Life is Beautiful Preview – Day 2

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Here I sit, Tuesday night and already thinking ahead to Saturday at Life is Beautiful. I am not going to lie. I am least excited for Saturday. That is not to say, I am not going to have fun. There are some AMAZING acts performing on Saturday, and this is my hometown festival…there is no other option than having the best time I can manage. If there is a day that I wander onto a performance that I love…Saturday is the day.

So, there are a few acts that are not to miss on Saturday. In order of awesomeness, they are:

1) Fitz & the Tantrums – as far as live shows go. There are few bands that can even compare. The energy of this LA based group blows most bands away. It does not matter if you aren’t familiar with their songs (which, lets be real, means you haven’t been paying attention), you will dance. If you don’t at least nod your head, you have no soul (I am just kidding).

If you don’t tap your foot or nod your head while listening to “Moneygrabber” please do not tell me.

2) The Roots – Philly bred hip-hop hybrid The Roots are a staple of American pop music. They’ve been relevant longer than many festival goers have been alive. I was first exposed to them in the 90’s as a hip-hop alternative to the prevalent “gansta rap” and they are now best known as the house band on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Regardless of how they are known, they are a headline worthy act, and I wouldn’t miss seeing them live.

3) OutKast – I’ll be honest, when I saw OutKast with @begt at LouFest 2014 I actually said to myself “how can Outkast fill up a 2 hour set”. Those are words I lived to regret. I’ve never been a really intentional fan of Outkast, except maybe during the Dungeon Family record era. Their LouFest show was incredible. Each song better than the last, and the show itself was visually stunning. I know the choice is between Outkast and The Flaming Lips…two very visually dramatic performances, but Outkast will win this round for me. I can also assure you that you know more Outkast songs than you think you do.

For example, “Whole World”…you’ll be singing along in no time.

Other bands of note that I am hoping to catch on Saturday include: Welsh rockers Catfish and the Bottlemen (best name ever?); NYC Based post-punk outfit Bear Hands; @Begt’s recommendation J. Roddy Walston and the Business; and English Indie rockers Alt-J.

I’ll leave you with Catfish and the Bottlemen with “Fallout” which is a freaking awesome video that I probably like more because of my recent trip to the UK.

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Life is Beautiful Preview – Day 1

Life is Beautiful 2014 is only a few days away. It seems like it got here super fast, but its been a busy fall for me, so it is probably just my imagination.

I will be honest, the lineup this year did not have me itching like the 2013 Lineup. Unless this is your first visit to the blog, you know how big of fan I am of bands like The Killers, Imagine Dragons and Childish Gambino who all had big performances last year. This year it is not the headliners that have gotten me excited, rather it is the smaller bands and local acts that will be causing me to move my feet and nod my head.

With 3 days of music and just around 69 bands on the bill, there is a lot more room for lesser known and local acts to have their place.

This year, I decided I would break the preview up so as to make sure I can actually finish three posts as opposed to failing and finishing one long one. With that in mind, here are my picks for Friday. I won’t be able to hit all of these acts up, but I am going to give it my best shot.

It is my belief that Friday has the most solid line-up of the weekend. Literally every time slot has someone I want to see…and a couple have multiple acts I would like to check out. I am not sure if that will happen this weekend, but I will give it the old college try.

My first tough decision comes at the start of the day. It is a choice between two local acts. The first is Ekoh, a local hip-hop artist who has been working the scene for a while. I’ve known of him for a while, but haven’t had the chance to see an entire set until he opened for one of my favorite hip-hop artists, Grieves, this summer. The other choice is local rock outfit Rusty Maples. Also veteran’s of the Vegas scene, this group could be poised to make it big. I had seen them a couple times over the last few years, but became very excited to see how far they’ve come when they opened for Built to Spill early this fall.  This will be a game time decision, but to show you just how tough it will be…here are the two acts in question.

First is Ekoh with “Zzyzx Road”

Next here are the Rusty Maples with “Long Walk Home”

With toughest decision of  the day out of the way, I am off to the races.

Up next is Portland based Priory. This group has had a minor radio hit with “Weekend”. I am not a huge fan of “Weekend” but the rest of their stuff sounds pretty good. Enjoy “Alone” off of their first release.

At this point, I could head over to the Mainstage to see Phantogram (who I hear is awesome live) or hit up a double header of Kentucky pop rockers Sleeper Agent and LouFest 2014 favorites Vintage Trouble. This would mean I would also miss electro act Girl Talk, but it would put me in great position to see one of my first SoCal favorites (and one of the three last remaining “Christian”-ish groups that I still follow), Switchfoot. There is no doubt that I will be seeing Switchfoot, I just am not sure which path I will take to get there. Check out “When We Come Alive” from their recent Fading West release.

