1. LIVE REVIEW: Ed Sheeran @ Allstate Arena, Chicago 9/16

    I first saw Ed Sheeran perform live in Spring of 2012 when he opened for Snow Patrol at the Aragon. The following fall, I saw him again, this time headlining at the Riviera. Going from an opening crowd, to a club crowd, and finally to an arena crowd in a little more than two years is a quick ascent, and I’m proud to witness it. Last week, I went to a couple shows (White Lung  @ the subterranean, Metronomy @ Lincoln Hall) and they were, obviously, drastically different. And I hadn’t been to Allstate Arena since seeing the Jonas Brothers years ago (yikes). 

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    UK group Rudimental opened, and I was excited—for a pop group playing big stages in the UK with bangers like “Not Giving In” and “Waiting All Night,” I was sure I’d be up and dancing with the teenies. But as the lights dimmed and I stood up ready to jam, I was the only one. Do the kids not dance to hype music anymore? The band was literally jumping and dancing across the stage, and I could only pick out a few people in the crowd getting into the music. I would’ve understood if the opener was boring and tasteless, but this was pop music!

    After a quick stage turnaround, Ed walked onto the empty stage, save for a few speakers and his trusty state-of-the-art loop pedal. The screams were aggressive, and the pair of girls next to me were hugging each other in disbelief that he was real. They also knew every word to every song, and would rap to each other. Which was, you know, cute and all. 

    Ed puts on a no-frills show, and always has. Immediately jumping into opener “I’m a Mess” and barely letting a skip of silence pass in between songs, he was seamless. He played through most of his new album, a few crowd favorites from ­+ and added a few lines from “Layla” (not many picked up on it), “No Diggity” and “Everybody (Backstreets Back)”. His first talking bit was merely routine, saying the whole “for the next (duration of show) my job is to entertain you, and your job is to be entertained,” that’s the same at every show of his. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing—if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it—and if anything, it brought me back to seeing him for the first time two years ago.

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    This routine was broken during the middle of his set, when he announced the next few songs would be switched up. He said he was going to play a song for the first time on the tour and that only a specific audience would really enjoy it. I got excited because I thought he was talking about some deep cut from one of his early EPs, but instead he bust out “All of the Stars.” Which, you know, was not a bad alternative. Next he played “Nina” for the first time live (flawlessly, of course) and followed with “Thinking Out Loud,” this time played with his electric guitar—which was wild.

    “Bloodstream” was a sure standout, firstly because it’s my favorite song on X, and the crescendos and red lights made me remember why. I love Ed’s ability to jump from R&B sounds to white boy rap to coffee house open mic night vibes, and his talent at completely bashing sounds and loosing it amongst broken guitar strings and strobe lights, as he always does in “You Need Me I Don’t Need You.”  

    He puts on a smooth and flawless show, even if he lamely called the crowd “Chi-Town” (but who hasn’t). And while he seems to have his show down to a science, I can’t deny that I would happily see him every night, if I could. 

     

  2. ON 5 SECONDS OF SUMMER

    Aussie pop punk band 5 Seconds of Summer’s self-titled debut album was released last week, and its projected to sell over 250k copies in its first week, and debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Not too shabby for a band doing the outdated—making pop punk a thing again.

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    Their self-titled album is a great effort—filled with songs that succeed in creating the feeling that fuels fangirls; both nostalgia and invincibility. Plus, the guys share vocal duty and sing odes to American girls (“Mrs All American”) and British girls (English Love Affair) alike, so everyone can freak out over their favorites and pretend they’re singing about them.

    (this lyric video of “Amnesia” is more mature than any visual element One Direction has released.)

    ON BEING MADE BY ONE DIRECTION

    The One Direction fame by association concept is a real thing—you can fight it, spit on it, but it’s true. While 5SOS has its own history pre-One Direction, I’d think it would be 90% less likely that the band would’ve broke the US this quickly. Promotion from One Direction, both from the boys’ tweets and taking 5SOS on two world tours in a row and the resulting friendship have created a whole new fandom branching off of the One Direction fandom. Am I wrong in saying the majority of 5SOS fans were first fans of One Direction? From being presented to a massive audience in a more than favorable light, it’s no question they are an instant favorite, with the solid music to back it up. 

    5SOS are a stepping stone of band for teens who are ~too cool~ for ~mindless~ pop and need some (safe) grittiness in their music repertoire. The band is a little rockier, a little more mature, but just as funny and awkwardly charming. For some, they have the nostalgia factor—a new pop punk band on Top 40 radio again, wild—for others, they’re a band. A real band with real music with real influences.  (they wear vintage band t’s and actually listen to the band!!!!)

    It’s difficult for 5SOS to get away from the mentions of One Direction.  While this is tiresome and One Direction doesn’t wholly define 5 Seconds of Summer, the influence is too great to ignore—for now, at least. I’m sure this band would find success without One Direction, but we wouldn’t be buying tickets to their own headlining tour right now if not for pictures of them on Harry Styles’ Instagram or opening tour slots. 1D has given 5SOS the greatest gift in the music industry—exposure. 

