Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Typesetter

Watch This: Vol. 138

While Car Seat Headrest, Abi Reimold, Lisa Prank, The Dove & The Wolf, Emma Russack, Black Thumb, Mindie Lind, Kiran Leonard, Laura Gibson, Wovenhand, CHVRCHES, Pig Snout, Metronomy, Clique, Skeleton Hands, Gang Gang Dance, Graveyard Club, Men of Paradise, Haux, Arc Iris, David Bazan, Pure Bathing Culture, Typesetter, Lisa Hannigan, and naps all had incredibly strong live video outings — culled from a variety of inspiring sources — last week, it would have been an exercise in futility to run them all together in a focal capacity. Even five featured slots can occasionally feel a touch excessive but it seems that anything less than five doesn’t typically do the format’s offerings justice.

The five clips featured today come from bands that have, in some form or another, garnered positive notices from this site in the past. Seeing these acts continue to grow, expand, succeed, and even flourish has been heartening. Seeing them excel in the live department remains galvanizing. There’s an expansive range from the selected acts (and their accompanying videos), in terms of style. All of them are worthy of praise. So, as always, sit back, tune up, lean in, and Watch This.

1.  Okkervil River (WFUV)

With their forthcoming Away nearing its release date, Okkervil River‘s been making some early rounds to promote the record.  It’s impossible to overstate how important Okkervil River were to the development of this site’s personal ethos, so any time the band makes a return it’s more than welcome. Here, they perform two songs from Away but continue to demonstrate their immense skill at re-interpreting their own material, offering an incredible version of “For Real” — easily one of the best songs since the turn of the century — that hints at their worldview. It’s an immensely impressive session and a memorable portrait of a band that’s never really gotten their due.

2. Worriers – Plans (Live From the Rock Room)

Last year’s Imaginary Life was Worriers‘ finest moment to date and the band still seems to be riding a surge of adrenaline and confidence from that small triumph. The quartet recently visited Live From the Rock Room to deliver a galvanizing rendition of “Plans”, one of that record’s many standouts. The band continues to be defined by both their intelligence and extreme amount of heart, both of which are fully on display in this clip.

3. Prism Tats (KEXP)

Prism Tats have been having a breakout year, releasing their formidable self-titled debut full-length on ANTI- Records and producing a string of praise-worthy music videos. They’ve been touring with some bands that have serious weight behind their names and making a small sea of fresh converts at just about every stop. Here, the band turns in a powerful session for KEXP, revealing their increasingly sharp interplay and knack for subdued, hook-heavy basement pop. The whole clip looks and sounds beautiful, standing as a strong example of what can be accomplished with the right people on both ends of the camera.

4. Big Thief (KDHX)

Masterpiece was an immediate standout upon its release and remains one of 2016’s finest records. It’s catapulted Big Thief into a new level of fame and the band’s responded in kind, continuously sharpening their craft and all but perfecting their penchant for sweeping, open-road anthems tinged with nostalgic hues. The band recently visited the KDHX studios and played through two songs, including the unforgettable and melancholic “Paul“. The band pairs it with a deeply felt run-through of “Vegas”, offering both a very strong reminder of Masterpiece‘s astonishing strength and their breathtaking prowess as a live unit.

5. Fresh  Snow – January Skies (Exclaim!)

For some time now, Fresh Snow have excelled in crafting aggressive, ambient tracks that come fully equipped with a decidedly punk influence. Their live show has been a consistent standout and the band holds nothing back for this atmospheric Exclaim! clip of the band playing “January Skies”. There’s a feeling of rawness through the whole affair that seems to be at odds with the serene lighting, creating a strange, unsettling feeling that elevates this far beyond the standard performance clip. There’s some magic at play here and it continues to cast out the kind of spell that simply can’t be refused.

Watch This: Vol. 137

While the past week wasn’t as exhaustive for live videos as it has been recently, there were still some impressive entries featuring a variety of great acts like Jenny Lewis, Same, The Fever, The Academic, Band of Horses, Typesetter, Astronomique, Future Generations, Martin Courtney, The Staves, Bleached, Adia Victoria, Ages and Ages, Caveman, Summer Twins, Mr. Airplane Man, Julia Holter, Warren Franklin & TFF, Israel Nash, Metric, Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster, and Tamaryn. Even with all of those in the mix, there were still five genuine standouts, from site favorites to the perennially overlooked. So, as always, sit back, adjust the settings, block out any circumstantial distractions, focus up, and Watch This.

