Sweetlife Food and Music Festival
The Strokes, Girl Talk, At Merriweather Post Pavilion - LUPE FIASCO, Crystal Castles, Cold War Kids, Ra Ra Riot, Theophilus London, Walk The Moon, U.S. Royalty, Modern Man
10475 Little Patuxent Parkway
Columbia, Maryland, 21044
Sweetlife Food and Music Festival
With spring right around the corner, it’s time once again to enjoy some delectable treats courtesy of the Sweetlife Music and Food Festival. Presented by the restaurant group sweetgreen, the event will not only feature electrifying sounds led by artists Avicii, Kid Cudi, and The Shins; the festival will also showcase a slew of delicious, healthy and organic foods on site. That's one awesome celebration of thoughtful living and refreshingly cool music.
Celebrating 10-plus years of sample-obsessed production and relentless touring, Gregg Gillis returns with All Day, his fifth album as Girl Talk, and his most epic, densely layered, and meticulously composed musical statement to date. Continuing the saga from the previously acclaimed albums, Night Ripper and Feed The Animals, Gillis lays down a more diverse range of samples to unfold a larger dynamic between slower transitions and extreme cut-ups. With the grand intent of creating the most insane and complex “pop collage” album ever heard, large catalogs of both blatantly appropriated melodies and blasts of unrecognizable fragments were assembled for the ultimate Girl Talk record (clocking in at 71 minutes and 372 samples).
Since the release of Feed The Animals, things have flourished for Girl Talk. He’s played almost 300 shows and hardly taken a full week off from hitting the road. He’s playing even larger venues and making even more of a spectacle—he’s employed a small crew of toilet paper launching stage hands, who also propel confetti, balloons, and inflate oddly chosen props into the audience. For the New Year’s Eve show to ring in 2010, a team was hired to build a life-size house, with attention to fine details, on the stage at Chicago’s Congress Theatre. Described as the craziest house party ever, Girl Talk continues to please live audiences as the mass of sweaty bodies at his shows continually grows. Touring highlights from the last couple of years include the Vancouver Olympics, large festivals such as Coachella, Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, V-Fest, Sasquatch, Rothbury, Monolith, Planeta Terra, and trips to Australia, Japan, South America, Europe, and Mexico.
Earlier this year, Girl Talk finally took a break from touring, festival dates, and college shows, in order to create an album that is being released immediately after its completion. While posting the album as a free download on the Illegal Art label’s site allows All Day to reach his fanbase quickly and with minimal cost, Gillis spent more time on this album than any previous release and considers it the most fully realized and evolved manifestation of the Girl Talk aesthetic.
At Merriweather Post Pavilion - LUPE FIASCO
On March 8th, critically acclaimed rapper Lupe Fiasco returns with one of the most heavily anticipated releases in recent years, a revolutionary album called LASERS, reaching new heights of lyrical and musical mastery, while aiming to reach even bigger audiences.
The album has already spawned an exuberant hit single, “The Show Goes On,” which re-introduced Fiasco to fans after a four-year absence. It will undoubtedly continue to earn attention over the next year and beyond with mind-expanding and ear-catching singles like the incendiary “Words I Never Said” featuring Skylar Grey and produced by Alex Da Kid (Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie”), the thought-provoking “All Black Everything,” and “Out of My Head,” a collaboration with labelmate Trey Songz.
LASERS is an acronym for “Love Always Shines Everytime: Remember to Smile,” and the album is a reflection of a 14-point manifesto the Chicago-born MC composed to guide him on the project, including items like “We want substance in the place of popularity” and “We will not compromise who we are to be accepted by the crowd.”
“I want to start a popular uprising,” says Fiasco. “The music is the bait to get people to come in and listen to what I’m saying.”
LASERS features some of the most thought-provoking rhymes and concepts Fiasco has ever conceived, combined with irresistible melodies, production by the likes of Jerry Wonder and The Neptunes, as well as collaborations with John Legend, Trey Songz, and others.
