(Author’s Note: This essay originally began as a series of threaded Twitter posts. What you read below are lightly edited versions of those tweets — edited both for content and basic typos/grammatical errors.)
A seminal record of 2010s indie pop.
Their concert at the K&K Super Buffet in Rochester, Queens was the first concert I ever covered as a journalist. It was also my first full weekend living in the city.
The above photograph is from June of 2011, and it’s a picture of me and my sister at our dad’s place back home in Philippi. I was 22 — I know; it’s hard to believe I’m not a 12 year old in that picture — and my sister was a couple months shy of her first semester of college. This blog was only 3 months old. A lot has happened since then, and I’ll get into all of the opportunities this blog has afforded me in due course, but the biggest change to my life since that photograph was taken is that I can call myself — devoid of any hint of irony or self-effacing humor — a professional writer. This blog saved my life, and I owe the world to any readers who have supported my work over these years. You all have kept me going, and that’s not an exaggeration.
I started this blog on February 7th of 2011. That was the spring semester of what should have been my senior and final year of college at West Virginia University. But I’d spent the two semesters prior to that wandering through a depressed haze. And I don’t mean I was simply sad. I was suffering from depression. I had devolved from being one of the top students in the political science department at WVU — I’d won a major departmental scholarship my freshman year that students at every year level could compete for — to a lost young man quickly entering his mid-20s with no anchor tying his world together.
Long-time readers may remember that I consider True Romance by Charli XCX to be one of the true sleeper albums of the year. The British indie pop starlet released one of the most deliciously subversive and insanely catchy pop records of recent memory. Throw in the fact that she wrote one of the biggest mainstream pop hits of the last several years (Icona Pop’s “I Love It”), and it’s clear that Charli is someone to keep an eye on. I actually interviewed her at Bonnaroo, and it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that I’ve developed a minor crush on this bad-ass indie pop heroine. At one point, she covered Backstreet Boys “I Want It That Way” at Bonnaroo and made it work. If that’s not a sign of her bad-ass credentials, I don’t know what is. Enjoy her single “You (Ha Ha Ha)” which was one of the first songs that made me fall under this British star’s spell.
Long-time readers may remember my fondness for Athens, GA freak-rockers Reptar. Reptar played Baeble Music’s (the company that I interned with in NYC) showcase at the 2012 SXSW in Austin, TX, and I was responsible for writing our introduction for the band. I fell in love with their single “Sebastian” on first listen. They were the first band that I saw on Friday at this year’s Bonnaroo, and though their set was far from perfect, they were an appropriately fun and crazy way to start of the first full day of Bonnaroo (and were one of many very good acts I saw that day). Their psychedelic spin on indie rock and freak folk may not be for everyone (Pitchfork notoriously hated their debut LP), but I enjoy them. I hope you do as well.
For some reason, i woke up at 4 AM and I find myself completely unable to fall back asleep. I’m not even tired in the slightest which is weird since I took a sleeping pill before going to bed at 11. It’s bothersome because I need to up at 7:30 for class and I won’t be getting home from work tonight until around 1:30 AM or so. Hopefully, I’ll be able to take a short nap at some point today. Anyways, I figured that meant now was as good a time as any to catch up on some of my blogging. Continuing my Bonnaroo series, I give you “Big Beast” by Atlanta rapper and Outkast associated act, Killer Mike. Long time readers might remember me using his fantastic number “Reagan” earlier this year. “Big Beast” isn’t as good (it just isn’t as deep) but it’s without question a fun party track.
As an aside, I had a very difficult time getting a good picture of Killer Mike. He was playing after midnight and his stage was poorly lit, and since this was still the first day of Bonnaroo, I was still getting used to what types of settings on the camera to use to get the best photos in dim lighting.
I really am terrible about remembering to do this. In fact, had I not been randomly singing today’s Song of the Day while walking down the stairs, I would have likely forgot all about this, yet again. Anywho, although I didn’t feel that way about the band way back in last year when I made “The House That Heaven Built” my Song of the Day, I’ve sort of fallen in love with Japandroids. Every time I listen to their album Celebration Rock, I like it more and it worms its ways higher up the ranks of my favorite albums of the 2010s so far. As an exercise in bombastic, anthemic indie punk, it’s spectacular. I’ve been really into “Younger Us” for a while, and I’m not sure why. They put on a superb show at Bonnaroo, and the above photo was one of my favorites from their set. Enjoy.
I’m really bad at staying up on this particular aspect of my blog. My sincerest apologies to long-time readers. Anyways, I’m back again with my Song of the Day series as I chronicle the bands that I shot at this year’s Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival. I saw better bands at Bonnaroo, but there was only one other act that seemed to be having as much fun on stage as Ohio indie pop act, Walk the Moon. I only discovered this band (despite the fact that my upcoming Song of the Day was a radio hit for them) when I was doing my prep work for the festival, and I’ve immediately fallen in love with them. And if any band is a perfect Festival act, it’s Walk the Moon. If they ever come your way, take the time out of your schedule to see them live. They rock. Enjoy their single, “Anna Sun,” which was one of the most crowd-pleasing numbers of the whole festival.
Well, this wasn’t quite the way that I intended to use this particular song, but if I was ever going to use it, I suppose this Bonnaroo series works. “Round and Round” from Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti’s 2010 album Before Today is my favorite song of this decade so far. I mean, it’s not even a close race. I had the opportunity to shoot Ariel Pink at this year’s Bonnaroo, and I’m sad to say that I was actually sort of really disappointed. I only stayed for three songs. That’s how little I was feeling his set. I probably should have been stoned. I’m choosing this song, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t hear him perform this particular number which was pretty disappointing. Still, it’s my favorite song of the 2010s to date. It’s insanely catchy and has so much going on underneath the surface that even after three years of endless listens, I still find new things to discover in this phenomenal song. Enjoy.
(side note. I couldn’t get any good photos of Ariel Pink himself. I got a bunch of good photos of the Asian guitar player, but I figured I should use one of my pictures of Ariel Pink himself for this post. Also, be warned, this Wayne Coyne-directed music video is weird as fuck).
I’m not really a fan of dubstep. Occasionally an artist like Big Gigantic or Burial will come along but they are so barely dubstep in reference to how modern American listeners envision the word, that they hardly even cross my mind when I think of the genre. Based on his studio recordings, MPC wunderkind and dubstep/electronica producer araabMUZIK is much different than your average dubstep artist, and although I didn’t plan to stay for his whole set at Bonnaroo, I thought it would be cool to photograph him. Sadly, his set itself was way too wub wub wub for my tastes and I thought I was going to lose my hearing from the bass drops. Still, his studio stuff is great, and the audience at Bonnaroo went fucking nuts for him. Outside of the headliners, I’m not sure if I saw a single set where the audience was more into the performance. Enjoy his song, “Let It Go.” I know I do.
(side note. I really enjoy the color in this photograph I took during his set. I just wish there wasn’t a camera in the corner of it)
I promised yesterday that this post would go up before I left for work this evening (which was 10 hours ago now), and I did not keep that promise. I offer my sincerest apologies to my readers. I am continuing to resurrect my long-dead Song of the Day series by focusing on the bands that I photographed at this year’s Bonnaroo Music & Arts festival. Milo Greene is a band that I had never heard of before I began my prep-work for the festival but their communal folk sound is very reminiscent of Arcade Fire or Of Monsters and Men. After their set, they quickly became one of my sister’s favorite bands. I’m glad she found a band to latch on to at the festival that she hadn’t really known before. That’s the whole point of music festivals in my opinion. Enjoy their fantastic single, “1957.” Once again, the photo credit in this photo belongs to me.