Thursday, April 27, 2017

McQ's #66 Song Of 2015 - SO OH - The Charlatans

Today, we take a listen to our #66 song of 2015, and I've got to tell you, I'm as surprised by this inclusion as many of you may be.

If you had asked me, back in 1989 when the Madchester scene first started attracting attention in the states, which of the era's three biggest breakout acts - The Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays, or The Charlatans - would go on to have the most enduring career, I for sure would have said The Stone Roses, the most instrumentally talented of the bunch, and then if pressed for a second, I would have probably gone with The Happy Mondays if only because they seemed to have a more restless, stylistic spirit that suggested an ability to keep things fresh over the years.  And though I loved The Charlatans at the time, an early show I caught of them at Chicago's Metro, where they blew through three of their debut Some Friendly's four best songs You're Not Very Well, The Only One I Know, and Believe You Me in the opening ten minutes, saving only Sproston Green to power the last forty minutes of their short set, left me thinking they might not be able to generate enough material for the long haul.

Boy was I wrong.

The Stone Roses, despite a few half-hearted comeback attempts, never regained their mojo, The Happy Mondays ended up sticking to what the knew for a few years more before disbanding, and then there's the The Charlatans, who've gone on to have a very consistent, if Los Lobos-like high quality but slightly below the radar, thirty year career. Kudos.

So in 2015, following the loss of founding drummer Jon Brookes to brain cancer, the Charlatans returned once again with Modern Nature, which while acknowledging Brooke's loss chose to focus most of its energy on positive, soulful reflection rather than wallow in despair.

Now sporting a sound that's more closely tied to classic rock than the psychedelic tones of the early rave movement, the album boasted a number of tracks I considered including in the 2015 mix collection, chief among them In The Tall Grass and the jammy Let The Good Times Be Never Ending, but in the end, I had to go with one of my favorite tracks of the year, and probably the most "Madchestery" song on Modern Nature, the awesome pop nugget So Oh.

With songs this strong, here's hoping Tim Burgess and crew can keep it going for another ten to twenty years.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Coming in at number 66 on our 1967 song countdown is the one major hit for folk-rocker Scott McKenzie, an artist who probably would have had a much bigger career were it not for one ill-timed decision.

A childhood and lifelong friend of John Philips, he and Philips spent most of the early years of their musical career figuratively teethered at the hip...starting two significant east coast market bands in the doo-wap oriented Smoochies, and later the folk-rock act The Journeymen, who recorded three albums and several singles in the early sixties.

But with the rapid stylistic changes that came with the British Invasion, The Journeymen disbanded, and McKenzie choose at that moment to finally pursue a solo career rather than head out west and accept Philips' invitation to join him on the lineup of a fledgling west coast act  - The Mamas And The Papas.

Needless to say, at least career wise, things panned out better for Philips than they did for McKenzie,
but despite his sudden success, Philips never forgot his friend, and in 1967 wrote and co-produced McKenzie's one monster hit - San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair) - the Summer Of Love's definitive anthem.

Peaking at #4 on the US charts, and #1 overseas, San Francisco would ultimately land the #48 spot on Billboard's year end Hot 100 and sell over seven million copies, and is attributed as a genuine motivating factor in the rush of teens and young adults who descended upon San Francisco in the summer of 1967.

McKenzie would go on to have the occaissional minor follow-up success as either a perform or songwriter for others, and spent a good chunk of time in the eighties and nineties touring with a reformed version of The Mamas And The Papas, but never came close to achieveing the rampant success of San Francisco again.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

McQ's #67 Album Of 2015 - PRIMROSE GREEN - Ryley Walker

Diving down a stylistic rabbit hole unusual for today's music scene, Rockford-born, Chicago-based Ryley Walker takes on the jazz/folk ghosts of Nick Drake, Bert Jansch, and especially father/son giants Tim and Jeff Buckley on his engaging if flawed sophomore release (and first for indie label Dead Oceans), Primrose Green.

And to a degree, Walker succeeds in carrying the torch of these past greats.

He has definitely developed a fine 60s folk rock sensibility, the album's instrumentation is gorgeous and lush throughout, the playing first rate, and on first listen, his singing and phrasing feels right out of the Tim Buckley playbook.