1. Big Eyes – Stake My Claim (BreakThruRadio)

Fresh off releasing one of the year’s best basement pop records, Big Eyes come through in a major way yet again via this performance of that record’s title track, “Stake My Claim”. While the band certainly has made a sizable impression thanks to their recorded work, they’ve been an even more dangerous force as a live act. After going through several mutations, the band’s finally landed on a unit that allows their sound to be as expansive — and as aggressive — as possible.

2. Boss Hog (KEXP)

One of many projects to include DIY punk icon Jon Spencer, Boss Hog first gained some notoriety in the late ’80s thanks to their sudden existence (they were created out of a need to fill a vacancy on a bill at CBGB’s), vocalist Christina Martinez playing that first show nude, and their relentlessly aggressive hybrid of punk sub-genres. The band’s been experiencing a resurgence lately, which led them to the KEXP studios for this gorgeously-lensed session presented in crisp black-and-white. From just about every angle, everything happening here is exhilarating.

3. Mumblr – Mudmouth + Domingo (Out of Town Films)

After the beginning of their career brought about a handful of upbeat, party-leaning (but surprisingly introspective) anthems the quartet went through some sort of awakening. A lot of their more recent material has approached being confrontational thanks to a newfound darkness and a staggering amount of patience. The band’s been stretching their influences in surprising ways and nearly all of them are present in this beautifully-shot two song turn-in for Out of Town Films, which doubles as a definitive showcase for this era of one of the more fascinating bands making music right now.

4. Tigercats – Rent Control (Fortuna POP!)

Every once in a while, a spectacularly made live video surfaces and causes people to question its validity as a live presentation. In many cases, most assume it’s just a particularly convincing music video. This is the fate that awaits Tigercats’ scintillating new “Rent Control”, which is one of the more memorable entries in that niche format in recent memory. Set in a house overflowing with people (presumably friends of the band), there’s a liveliness that informs “Rent Control” and elevates it past similar efforts. The song itself is an exuberant burst of indie pop and every aspect of the clip ties together beautifully, ensuring it a spot on this list.

5. Japanese Breakfast (Audiotree)

Michelle Zauner anchored one of my personal favorite entries in this entire series’ run in Little Big League‘s extraordinary “Year of the Sunhouse” clip from Little Elephant and has remained a powerhouse performer in the time that’s passed since that clip. Zauner’s other project, Japanese Breakfast, has been turning quite a few heads since the release of their excellent Psychopomp. The band recently wrapped a tour with Mitski and Jay Som, taking control of every opportunity to better their already-formidable live show. Their recent session for Audiotree demonstrated the band’s continuously evolving live show and curiously quiet strengths. The entire session is masterful both in performance and presentation, leaving behind an artifact that should be visited and revisited for quite some time.

Watch This: Vol. 136

The past week saw a lot of great live videos swimming to the shore from the depths of nowhere. There were outstanding featured performances in those clips from Adir L.C., The Curls, Lydia Loveless, Courtney Barnett, Ultimate Painting, Dogbreth, Los Blenders, Kinda Rad Kinda Sad, Summer Twins, Rich Girls, Slingshot Dakota, The Staves, Caveman, Eric Bachmann, Brendan Canning, Lisa Prank, Vetiver, Paridisia, Porches, Mimes of Wine, SALES, Typesetter, and Julien Baker. For the 136th installment of this series, the attention turns to a handful of folk-influenced artists who are either making their mark or reaping what they’ve sown throughout their careers. So, as always, sit back, adjust the settings, take a breath, and Watch This.

1. Margaret Glaspy (OpenAir)

Margaret Glaspy‘s had a deeply impressive 2016. The young songwriter released a breakthrough record, continuously boasts one of the better live shows on the market, and has handled the transition into the public eye with the poised confidence of a seasoned veteran. Here, Glaspy gives Colorado Public Radio’s OpenAir a powerful look at that live show, landing a few knockout punches throughout a rousing four-song performance.

2. Dusk – (Do the) Bored Recluse + Leaf (Set List)

No band has been written about or praised more by this site than Tenement, who have been the consummate example of what this site was built around supporting. Through that band’s decade-long existence, bandleader Amos Pitsch has been involved in a number of other projects but something about Dusk feels just a little bit different. The band’s comprised of several of the most impressive musical figures in Wisconsin’s relatively isolated Fox Valley area, whose singular visions act in complementary tandem. Beautiful harmonies, a sense of history, and a tenacious commitment help define the band’s identity. All of those traits are on full display for this gorgeous two-song turn-in for Wisconsin Public Radio’s excellent Set List series.