At this point, I will be sticking near two stages who have the rest of the bands I will be watching. My only regret is that I won’t be able to see one of my LouFest 2014 surprises, RAC. From Vegas native and former Rilo Kiley front-woman, Jenny Lewis  to fellow desert dwellers and some of Utah’s finest, Neon Trees, and the artists who @begt and I saw at Red Rock, Seattle based The Head and the Heart (!!!). Ending the evening for me will be Vegas locals (and the biggest Vegas headliner of this year’s Life is Beautiful) Panic! At the Disco.

Just so it is clear who I am most excited for, please enjoy “Down in the Valley” by The Head and the Heart.

Stay tuned for preview of Day 2 and Day 3

A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Folk

I cannot believe it is already March. 2014 is whizzing by. I am not going to lie, 2014 has started like 2013 ended…which for me, was no bueno. But, there are some really exciting things about it being March. 1)It is the birth month of @Begt. Which, lets be real, is probably the best thing about March…every year! 2)I am a big fan of college basketball and March Madness! For the first time in many years, it looks like the university that is a common part of all three authors of this blog’s history should be in the NCAA tournament (the University of Arkansas, for those interested). 3)March means amazing weather here in Vegas. So far, not disappointed. 4)One month closer to April, which means, one month closer to the LouFest lineup announcement and one month closer to the amazing shows that will take place at the Cosmopolitan here in Las Vegas in April and May (St. Lucia, Grouplove, Childish Gambino, Empire of the Sun, to name a few). And, 5)It is @Begt’s birthday in March!

With that said, this week I’ve been listening to two bands on a more regular basis than others (well, there are three that I am listening to, but my last entry focused on one of them…Haerts). Both of these bands have a “country” vibe to them, but are most definitely not what we would call “country” especially compared to what is popular in country music these days.

The first of these bands is The Lone Bellow. This Brooklyn based act released their first record, The Lone Bellow in 2013. This three piece is known for their high energy shows and their catchy lyrics. Their first album was produced by Charlie Peacock, who also has produced the Civil Wars. While similar to other modern folk acts (Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers), the Lone Bellow exudes a bit more “soul”.

The first song that caught my attention is the super catchy sing-along “Green Eyes & a Heart of Gold”

I am not going to lie, I also enjoy that there is a mandolin player as a part of this group.

The second of these bands is Delta Rae. This Durham, NC based “family band” is a bit more country than I want to acknowledge, but their songs have much more folk appeal. One of my favorite things about this band is, as @Begt knows I am a fan of, all the members sing. While only 3 seem to take lead singing roles, you can hear the different voices on their various tracks. Delta Rae is composed of 6 members, with three of them being siblings (when you watch their videos, it is pretty easy to tell who is related). Delta Rae released their first record, Carry the Fire in 2012 and are currently working on a new full-length release as a follow up to their “Chasing Twisters” EP released at the end of last year.

And because I am enjoying this band so much right now, I give you two songs. The first, “If I Loved You” (ft. Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac)

And, “Dance in the Graveyards”, which is the song that got me hooked:

You will like both bands if you like: Churchill, The Civil Wars, Fleetwood Mac, The Lumineers.

Love & Music

On Thursday a simple post on Facebook sparked a bit of sadness for at least two of the authors here on Sandy Beats. It was announced that one of the members of The Mowgli’s, Michael V was leaving the band. While the entire band is involved in the music making process, Michael was one of the founders of the band, and had writing credits on most if not all of their songs. @Begt and I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Michael and LouFest. He was such a super positive and down to earth guy. He was just hanging out alone watching the same band we were watching. When we approached him, he was shocked that we even recognized him for the Mowgli’s performance earlier that day (how could you not, that performance was incredible). I am not one for assuming why people leave bands or bands break up. Fortunately, I think Michael made it very clear with his video and statement posted to The Collective CA.

“I wish you all an incredible journey and I pray that in moving forward we will always remember ‘why we came here’ and apply that wisdom to every aspect of our existence.

For me, it’s not enough to just say it, or sing it.  I need to live it and breathe it, and be it    . . . and in the beautiful irony of this tale, the only way I can take the proper steps toward making such drastic life improvements, is to actually follow the advice and mantra in our songs.”

You can watch the video below:

I hope that he goes on to make music that spreads the love. I hope that he shares the music with the world, and I know I’d really enjoy seeing him again.