The album is filled with unvarnished truth, straight from the mind of the hyper-literate Muslim MC, who grew up in the projects, but read books constantly and learned martial arts from the age of three. The son of a Black Panther, his family didn’t have cable TV, but did have a subscription to National Geographic.
On the bombastic “Words I Never Said,” the MC unloads his frustration with the media and politics, calling right-wing pundits Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck racists, and even taking aim at fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama, emphasizing that he did not vote for him. Another track, “State Run Radio,” takes aim at the hyper-regulated, repetitive radio industry—don’t hold your breath waiting to hear it on your local station, but it’s sure to become a viral hit.
If those songs are grounded in modern reality, “All Black Everything” takes a fanciful look at the past, asking, What if black people got paid for slavery?
“I just started thinking, ‘What if things had gotten off on a totally different foot?,’” says Fiasco. “What if they just came over to Africa and said, ‘We want you guys to work for us.’”
Of course, not every song on LASERS is a political discourse or a historical construct. Some of them can be described as standard hit records. “Never Forget You,” with John Legend, is a soulful love song produced by Jerry Wonder. “Out of My Head,” with labelmate Trey Songz is a smooth synth-driven R&B cut.
On his first two albums, Food & Liquor (2006), and The Cool (2007), Lupe Fiasco earned his reputation as a rap philosopher, a sharp, dynamic lyricist, and an MC who could shock you, make you think, make you dance, and make you laugh, all without resorting to vulgarity or tired hip-hop alliterations.
Lupe Fiasco burst onto the scene in 2006 with “Kick, Push,” a single that sounded like nothing else in mainstream hip-hop and instantly heralded the arrival of a unique voice. Over breezy horn samples, Fiasco used skateboarding as a metaphor for overcoming struggles in life and love ("He said, 'I would marry you/But I'm engaged to these aerials and varials/And I don't think this board is strong enough to carry two'").
Food & Liquor would go on to reach No. 8 on the Billboard 200, spawn subsequent singles “I Gotcha” and “Daydreamin’,” featuring Jill Scott, and end the year with multiple Grammy nominations.
A year later, The Cool reached even greater heights selling over 500,000 copies and spawning the top-ten hit “Superstar,” featuring Matthew Santos. It’s been four years since The Cool—a long wait during which Fiasco squabbled with his label, endured some personal turmoil, and debated whether or not he even wanted to release another album.
“I kept asking, ‘What’s the point? What does all this lead up to?’” he recalls. Ultimately, he says, touring, meeting fans, and being able to do things for his family reminded him of why he wanted to make music in the first place. “You keep smiling, you keep looking for that happiness,” says Fiasco.
During the downtime, Fiasco’s dedicated fans grew restless. More than 32,000 signed a petition demanding that Atlantic Records release LASERS, an effort that was covered by CNN and Rolling Stone, among others. Then, on October 15, 2010, several hundred gathered in front of the Atlantic offices in New York City to demand they release the album. The fans called the day “Fiasco Friday.”
“That blew me away,” says Fiasco, “that so many people would come from all over the country, miss school, miss work, put themselves on the line to do that. It really touched me.”
LASERS is a superior collection from top to bottom. It’s an album with a mission, summed up in the conclusion to Lupe Fiasco’s manifesto:
“Lasers are shining beams of light that burn through the darkness of ignorance. Lasers shed light on injustice and inequality. Lasers act and shape their own destinies. Lasers find meaning and direction in the mysteries all around them. Lasers stand for love and compassion. Lasers stand for peace. Lasers stand for progression. Lasers are revolutionary. Lasers are the future. We’re not losers… We are LASERS!!!”