3. Green Dreams – Don’t Pray For Me (Katie Krulock)

Ever since the release of 2014’s excellent Rich Man, Poor Man, Green Dreams have been relatively quiet. All of that’s about to change as the band preps a new release, which the band provided a tantalizing glimpse at through the form of this live acoustic video. The typically ferocious project reveals their pensive side on the lilting “Don’t Pray For Me”, while still retaining the overwhelming narrative darkness that’s been so prominent in their past releases. Beautifully lensed and delicately performed, the video’s a powerful reminder of Green Dreams’ numerous gifts.

4. Bernie & the Wolf (DZ Records)

For more than three years, Bernie & the Wolf have quietly been perfecting a mix of influences and forming a sound that’s not too distant from the best of Saddle Creek’s offerings. Open, sprawling, and teeming with distinctly American influences (and history), their songs are immediately warmly familiar and entirely winsome. DZ Records recently capture the band delivering an impassioned set, keying in on “Ethyl”, “Catch Some”, and “Pretty On Me”, three genuine standouts from what promises to be one of the best releases of its given year.

5. Bon Iver (SPIN)

Typically, these spots are reserved for unheralded artists, independent-leaning moments, and videos where the performers aren’t hundreds of feet away. It takes a lot to overturn any of those qualifications and overturning all of them is essentially unprecedented. Even though Bon Iver’s Eaux Claires live unveiling of the forthcoming record — something I was fortunate enough to attend — was a genuinely Big Moment that will be exhaustively covered by nearly every serious music publication, the way it was introduced felt intrinsically connected to the foundations of this site.

As a person who’s lived the vast majority of life in a small Wisconsin town, watching someone like Justin Vernon selflessly elevate an enitre artistic community has been heartening. Watching him debut an entire album live, in front of a hushed audience of thousands, at a genre-balanced festival he founded in his own small Wisconsin hometown was actively inspiring. While Vernon’s rollout campaign for Bon Iver’s forthcoming 22, A Million was designed to benefit the projects’s chosen slot, it was also an effort to highlight the other artists (like Tenement and Tickle Torture) who were a part of the Eaux Claires festival.

In that methodology, Vernon’s added another heartfelt notch in his continuing efforts to expand Wisconsin’s woefully underrated music community by any means at his disposal. On top of all of that, though, the actual performance of 22, A Million was an unforgettable event that was enhanced by the location (Bon Iver’s music has always been perfectly suited to Wisconsin’s wilderness) and the weather.

Just before the set began, what had been a steady downpour of rain lasting hours had suddenly stopped and night had fully descended. Throughout the set, there was an eerie calm that was punctuated by the noise of crickets that had taken residence in and outside of the festival grounds, creating an ambient wellspring of noise that further enhanced the glitchy electronics that permeate throughout 22, A Million (they became especially evident during the quietest moments, rounding out those songs in an unforgettable fashion).

While all of the main set can be heard and seen below in a video that SPIN livestreamed from the crowd, the encore set (which isn’t part of the video) provided what may have been the most defining moment of the festival.

Playing a selection of songs that wildly varied from their original versions, the band pulled out a fairly faithful rendition of “Creature Fear” that culminated in an apocalyptic wall of noise outro section. In the lead-up to those breathtaking final moments, a blisteringly intense lightning storm had erupted behind a heavy cloud, providing an unexpected assist that felt entirely in tune with the weekend’s joyous collaborative efforts. In that moment, the audience, the band, the city of Eau Claire, and Wisconsin itself became part of a unified moment that transcended easy category, leaving an indelible mark on Eau Claires, on Eaux Claires, and on everyone who took a moment to take in their surroundings.

Wicker Park Fest 2016 (Pictorial Review)

Spaceblood II

A few weekends back, Chicago quietly hosted one of the most stacked festivals of the summer. While Pitchfork (understandably) got the bulk of attention, it was Wicker Park Fest that offered the best deal. For a suggested $10 donation, any interested parties could explore a wide variety of vendors and take in three stages worth of acts like Diet Cig, The Coathangers, PUP, Yeesh, Pile, Jeff Rosenstock, The Mountain Goats, Rocket From the Crypt, Ought, Alvvays, Cloakroom, Bad Bad Hats, and so many more.