But with repeat listens cracks do develop in the album's nylon-strung armor.

For one, while definitely a solid singer in his own right, Walker can't quite compete with the vocal power, crystal clarity or operatic virtuousity of the Buckleys.  Normally this would not be an issue, as "not as good" as two of the most naturally gifted singers in pop music history leaves plenty of room to still be great, but because Walker so directly emulates their singing style, a comparitive sense of warm Springsteeny blandness, as on only get "two-thirds of the way there to Buckley-Nirvana" tracks like Summer Dress, is the end result.

More significantly, while showing tremendous sensibilities as an arranger, Walker's songwriting is nowhere on par with the legends from whom he draws inspiration. Most of the tracks make a strong opening impression but quickly start to feel meandering, and those tracks with the sparest instrumental arrangements that lean on Walker's songwriting chops the most, particularly the homey On The Banks Of The Old Kishwaukee and closer Hide In The Roses, fare the worst.

That said, even though there are several moments on this album that suggest a not quite ready for prime time, Old Town School Of Folk Music striver, many others suggest a ton of promise.

Best of the bunch is Sweet Satisfication, a searing, aggressive, Starsailor-like number that is the album's high point on every level - musicianship, singing, songwriting - and one of my favorite tracks of the year. Other highlights include the more Nick Drakian opener Primrose Green, Same Minds, Love Can Be Cruel, and the gorgeously melancholy The High Road.

So while not a glowing review here, I do want to restate that Walker is a still young artist with a lot of potential exploring musical territory that's been all but forgotten by most of his contemporaries.

I hope he can keep it up, and if he can just sharpen his songwriting a touch going forward, he seems to have the potential to deliver something genuinely fantastic down the line.

Status: Mild Recommend

Cherry Picker's Best Bets: Primrose Green, Same Minds, Sweet Satisfaction, The High Road

Track Listing:
1. Primrose Green - 7
2. Summer Dress - 6
3. Same Minds - 7
4. Griffiths Bucks Blues - 7
5. Love Can Be Cruel - 7
6. On The Banks Of Old Kishwaukee- 6
7. Sweet Satisfaction - 9
8. The High Road - 7
9. All Kinds Of You - 7
10. Hide In The Roses - 6
Intangibles - Above Average

Here are videos for Primrose Green and The High Road.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Hey Coachella fans, this is going to be a much shorter review of the annual festival than I usually do, primarily because I just didn't like Coachella 2017 all that much...but a lot of that has to do with my own mindset going in and then negative stuff happening once there (one of my children was among the reported pick pocket victims) that basically led to a three-day festival experience full of interruptions and unfortunate meet-up timings/locations with friends that led to watching way too many sets from beer gardens and distant locations.

So rather than complain on and on and call out the dud performances, of which there were several this year, I'll just highlight the sets that did make a positive impression on me, with one or two exceptions, and move on.

But first, a few words about the massive expansion the festival underwent this year...which to my mind ended up delivering an equal mix of good and bad.

On the positive side, with the expanded grounds, sound bleed between the stages, particularly the main and outdoor stages, has been significantly reduced. It's still a problem between the outdoor and the Mojave (which swapped spots with the Gobi this year), but by-and-larged, way better.  Also, despite selling an additional 20,000 plus tickets this year, crowding wasn't an increased problem when moving around the grounds...the added space did absorb the numbers.

But on the negative side, not enough was done to accomodate the added numbers from a food/amenities standpoint - expect much longer lines during peak hours at most food canteens, and an additional downside, it feels like over-21 sponsors had too much say in the new layout.  Most charging stations and other 21st century day-to-day festival necessities were move mostly inside the beer gardens, leaving the under twenty-one crowd with fewer options for phone charging locations, water stations, and food.

But by far the worst aspect of the grounds expansion was the increased distance between stages - which really changes how one most attack the festival and reduces how many sets one can realistically attended, especially if your a grazer who likes to catch 15-20 minutes of as many sets as possible.  Despite a less than fantastic sound system, the new punk/garage/latin music oriented Sonora tent was cool - fun graffitti design to its interior, air conditioned, with couches and bean bags available for those luck enough to snag them, but it's so far removed from the outdoor/Mojave/Gobi you need to plan at least 15 minutes travel time back and forth.