    ON BEING CALLED A BOYBAND

    Maybe it’s bad timing for 5 Seconds of Summer to gain popularity in a time when every pop band comprised of attractive young men is immediately slapped with the “NEXT BIG BOY BAND???” headline, or maybe that’s why they’re becoming popular now. From a shallow standpoint, it’s easy to call 5SOS a boyband. Despite forming organically, writing their own music and playing their own instruments (an easy argument for fans to point to), the band is largely marketed through their looks and individual personalities. Youth drives their image, and they are proving to be another textbook example of how to get famous through social media. 

     

  3. Some Summer Song Suggestions

    It’s summertime, and for me, that means a lot of time to listen to new music. Here are a few of my (live version) summer picks:

    The Districts (“Funeral Beds”)

    I literally discovered this band maybe about an hour ago through this Consequence of Sound article. The band comes out of Pennsylvania and they play some passionate, explosive folk rock, complete with some harmonica play. (The best part of the video: vocals/guitarist Rob Grote throwing off his harmonica near the end of the performance.)

    The Mispers (“Dark Bits”)

    I’ve posted a track by The Mispers a couple months ago, but now they’re releasing more music and I’m still captivated by their sound. Based out of London, the alt-rock group is named after the police slang for missing person. The vocals are aggressive and choke-y, and the violin is always a nice touch.

    Catfish and the Bottlemen (“Kathleen,” “Homesick,” and “Pacifier”) 

    Another British pick (North Wales if we’re being particular), this time signed on Communion Records (#bless) jam out some indie rock with as much contagiousness as Peace of The 1975, with the added bonus of a vocalist with beautiful locks of hair. They’ve got Zane Lowe’s stamp of approval, which is more than enough for me. 

    (But just check out this scathing review of one of their live shows..uh oh, maybe they’ll come to Chicago soon so I can check this out for myself)

     
  4. frissonwhenyoulisten:

    // T H E 1 9 7 5 //

     
  5. a playlist for a gritty summer filled with flavor-ice, laughs and being sweaty in the sun and smoke.

    1. ocean blue / twin peaks // 2. how long have you known / diiv // 3. stay in / JAWS // 4.  twin size mattress / the front bottoms // 5. cooking up something good / mac demarco // 6. messed up kids / jake bugg // 7. i wanna be adored / the stone roses // 8. the righteous one / the orwells // 9. warm ridin’ / diarrhea planet // 10. the punks are finally taking acid / FIDLAR // 11. possessed / eagulls // 12. didn’t you / cloud nothings // 13. is this it / the strokes

    listen on 8tracks

     
  6. Ezra Koenig, Vampire Weekend // UIC Pavilion // June 5, 2014

     
  7. Ezra Koenig, Vampire Weekend // UIC Pavilion // June 5, 2014

     

  8. LIVE REVIEW: Vampire Weekend @UIC Pavilion, Chicago 6/5

    Vampire Weekend is a special/sentimental band to me, not only because “M79” was my sister and her husband’s wedding recessional song, but now because they were my first photo pit experience! 

    Even though I was such a rookie, it was such a fun moment running around the pit with the screaming girls behind you and this amazing band doing their thing in front of you. It was a great (albeit pressure filled and lucky) first show to shoot, and I’m excited to do it again. And, it was interesting being around the more ~seasoned~ photogs and hearing bits about their experience.

    But to the truly important things—the show. 

    Vampire Weekend is near flawless live. They’ve got their set down pat, and they’ve perfected a seamless flow song-to-song, transcending their three albums. There wasn’t much stage talk or banter besides Ezra complimenting the Chicago crowd—but no one needed it. Besides, the spotlight on Ezra during “Ya Hey” was all anyone needed, really.

    The night started with Modern Vampires of the City banger “Diane Young” which got the girls really screaming. The crowd was one of my favorites. It ranged from the classic fashion-conscious fan girl (while I was waiting outside I saw a teen girl wearing a green velour long-sleeved crop top, so watch out) to the fratty frat guy to women on a ladies night to absolutely adorable couples. “Horchata” got most of the couples attempting to squeeze in a swing dance in between the rows of seats. 

    The crowd was so happy and enthusiastic and singing to each other and dancing around, and one guy literally pumped his fist and screamed out lyrics while he was leaving.

    "Obvious Bicycle" was another favorite moment of the night. I watched as a few people brought out their lights on their phone, and it eventually caught on until the whole sold-out UIC was waving their lights. It made for a dreamy/dark noted performance. Lighting throughout the show was insane—especially the strobe light sequence at the end of the show that made me wanna barf, but that’s gross. 

    Also, bassist Chris Baio’s footwork/jerky dance moves quickly became my favorite thing of the night. 

    There’s something deliciously off-kilter about Vampire Weekend. They owned the crowd with an oozing ease.