I arrived late into day one, hoping to catch the end of The Sidekicks’ set. By the time I’d entered the grounds, the band was already packed up and the weather had begun to turn ominous. Less than ten minutes into walking through the gates, a torrential downpour erupted and caused several attendees (myself included) to take shelter in the warm, familiar confines of Reckless Records.

It was a surreal scene inside the store with people lined up to see the storm demolishing vendors’ tents outside, Christmas music being played over the store’s system, and people frantically checking for updates on the status of the festival. For a brief moment, the power went out. No one was sure what the next steps would be and nearly everyone was keeping their fingers crossed for the storm to blow over definitively enough to allow for the scheduled headliners sets.

Fortunately, the storm did wind up receding and, as a result, I got to catch an abbreviated six-song set from Jeff Rosenstock (one of the highlights of the festival, even in that small window) and a solid set from The Mountain Goats. While there were some sound issues that plagued The Mountain Goats set, there wasn’t much else to complain about. Both acts were very tight (particularly Rosenstock, whose entire band played with the kind of explosive, pent-up energy that seemed to be as cathartic for them as it was for the audience) and either won the crowd over, played into their hands, or both.

After arriving well before any of the stages hosted any bands on day two, it was easy to see that storm from the preceding night hadn’t dampened the festival’s spirit. One of the School of Rock acts officially kicked things off, alternating members and making their way through a set of crowd-pleasing covers. Not too long after they’d begun, KO took the south stage and unleashed an inspired set that created more than a few converts while sounding spectacular in an outdoor festival setting.

While all of that was happening outside, Double Door was wisely hosting the ancillary Fuck Fest, which featured more than two dozen bands, inside. The venue exists inside of the festival grounds, allowing Fuck Fest to take on new life. When the heat and humidity started bordering the unbearable, Fuck Fest offered a nice reprieve from the swirling mass of bodies outside while still offering up a solid selection of (mostly local) acts.

At Zero was the first band I managed to catch at Fuck Fest and they tore through a tightly-wound set on the main stage that energized the crowd inside the venue. Right outdoors on the south stage, Spaceblood was confidently making their way through a set that drew in a large crowd, heavily featured a merchandise hype man (who promoted the band’s salsa, handed out chips, and threw out Ziploc bags of a terrifying substance called “space goo” which children were warned not to eat), and left the bass/drum duo — who are heavily inspired by Lightning Bolt — understandably exhausted.

Kodakrome was up next on Double Door’s basement stage and the duo-turned-trio did not disappoint. Last year the band put out an extremely promising demo and later expanded those two tracks into a full-blown EP. They’ve been hard at work ever since and their dedication shows in a live setting. Guitarist/vocalist Aaron Ehinger’s a commanding stage presence, exuding a confident calm that manages to be at odds with the band’s hyper-spastic approach to basement punk but also somehow fits perfectly.

Several yards from Double Door’s entrance, The Brokedowns were flying through a powerful set and reaffirming their status as one of Chicago’s great punk bands. Nothing was off limit for their banter, either, which was highlighted by an extended riff about the Costco communion wafers (which were thrown into the audience). As the band kept their charge lively, Bad Bad Hats were finding their groove across the festival grounds on the south stage. The trio’s Psychic Reader was one of 2015’s most pleasant surprises and the band more than lived up to that record’s irrepressible charm in the live setting.

Towards the end of Bad Bad Hats’ set, site favorites Cloakroom were launching into their own set at full power. Slow, heavy, and smothering, the trio were undoubtedly a force but couldn’t help feeling a little out of place in the sweltering midday heat (they’re best suited for darkness). Slow Mass kicked off the proceedings at the center stage (which had been outright cancelled on day one, following the storm) with gusto, blazing through an impressive set of hairpin turns and overwhelming tenacity.

Anyone that frequented this site in 2015 more than likely saw a sizable amount of coverage dedicated to Diet Cig‘s live show and the duo were in exceptional form down at the south stage. Guitarist/vocalist (and principal songwriter) Alex Luciano is now running her telecaster through a split amp system and the additional heaviness rounds the band’s sound out nicely. They tore through old favorites and a select handful of incredible new material (with the obvious highlight being their first “slow jam”) and brought all of the rambunctious energy that’s turned them into unlikely critical darlings.