Fusing low-res electronic noise and pop hooks so effortlessly that it can seem accidental, Crystal Castles began as producer/multi-instrumentalist Ethan Kath's solo project in late 2003. Kath got the moniker from the name of She-Ra's dwelling in the He-Man and Masters of the Universe cartoon series; it's also the name of a 1983 Atari video game, which is oddly appropriate, considering that one component of the band's distinctive sound comes from a keyboard modified with an Atari 5200 sound chip. When Kath collaborated with singer Alice Glass on some songs in spring 2005, Crystal Castles' lineup was complete. One of the songs the pair recorded, "Alice Practice," was something of an accident: it was intended to be a demo of Glass testing out a microphone, but its presence on MySpace piqued record labels' interest. "Alice Practice" was released as a limited-edition 7" in summer 2006 on Merok Records, also home to Klaxons; its 500-copy run sold out in three days. The duo worked on their own songs and also honed their remixing skills, tweaking songs for Klaxons as well as GoodBooks, Uffie, Health, and Bloc Party. Tours with the Presets and Metric in 2007 set the stage for the release of Crystal Castles' self-titled debut album, which Last Gang released early in 2008. - Heather Phares, AllMusicGuide
Cold War Kids
Ten years have come and gone since Cold War Kids first took to the stage in their homegrown Southern California scene. Time is typically unkind to indie rock bands. So how is that Cold War Kids are still here in 2014, selling out tours and releasing their fifth album in a decade amidst these 40 seasons of torrential fate winds, while so many of their peers have vanished?
“We worked really fucking hard, that’s the answer,” says Nathan Willett. “We worked really hard and we were successful, which is freakishly impossible, and we should embrace it. That’s our story.”
From his post at the front, Willett—along with the band’s bassist and visual director Matt Maust—has led Cold War Kids through the tricky 21st century rock and roll landscape, soaring over the peaks and facing the valleys head-on while carving out a place of the band’s own. Reaping sky-high praise from a mid-2000s blogosphere then growing wings as a live show juggernaut, they stand now with their fifth studio album Hold My Home as both a different animal and an unaltered beast all at once.
The band wrote and recorded the album in their own San Pedro studio, with guitarist Dann Gallucci and Dear Miss Lonelyhearts collaborator Lars Stalfors at the production helm. It is at the same time a more pure and also more bombastic album than anything they have ever made, utilizing their environment, experience, energy and cohesion while still driving home the familiar Cold War Kids sound that has been honed and perfected over this past decade. “This record is a testament to some of my strengths—loving words and stories—but also getting out the other side and creating a fun song that is in the spirit of the band,” says Willett. “This fifth record is probably the most simple, in a way, since the first one.”
Cold War Kids began as a four-piece of college friends but has undergone a couple of lineup changes in the past few years, from the fulltime addition of guitarist/producer Gallucci (Modest Mouse, Murder City Devils) to the departure of two original members, including most recently drummer Matt Aveiro. Replacing Aveiro on the album and on tour is seasoned veteran Joe Plummer (The Shins, Modest Mouse, Mister Heavenly), and also onboard is touring keyboardist/vocalist Matthew Schwartz. Willett admits the alterations, while not easy, have been for the best. “For a band getting past that several-year hump, everyone figures out their role or contributions and are either content or not. The idea of what we’re doing evolved. It was the right kind of work for Maust and for me. We’re on the same tip that way; we want to live this artistic life.”
By now, it’s clear that Cold War Kids starts and ends with Willett, Maust and Gallucci, the creative yin and yang and three-chambered heart of the band. Willett stars as reluctant leader, like Moses in the wilderness, the cerebral center and refined song-crafter, shouldering responsibility; Maust is the spontaneous punk rock locomotive, constantly pushing the group forward as the conducting engine of their artistic spirit; Gallucci, who worked for Cold War Kids doing live sound for three years before officially joining, has the wide experience, taste and encyclopedic knowledge of music to make it all click. (“No one knows the sound of this band better than Dann,” says Willett. “He’s opened many doors for us.”) Together, they are the perfect complement; to wit, when Willett and Maust formed the side-project French Style Furs last year, that experiment only brought more energy and ideas to Cold War Kids.