All this said, even with the larger crowd numbers, 2017 was not a 2010-like clusterF***.  As has been the trend in recent years, overcrowding was really only an issue at the biggest mainstream electronic, Hip Hop and teeny-bopper pop sets of the weekend, and crowds continue to get smaller and smaller each year for most of the festival's rock-oriented acts.

If you want to get a good seat for Hans Zimmer, Lady Gaga, Lorde, Kendrick Lamar and the other hip hop and club oriented electronic artists get to their sets early, otherwise you are fine showing up just before start.

Now on to those band's that made a positive impression. I've labeled those that were particularly strong with a DON'T MISS for Weekend 2ers.


Dudda Tassa & The Kuwaitis - Radiohead's travel mates opening act for the entirety of their current US tour, The Isreali-based collective of Arabic musicians performing Iraqi music kicked off the fest with a pleasant and engaging international feel.

DON'T MISS - Klangstof - The Dutch/Norwegian art rock outfit delivered on of the first day's best early hours sets with a collection of slow burning, passionate Sigur Ros/Radiohead inspired songs.

DON'T MISS - Stormzy - I skipped this set for rock options, but my hip-hop obsessed children all attended and felt this was actually one of the weekends very best rap shows.

DON'T MISS - Preservation Hall Jazz Band - My top set of Friday.  These champion's of the classic New Orleans sound were positively on fire early Friday. If I had moved in closer early for this set, rather than watching first two-thirds from beer garden, could see this being my favorite set of entire weekend.  Loads of fun, think twice about skipping this set.

King Gizzard & The Lizzard Wizard - Fans will mostly likely love this set as band was in super high energy mode front-to-back for their late afternoon week 1 performance...but the extremely repetitive nature of their music does wear thin after a while - definitely try to catch, as they are the most rocking at on Friday's lineup, but don't worry about catch their full 50 minutes - see any 15 minutes of their set and you've basically seen it all.

Bonobo - Not sure the main stage late afternoon was best spot for this new agey electronic artist, but his internationally accented, new-agey music was appealing enough.

The Avalanches - A lot of attendees hated this first ever American performance by the legendary Australian DJ act, but I found it to be high energy and a lot of fun. Not as good as Father John Misty though, which is a problem as all those great Since I Left You Tracks came late in the Week 1 setlist after start of FJM's set.

DON'T MISS - FATHER JOHN MISTY - possibly the best sounding set of the weekend, FJM pulled more older material into his Coachella set than he has been on his recent tour promoting his dark, misanthropic new album Pure Comedy...and that's a good thing.  But backed by a 10-12 piece orchestra, this was a big, nuanced set. Could have used more stage banter, something FJM is typically celebrated for, but given how dark the Pure Comedy material is, I understand why FJM choice to mostly stay silent between songs.

The Xx - While still a very quite, subtle band, The Xx have added a layer of dynamics to more recent material, and those classics from their fantastic 2009 debut still pack a lot of punch.  A chill set, but worthwhile.

D.J. Shadow - The second of many mood-oriented electronic shows I took in over the weekend, this was an atmospheric but pretty low energy set.  Worthwhile, but skip if your in the mood for something that really pops.

DON'T MISS - Radiohead - Yes, the sound completely dropped out on Radiohead three times during the first third of their show, killing three songs - Ful Stop, 15 Steps, and Let Down - midflight.  But the legendary art rocks kept their composure and delivered a solid set filled to the brim with over a dozen of their beloved numbers in addition to the excellent Moon Shaped Pool material.  If they can avoid the sound problems on their second go-around - don't be surprised if this is the very best set of all of Weekend 2.


DON'T MISS - QUITAPENAS - a lively, talented latin act out of Long Beach, CA well versed in a number of south-of-the-border and African genre's - this was one of the best dance parties of the weekend and definitely a stand out in the new Sonara Tent lineup.

Shura - For those needing a Robyn/Madonna fix, this young UK electro-popper was probably the closest thing in the 2017 line-up and put on a spirited show.

Arkells - Can't say I loved their music, a somewhat cheesy blend of new wave and Springsteenish bar band tropes, but as performers this band, and especially their frontman, were first rate, giving it their all. One of the weekends best and only bets if you are looking for bar band flavored rock.

