a 204-track, 14-hour compilation built from the bangers of the ball? Feel free to follow the shit out of this playlist. See you in downtown Vegas!

[related: Life Is Beautiful >> 2014 Lineup]

LIfe Is Beautiful 2014 >> Playlist
marc

marc

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Every concert addict and ticket hoarder needs this Create-Your-Own-Cover Ticket Album

If you're a concert addict or festival junkie mixed with a little bit of a memento hoarder mixed in then you need this Create-Your-Own-Cover Ticket Album.

For the better part of the last few decades, my ever growing collection of ticket stubs had been stored in an old Nike shoebox from prep school. Not only were these precious musical memories scattered and disorganized as shit, they were cohabiting that box with a hot pink pacifier, some dead glow sticks, some fucking Vicks VapoRub and other embarrassing reminders of what my last few years of being a teenager was about.

Now the hundreds of small paper trophies that allowed me access to the greatest moments in live music addiction over the years are now properly organized and preserved in a simple yet very cool album.

Each album holds 96 standard size ticket stubs and it's completely customizable since both the front and back covers are also see-through sleeves to display pictures, flyers or small posters up to 7.75" x 8.5".

The Create-Your-Own-Cover Ticket Album is only $10-ish so if you are or someone you know is a live music whore like me, get after this now [I'm now in need of a 3rd album sooo just saying]. Don't let your beloved 311, Wu-Tang and AFI tickets get greasy from eucalyptus ointment like I did.

 
marc

marc

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Gaslight Anthem >> Set List Feng Shui in Tempe [Marquee Theatre]

The Gaslight Anthem >> rolled through the desert again on Monday as they sweep up the left coast on their Get Hurt album tour. Wednesday they headlined a fuck yeah fantastic show at Marquee Theatre in Tempe that also featured the new identity of Against Me! who are tagging along on Gaslight's city to city journey this Fall.

The Gaslight Anthem >> Marquee Theatre

It seems like just yesterday the Gaslight Anthem was on tour for The '59 Sound in like 2008 when they crushed a set at Martini Ranch in Scottsdale for 100 or so people. That show transformed me from listener to super fan pretty much instantly.

The other night in Tempe, a few songs from that killer album blissfully made their way into a set list that was predominantly Get Hurt heavy, understandably. Their new album is really good but it's not as upbeat as I'm accustomed to with GLA and that's the type of shit I love to experience at their live shows. They did, however, manage to shred to the max and keep it as upbeat as they could so adding in a few storytelling sessions, the show turned out incredible.

After 'Mulholland Drive', lead singer Brian Fallon told us how happy they were to visit Tempe again. They had just wrapped up the California leg of the tour and he appreciates how not-California it is out here in the desert, whatever that means.

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Brian also acknowledged the 20-something 20-somethings front and center stage, shouting out their favorite songs they wanted to hear. He then soothed their angst with assurance that all those belted track names were indeed on their set list, confirming he would get to all of them but the sequence was in such an order that aligned with their set list feng shui - which he explained later was nothing merely than a jambalaya of songs they like to play. Well played, Brian and well played they did.

They played with so much genuine energy in Tempe that night. Not like they were dancing around everywhere about the stage, but the energy they projected with each instruments' sound and the passionate vocals just energized everyone in the joint. Much different from their set at Coachella last year, which was pretty mellow - or maybe it was me and I just wasn't feeling it since it was Sunday afternoon when I was at the peak of the 3rd installment of my sweaty hellish hangover.

[related: Coachella 2013 >> Weekend 1 Strategy + Awards]

Oh and they ended their set with a cover of The Who - that 'Teenage Wasteland' song which I just found out is not really called that and is actually called 'Baba O'Riley' which I don't really understand but whatever. That fucking ruled and they fucking rule so def check these guys out when they play at a venue near you.

P.S. Against Me! was really really good too but it took me a few songs for my ears and eyes to get over the mindfuck that is newly transformed frontwoman Laura Jane Grace still singing in pre-Transgender Dysphoria Blues frontman Tom Gabel's voice - you know, from back in the New Wave days when she was a dude. Get past that and then you'll be able to enjoy your face getting shredded the fuck off.