“French Style Furs showed us how fun it needs to be making a record,” says Willett. “And that sometimes you have to tear something off to create a new energy.”
The rounding out of their main project’s lineup has created a dream team of sorts, hitting on all cylinders. As Willett says, “We have everything we need: hunger, energy, guys that come from bigger bands who know how things should work… There’s a lot of space for these guys as musicians to be creative, but we have our musical common ground in that we’re serving the song. As Maust understands about art, you elevate it to a place where it’s bigger than you and you serve it.”
The one-two elevated punch that launches Hold My Home is undoubtedly the band’s strongest leadoff since Robbers & Cowards. “All This Could Be Yours,” the first single, packs influences from Patti Smith and Them with its chugging piano chords and sing-along refrain, while the second song, “First,” is perhaps their biggest sound yet. One of the final songs to be completed and originally intended as a B-side, Willett calls “First” a “morning-after song with the usual Cold War Kids self-doubt: ‘Who am I, what am I doing, who are these people, do they love me, do I love myself?’ The songs that strike a nerve emotionally are the vulnerable ones. But it got an immediate reaction. I want to still learn what roads I can go down that are working.”
“Hotel Anywhere” is an escape from expectations and responsibility, a song inspired by an energetic experience listening to Oasis in the van after a gig. “There was this sense of abandon,” says Willett, “and I realized that’s what we feed off of as a band, that kind of energy that’s not cerebral. I feed off of Leonard Cohen but I feed off a good rocker, too. ‘Hotel Anywhere’ has a space and time and it’s poetic, but it has some Oasis drunken pub fun.”
“Harold Bloom” is an introspective number named after one of literature’s foremost critics and inspired in part by a confrontational moment in a John Lennon documentary. A torch song of sorts, it toes the line of the artist’s obligation to let go, regardless of who may be watching closely, while cautioning to not “lift your heroes up so high/that you can’t touch.” “You cannot let the potential for criticism come before your own creative release,” says Willett. “You have to make mistakes, and run forward knowing you may trip. Powerful art often happens accidentally and I have to work to make myself that way. I understand the dynamic of needing criticism or self-awareness but I am reminding myself to be childlike about it.”
In that sense, Willett and Cold War Kids have circled back to the beginning, as self-sufficient artists creating for the sheer love and joy of creation, surviving and thriving as they go, running off of the same steam they started on. Picking up some essentials along the way, they remain, ultimately, themselves—exemplified by the title track. “It’s about battening down the hatches when trouble comes and seeking control in a chaotic world,” says Willett. “To ‘hold my home/where the seasons never change.’
“We come from that time of bands that either don’t exist anymore or do in some smaller form. We’re somewhere in this middle ground, which is really great because we still get to do exactly what we want. In that way it does come back to Maust and me. We’ve existed 10 years and five records, we’re still making art that is very vulnerable and singular but we are ambitious and honest with ourselves, knowing that we want success and to reach people and have them understand our art. There’s something great that comes from having to knock on doors, and some of that hunger is back in this record. That’s where depth comes from, when you can tap into that place that has you digging deep and trying to find something true. I think Hold My Home is about all those things.”
Ra Ra Riot
To observe Ra Ra Riot on stage is to observe a joyful experience in progress, somehow both intensely fun and just plain intense; it’s a joy that’s always aware that darkness and despair may be just around the corner, that life is both beautiful and terrible, and it’s a joy that is in fact amplified by this awareness. It’s this bittersweet dynamic that makes the rhumb line a compelling debut album by a band with seemingly limitless potential. From the haunting slowburn crescendos of opener ghost under rocks through the playful each year, can you tell and too too too fast, the more pensive oh, la and dying is fine, and a curveball cover of Kate Bush’s suspended in gaffa, the album skillfully melds elements of new wave and classic indie with sweeping orchestral chamber pop to startling effect. Epic and eloquent, dramatic and graceful, Ra Ra Riot’s debut is an inventive and ambitious record that consistently conveys the passions of its creators.