Mitski - Not a positive review here - despite her monster 2016 hit Your Best American Girl I found this to be a very low key monotonous singer-songwriter set and not nearly at the level of the edgy standard set by the PJ Harvey, EMA, Torres artists she seems to want to be considered in the company of.

DON'T MISS - Floating Points Live Set - for my money going in (if you're not counting Hans Zimmer), the best of the many primarily instrumental electronic acts on this year's lineup, and their set confirmed that belief. Be sure to get their early as Silhouettes, their best track on record and live, was their show opener.

DON'T MISS - Kaleo - Didn't see this Icelandic, Black Keys like blues/soul outfit - but everyone of my friends there with me at the festival who did raved about their set.

DON'T MISS - Car Seat Headrest - As I assumed going in, Car Seat was kinda ragged live in a Japandroids/Cloud Nothings way, failing time and again to deliver many of the instrumental and vocal nuances on their fabulous 2016 major label debut Teens Of Denial, but this was still one of the hardest hitting, most forceful rock sets of the weekend - especially the opening double whammy of Vincent and Fill In The Blank.

The Atomics - most attractive band, male or female, at the 2017 fest - the Atomics, hands down - a brother/sister quartet, all for of the family members also models, they are all incredibly easy on the eyes, but surprise, the also play an infectious straight-forward brand of punk-pop that never feels out of style.

Two Door Cinema Club/Tycho/Moderat - I caught a good portion of all three of these acts around the next act I will mention who was a weekend 1 exclusive - but none made a very strong impression even though Moderat fans seemed to love their set.  I didn't.

George Clinton and Parliament/Funkedelic in the Heinken Dome - A weekend one only feature, my friends and I got in for second half of George's two hour set and it ended up one of our favorites - could barely see the band through the crowd on the tiny unelevated stage, but the band was rocking, closing out the portion of the set I saw with an extended version of We Got The Funk! It was awesome.

Tycho - Another big stage, New-agey instrumental electronic set that just like Bonobo had a huge crowd.  These guys were decent, though from my far back vantage point after coming late from George Clinton wasn't able to get too into their set, but they are a little more post-rock than Bonobo or Floating Points, so if you like this general style of music, but want a little more flair/punch, I'd go with these guys.

Moderat - This set was a favorite of many over the weekend, but I must have missed most of the fireworks, because after the opening twenty minutes or so, most of which was eaten up by an impressive but lengthy opening buildup, I felt I had gotten enough from this set and moved on.

Bon Iver - I'd call this a don't miss except most of the rap fans in attendance felt Schoolboy Q who went on twenty-five minutes before Bon Iver on the Outdoor theatre was one of the best hip hop sets of the weekend - so you'll need to make a choice here, but Bon Iver was excellent - as good in terms of dynamics/sound/elevating his material as he was in his magical 2012 set, but not quite as good, because the material he was working from this time, 90% from his latest album, isn't as strong as the material from his first two albums that dominated his 2012 set.  Still, if you want a textbook lesson in maximizing the sonic possibilities of the Coachella Main Stage - this is the set to see.  No one right now elevates his/her material in a live performance better than Bon Iver.

Nicolas Jaar - Thumbs down for me on the set for this exciting South American DJ/Producer who also moonlights as half of the rock/electronic hybrid DARKSIDE.  I only caught the first half of this set, which was bogged down by a tedious fifteen minute atmospheric but otherwise lacking introduction before the first song fit in proper.  Might have felt better for me earlier in the weekend, but after absorbing all the slower/moody electronics of DJ Shadow, Floating Points, Bonobo, Tycho and Moderat already - I just wasn't in the mood for another slow building/primarily instrumental electronic set. Word is it got much better in it's last twenty minutes, but I was long gone by then, having split for the start of....

DON'T MISS - Lady Gaga - surprise, surprise - though not much of a fan of her recorded work - I have to give credit where credit is due - this gal is a tremendous singer and live performer who poured everything she had into each moment of this set, leading to what I felt was the strongest of all the headliner sets.  Much more rock oriented than the bulk of her more R&B/pop driven mega-peers (Beyonce, Rihanna,Katy Perry) this was a show that ended up appealing to a wide range of listening tastes.  It wasn't as freaky or as costume change driven as say her recent super bowl show, but it was a major production nonetheless.