Setlist: Stay Written * Handwritten * Rollin' and Tumblin' * Mulholland Drive * Helter Skeleton * Wherefore Art Thou, Elvis? * Old Haunts * 45 * Underneath the Ground * The Diamond Church Street Choir * Get Hurt * Even Cowgirls Get the Blues * Stray Paper * Ain't That a Shame * She Loves You * Dark Places * ENCORE: Wooderson * Film Noir * Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts * The '59 Sound * Baba O'Riley

marc

marc

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The Pixies >> La La Love You in San Francisco [Masonic Auditorium]

Pixies >> The Masonic Auditorium is an impressive piece of architecture with its palatial marble columns and 12-foot statues. The center was built by the Freemasons half a century ago. The same Freemasons who some might say are really a secret society lurking in the shadows and conspiring to rule the world for the  hundreds of years. Well I have uncovered the truth; it appears that the Freemasons have been secretly conspiring to rock the fuck out my ears by hosting the Pixies in their gorgeous auditorium.

Pixies >> San Francisco Masonic Auditorium

We have to remember that Come On Pilgrim, their debut album, landed 27 years ago - when a gallon of gas was 89 cents, when there was 2.2 billion less people on earth, when The Simpsons premiered for the first time. In other words, it was a long fucking time ago. So long ago, that I had just barely figured out how to not piss myself in the middle of the night.  The Pixies now are older, fatter, balder and greyer. Yet, as the set opens with the nuclear power chords ofU-Mass’ and as Frank Black shrieks ‘IT’S EDUCATIONAAALLL!’,  you know that while decades have passed, they haven’t missed a beat. They are not just dialing this in, and that although they must be sick of playing these songs, they respect how much we love them.

Their set was 34 songs including encore. An average song length of like 2 minutes is why they are able to squeeze in so many tracks while still ending before sunrise. Having not revisited their catalog in some time, their set showcased how different each song was while still being undeniably a Pixies song. This is what makes Frank Black such an important figure in music history. He took his own alternative influences, warped in his endlessly malcontent, sexually frustrated mind and produced an iconic, singular sound that sparked the great alternative boom of the nineties.  Kurt Cobain once explained ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’washim ‘trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it. When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily that I should have been in that band—or at least a Pixies cover band.’ The melancholy verse and furiously loud chorus of alternative music simply did not exist in popular music before the Pixies. They would take pop song structure, turn it on its head, play the quiet parts quieter and the louder parts louder. They would blend punk, indie guitar, velvet underground and surf music and cram all of it into a busy 2 minute track, which would be played over and over again for the next 20 years.

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The lineup was noticeably less Kim Deal-y.  Paz Lenchantin has been touring with the Pixies since last January. I must admit at first I was a bit skeptical, with the ah ah ahhh of ‘Gigantic’ and the ooo ooooo of ‘Where Is My Mind?’ being some of my favorite sounds ever, Paz did an amazing job. She didn’t try to take her own spin on such iconic vocals, instead remained wispy and ghostlike just like her predecessor. Joey Santiago was chilling as always, one of the world’s most underrated guitar players. He might not pump out 2000 notes a bar, but the way he bends, his command of tone, the efficiency of his rifts, and the way he uses dissonance makes him a true a master. David Lovering held the backbeat, a master of timing which is required by often stop/start/quiet/loud nature of a Pixies song. He had his time in the spotlight providing the lounge-y vocals to ‘La La Love You’. If you are not familiar with many songs and want to hear an obsessively catchy song that also makes you think what the fuck were they thinking? while listening to it, shake your butt to ‘La La Love You’.

