The Final Say: Lollapalooza 2014

It's an entirely different prospect to see music in a festival context, a bloated macrocosm of the cultural landscape that's entirely distinct from an intimate club setting. Scanning Lollapallooza's 2014 line-up would elicit a positive reaction from any music fan, with a breadth of big-name artists spanning multiple genres, but the high cost of entry and the claustrophobic crowd would serve as enough of a barrier for anyone who is only interested in a few of the acts. And so Lollapallooza - possibly the largest festival in the world, packing out 7 stages with rotating performances sprawling over several Chicago blocks - becomes a commune of folks who "love all kinds of music", whether that phrase is accurate or representative of their base engagement with the nuances of the art. Some in attendance truly were excited by the prospect of being exposed to new artists and taking in some of their favorites, some were so plastered they couldn't even tell me the name of a single group they'd seen that day. A large chunk of the people present were young, rowdy, and taking in the sounds as an accent to their drug experience. This was one of many ways people engage with the huge range of music, with a line-up so stacked people curated their own routes ahead of time. The show could truly become whatever you wanted it to be, a straight-ahead onslaught of some of the biggest names in a particular genre, or an opportunity to catch a wide array of notable artists.

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Being It: The World of Arthur Russell

Arthur Russell
Among the (pop) music cognoscenti Arthur Russell holds an almost vatic position, if only for the seemingly supernatural breadth of his oeuvre, one that just about spans the entirety of the American musical landscape, from disco to folk to classical and every little genre-niche in between. Then there are his basic, almost preposterous, biographical facts: he was a classically trained cellist from Iowa, a one-time Buddhist monk-in-training, Allen's Ginsberg's lover for a time, a primitive god of late-70’s disco, and a close friend of Phillip Glass—on multiple occasions the well-known minimalist offered Russell, ever-humble, a venue in which to perform his more avant-garde classical compositions. While Russell’s influence is undeniable, it has seeped into the fabric of modern music to such a degree that it's almost unnoticeable. He's the ground hum you never hear, the drone you don't notice simply because it's always there.

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The Lives of Others: Low End Theory Documentary

At dusk this past Sunday, devotees of the LA beat scene lined up outside the cosy indie-cinema Downtown Independent (whose staff seemed to be used to a smaller crowd) in Los Angeles to see the worldwide premiere of Looking for the Perfect Beat. A highlight in the Downtown Film Festival schedule, the hour-long documentary centers around the Wednesday night anti-club/incubator for experimental beats and underground culture, Low End Theory. Yet, the film steers away from the night itself, only visiting the Airliner (the event venue) briefly at the movie’s end; instead, Looking for the Perfect Beat is about snatching a private moment with the oft-mythologized artists behind Low End in their bedroom studios.

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RA Sessions: Machinedrum

Machinedrum, the most popular moniker of veteran North Carolina producer Travis Stewart, is never too far from these pages. However, his latest efforts have been subsumed under the conceptual project that Stewart has in Vapor City, the metropolis that he visited in dreams when caught in between New York and Berlin. Whilst his recent performance for Resident Advisor’s RA Sessions also draws from the same concept (in that all of the tracks are off of the Vapor City LP), the set allows fans to observe Stewart materialized from reveries, outside of the faded alleys and streets of his footwork-infused cityscape.

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Nehru and DOOM's "Darkness (HBU)"

Like the good noise coming from Joey Badass and his Pro Era crew, Bishop Nehru’s sound spans generations and genres within the rap scene. Even at age 15, Nehru put out a mixtape featuring productions from the boom-bap greats, including J. Dilla, DJ Premier, and Madlib. In his latest offering, “Darkness (HBU)”, the Bishop is accompanied by productions from underground hip-hop villain MF DOOM, whose smooth instrumental adds a softer edge to Nehru’s boiling angst. Similar to those favored by the Pro Era crew, the instrumental is a throwback: well-worn horns call out through the thump and slap of a drum machine rhythm, and a funk bass line chugs along under Bishop Nehru’s dark lyrics: “cruel, cruel world, all I’m seeing is darkness.” Even the music video has an older feel, nostalgic in simplicity and faded around the edges as if obscured by time.

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At a Glance: PHOX

It’s not surprising that the band PHOX shares similar characteristics to the Ringling Brothers of the world famous Ringling Brothers Circus, being that they are native to the same hometown Baraboo, Wisconsin. One has to wonder if there is something in the water of the small midwest town that's creating these magical and talented acts that can make melodies soar, send shivers up your spine, and generate an epidemic of applause. Thus, it felt more than natural to want to get some more details on the magical enigma that is PHOX. We got in touch with one-sixth of the sextet, keyboardist Matteo Roberts, who provided us some insight into the enchanting band.

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Young Widows, Growing Souls

Before their June 25th show at Bunk Bar Water in Portland, Oregon, I sat with Young Widows guitarist/vocalist Evan Patterson in the band’s musky tour van. Behind the venue, trains whistled and ground the tracks as Patterson—a burly fellow with long, disheveled hair, a barrel chest, and tattoos that look branded onto his skin—kindly spoke to me about the band’s newest (and in my opinion, most accomplished) album, the Louisville sound, and growing as a musician and person in these scattered times.

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  • Point Grey
    A column centered around features by writer Paul Thompson, who's main focus is hip-hop music, news, and the culture.