SURVIVE - I didn't stay for long as my kids were getting tired, but if your in the mood for some creepy, John Carpenter-styled synth-rock, definitely check out this horror soundtrack outfit that's gained so much notoriety for their scoring work on the hit series Stranger Things.


Overall, Sunday was my favorite day of the fest 11-6pm, and my least favorite day of the week in the evening hours.

Preoccupations - One of the top post-punk acts of the last few years, these Canadians who last year went by the name of Viet Cong (which itself was built primarily out of members of the even edgier, now-defunkt garage-rock outfit Women) possess a very difficult, acidic sound that won't please many but while delight a smaller portion of those in attendance.  I like a lot of their material, especially the Viet Cong, tracks, so it was a thrill when they unleashed Bunker Buster for the first time on tour in a long, long while.  Like Car Seat Headrest, the live renditions of their songs loses a lot of the nuances of the album, but also like Car Seat Headrest, this was still an impassioned show, and the bands drummer may be the best I saw all weekend - he's and absolute force.

DON'T MISS - Ezra Furman - While I admit there's a very difficult complete overlap with jam band Pond...I would highly recommend going with the snarkier, more indie, but still rocking Furman, who delivered my favorite set of the weekend.  Opening with a 4 song blitzkrieg of his liveliest early material, Furman then bit the hand that feeds him, taking on AEG head Philip Anschutz, who is  rumored to have financed anti-LGBTQ organizations (though none of these claims have been genuinely substantiated), and then, with that said, the band then settled into their less explosive but so good and humorous mid-tempo material of 2015's awesome Perpetual Motion People. Furman was overflowing with personality throughout the show, and the band's backing vocals were surprisingly first rate for an act with such a throwback saloon-type feel.

DON'T MISS - Lee Fields & The Expressions - This year's standout old time soul act was fully on point for the small portion of their main stage set I was able to catch betweeen trips to the Outdoor Theatre.

Whitney - Born of the ashes of Chicago's glam-pop act Smith-Westerns, the more folksy, alt-countrish Whitney put on a charming if somewhat light on fireworks midday set. If you like a band trying to recapture some of the sounds of George Harrison's All Things Must Pass - this would be a good act to catch.

DON'T MISS - Toots & The Maytals - this all-time, now 75-year-old reggae great has lost more than a step or two, but he's still got a hell of a voice when he chooses to serve it up, and in the moments in between in his joyous mainstage set got the crowd into a number of fun call and response moments.  While not nearly as sharp as Jimmy Cliff was a few years back - this is still the set to catch during this time slot.

Devendra Banhart - This was my first time ever seeing Banhart, and while the Aught's freak-folker wasn't great, there was an appealling chill vibe to most of this set and the band sounded fantastic. Highlights included fan favorite Long-Haired Child and the closing number, for which Banhart brought out Nirvana Bassist Krist Novocelic to rip things up - on accordian. Novocelic actually acquitted himself quite well.

Future Islands - One of my favorite acts of the last few years, while still quite good, this was not one of Future Islands best sets.  They are just not a band meant for bigger stages, which rob frontman Sam Herring of some of his singing right to you small venue power. Another drawback, the new Far Fields material, even though sounding exactly like their older material, doesn't cut through like those Singles and In Evening Air tracks.  Thankfully, two-thirds of their set was dedicated to older songs. But again, if you haven't seen Future Islands, definitely go week 2, but get up close.  If you have already seen before, I might skip - I find it unlikely given the stage they are on that this will top what you've seen before.

Twin Peaks - I skipped out of Future Islands a little early to catch one more Sonora act and was glad I did.  While their sound was quite muddy, tons of spirit to this rock ensemble with three lead singers, and a punkish cover of The Rolling Stones Dead Flowers towards the end of the set was to die for.

DON'T MISS - Hans Zimmer - Feel bad for T.S.O.L because the reunion for that little remembered but important early LA Punk band goes head to head against one of the best sets of the weekend. But the call here is easy - go with Zimmer - and get there early to get a good slot, as his orchestra isn't fully mic'd and the sound drops of in patches around the outdoor stage quickly as one moves back.  But just an epic collection of reknown movie sound track moments - thought they could have done more with the visual aspects of the show, but the music on it's own was more than enough.