The crowd spanned several generations. There were people my age who discovered The Pixies by sneaking into their older brothers rooms and rummaging through his CD tower, I clearly remember holding up Ice-T’s Body Count in one hand and Trompe Le Monde in the other, deciding which to listen to first. Needless to say, I am glad I picked the album with the fish eyes on it. There were aging Gen X-ers, some quietly and awkwardly dancing, some jumping straight up and down as high and as hard as their old knees could handle [I guess that’s what they did back then], an early 40’s couple next to me would grope like they were teenagers, remembering a time when mortgages, Pinot Grigio and 401k’s didn’t matter nearly as much as making out with that chick I just met who plays bass in a Husker Du cover band. They all were struggling to forget they sold out. There were young college kids connecting to the raw, uncompromising, and uninterested in record sales sound that must be such a novel concept for them. To my right was a young, 20-something Filipino kid, wearing a snapback, Jordan’s and big ass headphones, singing along with some rather deep Pixies cuts like ‘River Euphrates’.  All of us clearly aware that we are seeing one of the most important rock bands to ever exist.  Deep in the mosh pit, as young head-bangers thrashed and pushed their way to 20 year old surf punk songs played faster than death metal on an acoustic guitar, there is a single Gen X-er, starting to grey and having the time of his life jumping and shoving and remembering that although life slows down, priorities change and shit gets real;  there was a time, maybe a long time ago, when you were cool, and cool shit happened, that the amazing memories that now seem like a story you once read or a TV show you say… that it all really happened…and to you no less.

Setlist: U-Mass * Debaser * River Euphrates * Something Against You * Hey * Wave Of Mutilation * Bagboy * Bone Machine * Crackity Jones * Magdalena 318 * Mr. Grieves * I've Been Tired * Brick Is Red * Nimrod's Son * Indie Cindy * Here Comes Your Man * La La Love You * Greens And Blues * Isla De Encanta * Rock Music * Distance Equals Rate Times Time * Cactus * What Goes Boom * Monkey Gone To Heaven * Caribou * Gouge Away * The Sad Punk * Tame * Vamos * Where Is My Mind? * ENCORE: Silver Snail * Ed Is Dead * The Holiday Song * Planet Sound

Carmichael

Carmichael

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Jaded Inc >> Experimenting in San Francisco [The Chapel]

Jaded Inc >> Friday night, I put on my hipster cap and made my way to SF’s mission district for the Mayer Hawthorne show at The Chapel.

Jaded Inc >> San Francisco

Before I get too into the show let me first sing my praises of The Chapel. Such an awesome and unique venue. It is exactly what it sounds like: a church; choir loft, 40 feet high vaulted ceilings and a small intimate main floor perfect for a congregation at any performance. Add in amazing acoustics, lighting and a top notch full service bar with incredibly reasonable and legit cocktails, it’s pretty hard to beat no matter who is on stage. If you’re ever in SF, go see a show there.

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Speaking of who was on stage, I thought it was going to be Mayer Hawthorne who’s hits like ‘The Walk’ and ‘Ain’t Gonna Work Out’ had me ready for his established mix of crooning to R&B and Soul with some Hip-Hop undertones. It turns out this show was his new collaboration with 14KT called Jaded Incorporated. They call their sound Beat Wave which consisted of the pair standing on stage five feet apart behind computers and drum machines. Unfortunately, in my opinion, Daft Punk they are not. I have a MacBook too, but no one wants to pay to see me stand on stage and hit buttons either.

 Jaded Inc >> San FranciscoSome songs had little to no singing and the beats seemed rudimentary and robotic, reminiscent of bad 80s Synth-Pop. At times I could feel the crowd looking around and trying to figure out what was going on just as I was, and the show suffered and felt disconnected.

Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t all bad. Songs that featured more of Hawthorne’s signature voice like ‘Monster’ had the crowd back engaged. They also did a killer cover of Flock of Seagulls’ ‘I Ran’ that had me channeling Harry in Dumb and Dumber yelling at the stage, ‘Then you go and do something like this…AND TOTALLY REDEEM YOURSELF!’

Overall, I am still very glad I went. I get it, these guys are artists, they try new things and I respect the hell out of that. It doesn’t mean they always work or that they have to stick with it forever. Hey, Michael Jordan played baseball for a year but eventually realized his true gift was still on the hardwood. Here’s hoping Mayer Hawthorne can realize the same and returns his focus to singing in the years to come.

 
Charles

Charles

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