     

  9. One Direction: Why they are my guilty pleasure (and I’m done hiding it!)

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    Being a passionate music fan has its consequences, namely whether people think you are passionate about the “right” type of music. My “guilty pleasure” is One Direction—a pop boy band that society has declared to be simplistic, shallow and embarrassing, mainly because teenage girls being overly passionate about something (especially boys) cannot possibly be taken seriously.

    In Wilson’s “Let’s Talk About Who’s Got Bad Taste” he describes taste as “the pursuit of distinction” (89). Many of my other music favorites stem from recommendations from my friends—who I believe to have a “good” taste in music—and fall into parameters that have a “cool” factor. I want people to think I have the perfect music taste. I want to be accepted by people who have a curated taste in music. This is like Bourdieu’s symbolic power. However, One Direction is an outlier. For the longest time, telling people I love One Direction felt more like a guilty admittance. It’s because listing the band as a favorite doesn’t bring me closer to any type of elite or hipster social circle. We become ashamed for what we love and write it off as a “guilty pleasure” to attempt to throw off some of the shade and make up for it through liking other musicians with more merit.

    Recently, I was hanging out with a group of friends and we started going around the circle listing our musical heroes. There were the obvious classics—Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton—and when everyone turned to me, my friend said “she loves Harry Styles,” and I was dismissed. The realm of One Direction was below their music taste. The band is categorized by “middlebrow” standards because of its large demographic of young girls, making unoriginal and heavily produced mainstream pop music without much work on lyrics or not playing their own instruments. Because they are extremely well known, their cool factor is diminished in the eyes of those with the hipster complex. While people seek refuge in liking the same musicians as others, when that musician is overexposed, their relevance and acceptance decreases over time.

    After two years of being a fan, I am getting over the supposed shame of being passionate about One Direction. Like Wilson says, “pop songs…are so appealing, achieve so much aesthetically for so many people, that snobbery cannot hold the line against them” (85). One Direction has never been “cool.” They are, however, trendy. A girl liking a band of attractive, young boys with accents who have decent voices is still invalidated. People can think I’m unintelligent or uncreative or just another stereotypical girl because I like One Direction, but maybe that’s only because I feel my other tastes in music are more socially acceptable. While judging people on their music taste is prevalent, I’ve gradually stopped caring about the presumptions on my cultural knowledge or even my economic status. Minus social implications, I think a lot more people would enjoy One Direction. 

    article referenced: Carl Wilson, “Let’s Talk About Taste” and “Let’s Talk About Who’s Got Bad Taste”

     

  10. Harry Styles Troubling Gender Norms and Masculinity

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    Harry Styles may be the straight, sexy center of the boy band One Direction, but his insistence on gender neutrality and his public intimacy with other men can be seen as challenging gender norms and expectations.

    When confronted with the heartthrob interview questions about girls, Styles often responds referring to potential love interests as “a person who is…” or uses plural pronouns. While this may subtle, it shows his reverence towards neutrality. He also exhibits small behavior quirks that are feminine, such as wearing a plastic crown at his birthday party, getting a butterfly tattoo, and doing the feminine hip-pop on stage.

    Cohan discusses how the matinee idol had his masculinity undermined by the attention of female fans, and this is present with Styles (21). His female fans idolize his body to the point of him using it as a tool on stage to attract attention. On stage, he can be seen making suggestive gestures and pulling up the hem of his shirt for the fans’ reactions. At the same time, his confidence and assertiveness in his sexuality translates to sex appeal, which gives way to a reassured sense of masculinity. While his body is a main focus, he counters it with aggressive actions, like throwing water bottles and boxing in the air—“tough guy” things.

    Additionally, his friendships with older men cross the barriers of supposed male expectations. Styles was featured on the British show “A League of Their Own.” In the “Kiss Cam” skit, Styles sat on host James Corden’s lap to share a kiss. Before he left, Styles kissed Corden on the forehead for good measure. This was not inherently masculine—especially when there was no warning as an introduction, or no defense against what happened. His friendship and interactions with BBC Radio 1 personality Nick Grimshaw also challenge masculine norms, as the pair publically engages in outings to gay bars and their friend’s bachelorette party donned in long, blonde wigs.

    While his acceptance could be mistaken for queerness, his public persona counters that possibility. He has been pinned by the media as a womanizer and a hot pursued bachelor. Through high-profile relationships with Caroline Flack and Taylor Swift, this neutrality and effeminacy is downplayed. Cohan says, “Because he was a virile movie star who danced, the dualism had the ultimate effect of representing him as manly and effeminate simultaneously,” and this can be applied to Styles as well, when replacing “danced” with “sang” (20). His physical appearance is complete with tattoos and defined muscles—“masculine” things—and while coupled with the different behavior, he plays both roles. While many of his actions are inherently masculine, he troubles the stereotypes and norms of how a man should act in public and around peers. 

    article referenced: Steven Cohan, “Dancing With Balls in the 1940s: Sissies, Sailors and the Camp Masculinity of Gene Kelly”