Not too long after Diet Cig’s powerhouse set, another vicious storm intruded on the festival and made its presence known with an unexpected vengeance. Before long, the wind had hit a velocity powerful enough to literally derail a train from the blue line. As vendors were watching their tents get lost to the wind, Fuck Fest found a new influx of fresh blood due to the inclement weather. Inside Emporium, there was a power outage. Inside the Double Door, Montrose Man were turning all kinds of heads in the basement with an extraordinary set that posited the trio as one of Chicago’s finest emerging acts and a very real candidate for the city’s next breakthrough success story.

Pinto saw the audience inside Double Door grow close to capacity and impressed most of the new arrivals with a sound that fell somewhere between Joy Division and Manchester Orchestra. The band provided a nice moment of grace to a growing amount of anxiety among concerned festivalgoers who were keeping a wary eye on the storm that was threatening to derail more than just blue line trains. Fortunately, for just about everyone, the weather cleared. Unfortunately, the set times for PUP, Pile, Yeesh, and more became casualties of the maelstrom that seemed poised to decimate the festival.

Alvvays and Ought headlined the center and south stages at nearly simultaneous times. As maybe the most intense scheduling conflict of the entire festival, the prospect of Ought on a small, outdoor stage won me over to their side (as well as a well-documented love for the quartet). The band rewarded that decision with a set that unfurled in rapid succession, hitting an apex as “Men For Miles” practically bled into “Beautiful Blue Sky” (which was one of this site’s picks for the best songs of 2015). They sounded tight and seemed relieved to be playing after getting a scare from the weather as well as dealing with travel cancellations, delays, and a series of other mishaps. I think I can speak for their crowd when I say that we were happy they got to play as well.

Shortly after the band wrapped up “Beautiful Blue Sky”, I went over to the swirling mass of bodies that had set up camp in front of the south stage for Alvvays, whose winsome penchants were on full display. The band were mixed beautifully and played with an easy confidence that only served to make them even more impossibly likable. After a few songs, I turned back to Ought and caught strains of the band hitting a climactic moment, spurring me towards the band with a fervor before the opening notes of “Archie, Marry Me” stopped me in my tracks.

Caught between Ought getting swept up in the moment and Alvvays’ seemingly perfect rendition of one of the best songs of this current decade, it became the definitive moment of what makes festivals like Wicker Park Fest so beautiful. For little cost, the organizers managed to further enliven local institutions and give back to the area by facilitating extraordinary examples of what can be accomplished with the right beliefs. Around every corner, there could be something unforgettable happening. No matter which direction anyone turns, it’s easy to find victories on a multitude of scales. Even caught between those moments can provide a level of gratitude and clarity that no amount of money could purchase.

As Ought and Alvvays both tore down, Fuck Fest was still going strong inside Double Door. At that point in the night, the festival started leaning even more heavily towards their emo-leaning acts (a trait that seemed to be a common running thread) but still found a way to offer plenty of variety. Of all of the bands that I managed to catch in the aftermath of Wicker Park Fest, legitimate standouts came in the form of Typesetter, whose emphatically-mean-every-word set felt refreshingly sincere and provided the band with a well-deserved spotlight moment. Easily one of the strongest post-Wicker Park Fest sets belonged to Salvation, a noise/punk trio that skyrocketed the levels of energy, feedback, and general viciousness.

Of everything that I saw during the festival’s run nothing was more impressive than the moment Salvation’s bassist (who looked to be several years older than the other two members) found his foot catching the load-in steps of the stage at an angle that sent him somersaulting backwards down the small staircase, bass in tow. He never stopped playing. After the fall, he righted himself (still attempting to play as the cable cut in and out), stormed back up to the stage, and began swinging his bass around in an effort to create as much noise as possible. The song ended, staff and audience alike made sure he was okay, the cable was replaced, and the band carried on like nothing had happened.

A few songs later, Salvation were done and I was too exhausted to continue. The band had provided a perfect, chaotic ending to a weekend full of sudden changes, ambiguous directions, and oscillating levels of comfort. They’d also given one of the best sets of the two days. Feeling fully satisfied and more than a little overwhelmed, it felt like the perfect time to end a weekend full of challenges, madness, nerves, and inspiration. See you next year, Wicker Park Fest.

Look through a gallery of the festival below and keep an eye on the Heartbreaking Bravery YouTube channel for live captures from the festival.