Theophilus London, who you might recognize as one of the fresh faces of Rocksmith. Theophilus is a talented rapper with versatility and a great flow. I got his mixtape, JAM!, which he is offering for free as a download off of his MySpace. The Mixtape is solid. MachineDrum’s skill at mashups is highlighted and the uptempo energy from both the lyrics and the beats make this a fresh jam for anyone who is enthusiastic about good hip-hop. I see a lot in this kid, and I think he’s a breath of fresh air for modern rap music. Boy we use the word “fresh” a lot.
Walk The Moon
"This Cincy-based crew formed in college over a mutual love of Talking Heads and twisted, inventive Pop. The resulting band reflects those two elements beautifully - WALK THE MOON makes fascinating, danceable Art Pop laced with vintage synth riffs... creative rhythms. ...The band's debut EP "The Anthem" earned WALK THE MOON some deserved notice outside of its local fanbase and helped the group earn a slot at a showcase concert in London (they were the only U.S. band chosen to perform). And the band's captivating live show has grown its fanbase thanks to regular tour dates in NYC and beyond. This fall's "i want! i want!" LP should rocket them even further."
-Mike Breen, CityBeat, September 2010
From the bluesy swagger of the album opener “Hollywood Hollows” to the soaring, Washington Irving inspired anthem “Equestrian,” it is evident that MIRRORS, the debut full length from U.S. Royalty, is an album of grand scope and range. It is a document of exploration and discovery. Songs kindle a spectrum of locales as the band laces a thread of longing and movement throughout the entire album to create a cinematic experience. MIRRORS is a cohesive and unified collection.
In March 2010, the band teamed up with engineer Gus Oberg (The Strokes, Albert Hammond Jr., Bloc Party) and Justin Long to begin recording the album. While in the studio, as a vision of the album began to come into focus, old songs were dropped in favor of new songs being written. The band recently released the first single off the album, “Equestrian,” and set a release date for the debut album, January 25th 2011.
U.S. Royalty formed in 2008 in Washington, D.C. Built around the lifelong musical collaboration of brothers John and Paul Thornley, vocals/piano and guitar, respectively, and rounded out by Jacob Michael (bass), and Luke Adams (drums), the group has refined and expanded their collective vision since their earliest practices spent shivering around a single heater while ensconced in an abandoned trailer in rural Maryland. While the band had a collection of demos recorded mainly to book gigs they were approached by Brooklyn-based Engine Room Recordings to release a selection of the songs on a 7-inch entitled Midsommar. They have made appearances at SXSW, NXNE, Art Basel and CMJ. They have been featured in Esquire, SPIN, The New York Times, The Washington Post and highlighted on NPR. Their work with Gant Rugger has garnered them attention in the fashion world and created unexpected bridges in the blogosphere, their music has accompanied various web-based promotional films for the label, and the band members will be featured in the Swedish line’s upcoming 2011 Spring Collection.
With the release of their debut album, U.S. Royalty delivers on capturing the volatility and explosiveness that define their live performances. While taking cues from the players of old, they treat performances as feverish outpourings of rock ‘n roll energy and emotion. For them, there is no reason not to leave it all on the stage every night as a testimony to the music that moves them. U.S. Royalty aims for the grand and the timeless but insists on the raw and the unplanned as they forge their own way in the current musical landscape.
Modern Man was born as an analog rock and roll band, with guitars for hands and drumsticks for feet, in the year 2010 in Washington, DC. As a band, Modern Man believes firmly in tube amps, koozies and shouting. The band will release its first EP in April 2011.
Modern Man would love you and give you free music if you liked their Facebook page.
Modern Man is Zach Goodwin (guitar), Lee Cain (vocals, guitar), Matt Dosberg (bass), Paul Withers (drums). You can contact Modern Man by emailing email@example.com. Modern man hopes you have a prosperous 2011.
$100 VIP * $55 GA
Merriweather Post Pavilion
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