And here is my favorite song by Michael during his tenure with the Mowgli’s… “Time”.

A Film Photo Set: LouFest 2013

I got my film back from the lab! I’m so excited to show you the photos from LouFest. @DocMurda has done a wonderful job at reviewing the sets we were able to catch, so I won’t go into so much detail. I already told you why I fell in love with this festival, so now I’ll let you see what I caught on camera. I took my LC-A+ camera (film) because having a DSLR was on the list of prohibited items for the fest. I wanted to bring my DSLR, but I didn’t want to deal with any kind of rejection at the gate, so I opted for film.

I attempted to do several multiple exposures to capture the awesomeness of the fest. Some worked, some didn’t. But I’ll let you be the judge of that. Click on the photos for the large version and captions.

Saturday at LouFest was hot and awesome. We didn’t stay until late that day (that is correct, we missed Wilco, but we have no regrets). This day we started out with Jukebox The Ghost, which was an amazing set to start out the weekend. I’ve been listening to these guys in the weeks that have followed the festival and I can tell you that I am a fan now. Next up was Modoc at the BMI Stage, but I sincerely don’t remember these guys. I feel a little bad about that, but I think I was just really hungry and dehydrated. The only thing I remember happening between this set and Trampled by Turtles was some carne asada tacos from the Mission Taco Joint stand. I didn’t even go to the main stage for TbT, but listened to them from the shaded spot under one of the trees at the BMI Stage, where we caught up with Space Capone. I think I had higher expectations for these guys, because their set at LouFest didn’t make a huge impression. We left their set early to get up close during the Fitz And The Tantrums set, which was amazing. They never let down, they have great chemistry on stage and that spills over to the crowd. The first time I saw them was a couple of years ago at Wakarusa, after @DocMurda suggested I checked them out. They recently released their sophomore album, More Than Just a Dream. They played a great mixed of songs from both of their albums, but “Money Grabber” from Picking Up The Pieces was my favorite from the set. The last full set we caught on Saturday was Desert Noises, which had been recommended by @DocMurda. Those guys have great music, but they got a lot to grow when it comes to stage presence. This was specially evident after coming from the Fitz And The Tantrums set. We walked around the festival grounds while The National was playing and left a little before they finished the set.

Sunday at LouFest started out rainy, but it cleared out just in time for the music. We were ready to see The Mowgli’s, which delivered and amazing set that just set the tone for the whole day. This day was really all about the music. The second set of the day for us was Youngblood Hawke, which kept up with the SoCal sound we had going with The Mowgli’s. There was SO MUCH DANCING, and it was still early in the day so there weren’t huge crowds at the stages. That would very soon change, as we found out.  By the time we got to the stage for WALK THE MOON (which was 45 min early) there was already a large amount of folks up front. The set was worth the wait, as the dancing and singing along continued. I am definitely driving 2 hours to Tulsa to catch them in October (and I’m so excited that I will get to see The Mowgli’s again, as they are opening that night!) We listened to Local Natives from under a tree at the BMI stage. My favorite “Airplanes” came toward the end of their set, which sounded awesome. Wild Cub followed at the BMI stage. I find their sound very mature, and I like that about them. It’s refreshing. We danced our way to the main stage to the sound of “I Love It” by Icona Pop, which was finishing their set on the other side of the festival. At the main stage we caught Alabama Shakes, which are even more awesome live than I had imagined. Brittany Howard has a voice that makes you go “DAMN, WOMAN!” We left shortly after they played their hit “Hold On” to find a good spot for Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros. But it looked like about a third of the folks at the main stage had the same idea. So many people. And so many of them smoking. That, however, didn’t come in between us and our inner hippie dancing. But then again, we had to leave the set early to get to the main stage for the final act of the night and the highlight of the festival: The Killers. It was my first time at one of their concerts, and I think it could have been a lot better than it was. You see, it wasn’t the music. That part was amazing. The Killers really killed it. But by that time of the night there were just so many drunk jerks around, that I had to get further from the stage or I would have gotten Salvadoran-aggressive on a tall DB that was in front of me when the set started. I am looking forward to a much better experience with The Killers at Life Is Beautiful in Las Vegas in a month.

I will leave you with this Icona Pop video. Just because I want to. That song got in my head the nano-second I mentioned it on this post. So now, I will get it in your head. I don’t care, I love it. I hope you enjoyed the photos. I think I will make it a tradition to take a film camera to any music festival, even if I also take my digital if I get a photo pass.