Lorde - Sporting a straightened out hair-do and a sleek glittery pant suit, this was a sexed-up pop star Lorde compared to the teenage every girl that played the outdoor theatre, but she still managed to connect big-time with her youthful fan base and boy, has she improved as a liver performer.  Probably the biggest positive surprise of the weekend for me...I had no interest in seeing her again, was dead set on Real Estate into New Order, but my son talked me into joining him to stake out a good spot for Kendrick.  So yeah, this 51-year-old saw Lorde again.  Some may have been turned off by her chattiness between songs, but I felt it was fairly endearing, and liked the weird glass cage on mounted pedastals that was utilized in various ways throughout her production.

Kendrick Lamar - I am in a significant minority here.  Most attendees seemed to have loved Kendrick's closing headliner set just two days after dropping latest album DAMN!, I was really disappointed.  Some of it had to do with the set list - as much as I admire Kendrick for his rapping skills, his thoughtfulness, and his conceptual daring, I've never felt he is an elite beat maker on par with Kanye, Dr. Dre, Ghostface Killah, The Bomb Squad or the rap royalty of eras past, so for Kendrick to leave two of Pimp Your Butterfly's hard hitting tracks - Blacker The Berry and I - for a heavier smattering of material from the just released new album was disappointing and frankly a poor substitute.  Then there was giving up fifteen minutes of his already brief 70 minute set to Future, Travis Scott, and Schoolboy Q to perform hits they had already performed in their own shows earlier in the festival. And finally, throw in the fact that despite being a forceful rapper, Kendrick just doesn't exude much personality, and you end up with a show that despite a first rate production design, (including dubbed interstitial Kung Fu movie spoofs), just wasn't all the exciting for me with the exception of 5 knock your socks of minutes of King Kunta. Even with Radiohead's audio problems, this was without question my least favorite of the three headlining sets.

Friday, April 14, 2017


So here we go again.

In a few hours, I will be hitting the road with my kids to meet my regular group of friends from college for our 10th consecutive Coachella Music Festival.

And while there's no question the festival has gone through massive changes over the years and now skews to a younger, more EDM and Hip Hop driven audience than the alt-rock and indie-rock audience that made up the bulk of its attendees during its first 10-12 years of existence, there is still plenty here for rock fans, especially if you are willing to get to the polo grounds early.

Start with the new Sonara Tent, dedicated exclusively to Punk, Garage, Indie and Latin music.  No new wave, EDM, soul or hip hop here.  A lot of the artists here are younger up-and-comers and/or smaller local acts, but you do have reknowned indie mavericks Guided By Voices closing the tent tonight and legendary LA Hardcore punkers T.S.O.L. closing the tent on Sunday, so if you are a rock fan, be sure to give this tent a look early in the may end up making camp there all three days.

As to the bigger tents and stages - Shoegazers Kayves at 12:25 pm in the Mojave, Scandanavian Radiohead/Sigur Ros accolytes Klangstof at 1:25 in the Mojave, and the goofy Lemon Twigs at 2:30 in the Mojave are all good options, and then whatever you do, make sure you get to the festival before 4:10 so you can catch ultra-prolific Austalian jam band supreme King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard on the Outdoor Theatre.

As you move into Friday evening Glass Animals, Father John Misty, Mac DeMarco, Jagwar Ma, and the Rancid-mentored The Interrupters are all there to keep the rockish grooves going until the evening's headliner, Radiohead - without question the very best act on the entire three day lineup.

Radiohead's last three albums have all landed on the mellower side of the spectrum, so don't expect constant fireworks, but recent set lists show that they are working a significant portion of their back catalog into their present tour - so it's very likely you'll hear more than a few favorites from the bands The Bends, OK Computer, Kid A, Amnesiac era to augment their chiller but still excellent more recent material.

And, for Friday's non-rock acts - I highly recommend trying to catch The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, ambient producer Bonobo, turn of the century sample gods The Avalanches, ultra-romantic elecro-rock subheadliners The Xx, and DJ Shadow (who's set  may feature a Run The Jewels guest appearance for recent hit Nobody Speak).