LouFest Wrap-Up Part 2

So for the first post I blamed my post LouFest honeymoon. The delay for this second post is due to my body telling me to go to sleep instead of writing blog posts. My body won every night this week, except for this one! (Checkmate nature).

Day 2 of LouFest was epic. I am not one to use this word lightly…or even really at all, but I cannot find any adjectives that will accurately describe the way that I feel about Sunday. We started off with rain that cleared up moments before the first set. @Begt, Jennifer and I sat in the car (literally across the street from the entrance) and waited for the storm to blow over.

So, without any order, except for number one being number one, here is my Top 5 LouFest moments from Sunday:

5a) We entered onto the LouFest grounds just as the rain slowed to a drizzle. @Begt had convinced us that the band to see first thing was the Mowgli’s. I’d been listening to the other Sunday opener a bit, but maybe it was the rain, the pre-funking, or the universe commanded it, but that first set from the Mowgli’s set the standard for the day. This Southern California based 8 member band is a mix of sunshine, the beach, sparkles and love. Their energy from the first song all the way through their hit “San Francisco” was absolutely contagious. They immediately connected with the crowd through their poppy, loved filled jams. They have an Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros feel about them, but they are their own breed of band. They are touring throughout the US this fall with WALK THE MOON and others. If you can, you owe it to yourself to see them perform.

5b) The second show of the day was another SoCal based group, Youngblood Hawke. if you own a radio, you’ve most likely heard their catchy anthem “We Come Running”. This band also played with incredible energy and had the crowd on their feet and dancing in the muggy early afternoon. I had enjoyed “We Come Running”, but now consider myself a fan. My favorite performance from them was “Forever”. Here is an acoustic version of the song.

4) Like Day 1, there were a lot of bands that were either right before or right after a band I really wanted to see. This was the case with the Nashville based Wild Cub. This band was a SXSW fan favorite and have been hitting up various festivals all summer. Their set took place right before the Alabama Shakes. We had already been hanging out by this stage because much of the surrounding area was tree covered and we wanted to rest while listening to Local Natives. I had listened to a few Wild Cub tracks before, and was pretty impressed. This group put on a hell of a show. Some of their tunes sound like they could have been composed in 1985 but with a contemporary flair. I am really looking forward to hearing more from them in the future. They have a few festival shows this fall, but I am sure they will be back on tour once the weather gets nicer. Enjoy their “hit” Thunder Clatter:

3) If loving hippie makes me a hippie, call me a damn hippie. After seeing Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros in July, I’ve been anxiously awaiting seeing them at LouFest. Literally the only complaint I have about LouFest is that they scheduled ESM0’s to perform immediately before the Killers. This meant that if I wanted to get a good spot for the Killers I’d have to leave ESM0’s early. This was not a good position to be in. But, it had to be done because…its the Killers…the greatest American Rock Band of my generation (you can take that to the bank my friends because that statement is as true as gold is valuable). They started off their set with my two favorite ESM0’s songs “Man on Fire” and “That’s Whats Up”. As a kid decked out in UNLV gear, I was dancing like a hippie because ESM0’s are just that good. Alex was also a bit more aware of his surroundings than he appeared to be in Las Vegas.

2) About a month after first seeing Imagine Dragons live in 2010, we started listening to the Imagine Dragons Pandora station with religious fervor. One of the songs that frequented this station was from a quirky quartet from Cincinnati, OH. Having a band name that is written in all caps may seem presumptuous, but when you are WALK THE MOON you can do whatever the hell you want. This may just have been the best set of the entire festival. They rocked out on most of their catalog including “Next in Line”, “Tightrope” and the incredibly catchy “Anna Sun”, which had the entire crowd screaming. What little of my voice I had left after this show was lost after the Killers. This band is touring with the Mowglis this fall, they shouldn’t be missed.

1) This weekend could not have ended on a better note. If you’ve read this blog at all you know how I feel about Las Vegas’ own The Killers. From the moment I saw the black and white Nevada flag on the main-stage just before the first show on Sunday, all the way through their set, I was ecstatic for this set. The set was filled with many of their most popular songs, and started out with “Mr. Brightside” and included a version of “I Think We’re Alone Now” made famous by Tiffany. In true Vegas fashion the show concluded with one hell of a pyrotechnic show during “When You Were Young”. I was thrilled to see the Killers again, and am looking forward to seeing them again next month at Life is Beautiful here in Las Vegas.

Well St. Louis, you definitely captured my heart this time. Will I attend LouFest next year, you ask? Yes, yes I will.