For Saturday, try to get to the fields before 1:00 for the very exciting young LA-based Latin act Quitapenas, who work the full spectrum of Latin-styles - and have a Santana-esque jam or two in their repetoire as well. Then Blossoms, Arkells, the PJ-Harveyish Mitski, LA soft-rockers Local Natives, and soulful electro-rockers Kaleo all have their charms, but the biggest rock act of the day - by far - is Pennsylvania indie up-and-comers Car Seat Headrest at 4:15 in the Mojave.  There 2016 album Teens Of Denial, from which 90% of their set will be based, tops this site's best of 2016 rankings and is chock full of wonderful classic rock riffs and explosive, almost sing-along choruses.  As with King Gizzard and Radiohead Friday, if rock is your thing - DO NOT MISS THIS SET.

Following Car Seat Headrest Friday - Chicano Batman, The Atomics, Two Door Cinema Club, Warpaint are your best Rock n Roll bets.

Among non-rock acts Friday, I'd start with subheadliner experimental folk-rocker extraordinaire Bon Iver, whose gotten increasingly more experimental in recent years, but elevates his material in a live setting to an extent few other contemporary artists do. Trust me, however mellow his music is on record, this will be a dynamic set. After Bon Iver, the day is loaded with fantastic non-edm oriented DJ acts - Tycho, Moderat, Four Tet (performing with Daphni and Floating Points in the Yuma), Nicolas Jaar, Stranger Things soundtrack artists SURVIVE, and my top electronic recommendation for the entire weekend - Floating Points' 3:05 full band live set in the Mojave.

Sunday, on paper, is actually the strongest rock day of the weekend, but scheduling overlaps have watered it down quite a bit.  Still, in the earlier hours - Preoccupations, Ezra Furman, Pond, Whitney and Devendra Banhart are all well worth checking out, leading up to Future Islands at 6:10 who are more synth rockers but one of the best and most reliable live acts on the planet at present. If you've never seen them before, frontman Samuel Herring is not to be missed. Unfortunately, as has been the trend in recent years, once the sun sets Sunday evening, EDM takes over and this year is no different. You're only rock acts in the late hours are chill beach rockers Real Estate, and quintessential 80s band New Order.

For the best non-rock acts of Sunday's bill - you have to start with reggae legend Toots & The Maytals and headliner Kendrick Lamar - arguably the best and most important rapper in the world at this specific moment in music history. I also highly recommend soul outfit Lee Fields & The Expressions, and movie composer Hans Zimmer, who will be playing an hour long medley of his many Oscar winning compostions backed by a near full orchestra.

And that's it folks, my down and dirty recs, and for those joining me this weekend, stay hydrated, and I hope you have an amazing time.

Monday, April 3, 2017

McQ's #67 Song Of 2015 - TRIUMPH - Screaming Females

The first track to make our 2015 songs countdown is Triumph, just one of many lean, mean, blistering highlights from veteran New Brunswick, New Jersey indie power-trio Screaming Female's 2015 venture towards a more classic hard-rock/old school heavy metal sound, Rose Mountain.

I've rocked out to this track too many times to count since hearing it.  Hopefully, after giving it a listen, you will too.

Here's an awesome live-in studio performance of the song.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

McQ's #67 Song Of 1967 - WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD - Louis Armstrong

Landing the #67 spot in our Favorite Songs Of 1967 countdown is one of the most beloved standards of the last century, Louis Armstrong's What A Wonderful World.

But it wasn't always that way for Armstrong's last major single.

Written with Armstrong in mind but first offered to Tony Bennett by songwriters Bob Theile and George David Weiss, it became the elder jazz statesman's to record after Bennett turned it down.

Released in October 1967, the song was at first ignored in the United States. Hated by the head of Armstrong's American label ABC, the track received no promotion, and sold less than 1000 units in its initial run.

But in the UK it was a monster smash, making Armstrong, at 66 years in 1967, the oldest performer at the time to ever top the British charts. So popular was the song in the UK that not only did it quickly rise to number 1 in the British weekies, but it held on to become the top selling UK single in all of 1968 as well.

Then, over the years, after a never ending string of television and film soundtrack plugs, the song gradually solidified its standing as the revered classic it's viewed as today.