Allison Taich

Review: Northwest String Summit

Northwest String Summit @ Horning’s Hideout – July 21-24

In 2002 the Horning Family of North Plains, Oregon welcomed roughly 1,000 guests to their breath-taking Horning’s Hideout for the inaugural Northwest String Summit (NWSS), hosted by Yonder Mountain String Band (YMSB). Now, 10 festivals later the NWSS has become the Pacific Northwest’s go-to acoustic music festival.

The 10th annual “Strummit” ran July 21-24, 2011 featuring over 15 bands on one stage, including three three-hour headlining sets by YMSB. This year marked the largest Strummit yet welcoming: the first official Thursday opening, the Cascadia Coffee House, a new forest hollow acoustic stage, free late night sets and an official Kinfolk Hall of Fame induction. Between the rolling green trails, sky-scraping trees, peacocks and endless acoustic jams the NWSS was truly a picker’s paradise that can only be summed up as “You had to be there.”

The gates to bluegrass Eden opened on Thursday, July 21 to the tune of Pete Kartsounes and Benny “Burle” Galloway. At dusk the evening turned into a Midwestern jamgrass haven featuring Chicago’s Cornmeal followed by Greensky Bluegrass from Kalamazoo, Michigan.

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Review: DMB Caravan – Chicago

Dave Matthews Band Caravan @ Lakeside Chicago – July 8-10

The Dave Matthews Band’s roving music festival Caravan made its second stop at Chicago’s Lakeside on July 8 – 10. The festival featured 38 bands spread over three days and three stages, and the Dave Matthews Band (DMB) closed out each night with three-hour performances. For DMB fans I am sure the experience was heavenly; as for the rest of us Caravan was exhausting, yet it had its perks. I was drawn to Caravan for primarily two reasons: The Flaming Lips were performing The Dark Side of the Moon and the festival was at a new, never-before used site on the south side of the Windy City.

Chicago geography is strange in that one side of the city may as well be a different state from the other. Those who live anywhere north of the Loop, aka downtown, rarely venture south of the Loop and vice versa. Caravan was stationed at an old U.S. Steel Plant near 83rd street off Lake Michigan, roughly nine miles south of downtown. The festival’s location was a great tactic to draw life and money into the under served community.

Initially I was pumped about Caravan; Flaming Lips and a south side adventure! Being a Chicagoan I tend to travel by bus or train. The press release for the festival read “easily access Lakeside” by public transportation. Alright, sounded easy enough. The first red flag was when I Googled directions, the site did not register on the map. Weird, but no problem, I thought. I would just hop on the train and hope for the best. The second red flag raised when it took me two to three hours each way to get to and fro the grounds. I participated in a pilgrimage revolved around a band I did not necessarily care for.

READ ON for more of Allison’s take on DMB Caravan Chicago…

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Video: Yellowbirds – The Reason

Psych-folk rockers Yellowbirds released a new music video for their third single The Reason. Directed and animated by Yellowbirds front man Sam Cohen, the video employs stop motion collage animation,

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Review: Hangout Festival, Day Three

Hangout Festival @ Gulf Shores, AL – May 22

The third and final day of the 2nd Hangout Festival in Gulf Shores, AL was perhaps the hottest of the festival. There was hot and then there was scorching hot where moving across the beach was a task. For the better half of three days I trucked around barefoot, burying my feet and squishing sand between my toes. However Sunday was so hot, walking barefoot in the sand felt similar to walking on a bed of hot coals.

[All photos by Allison Taich]

I left “home” early to take a dip in the ocean with plans to hit Hangout in time to celebrate my favorite one-man-band Keller Williams. Unfortunately Keller was billed at the same time as Old Crow Medicine Show, but I made the decision to stick with Keller. The Sunday sun was ruthless, making Keller the best wake and bake of Hangout. I am confident in saying that his set was responsible for the worst sun burn I endured all weekend.

Heat aside Keller buoyantly bounced around stage creating live loops linked to a free flow of words. His set took shape with interpretations of the Grateful Dead’s Scarlet Begonias > Fire on the Mountain, melted into his signature Freakshow, which Keller noted “bass by the Grateful Dead words by Ani DiFranco.” He then blazed through the ultimate “Crazy” medley, combining songs of past and present emulating a “crazy” theme, sampling everyone from Patsy Cline to Gnarls Barkley.

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Review: Hangout Festival, Day Two

Hangout Music Festival @ Gulf Shores, AL – May 21

According to 90-year-old California Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping, Saturday, May 21 was supposed to be the day of Rapture. For over 35,000 music fans Saturday, May 21 was also day two of the Hangout Festival.

On the agenda were Primus, Flaming Lips and Foo Fighters with some Cee Lo Green slipped in between. Who better to bring the world to an end than the Flaming Lips? I began my day hiding from the blazing Alabama sun (or was that spiritual judgment?) at the Boom Boom Room (an outdoor stage encased in a white tent) with Australian flame Xavier Rudd.

Rudd simultaneously mastered percussion, didgeridoo, harmonica, guitar, lap steel and vocals. His organic sound created an elaborate sonic texture, which framed original lyrics of political and social mind. Rudd’s songs moved from folk to exotic, energetic, aboriginal rhythms driving every body in the audience to stomp, clap and shake to the beat. As Rudd sang about peace, freedom and spiritual balance the crowd cried out for more.

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Review: Hangout Festival, Day One

After enduring a round-trip total of 28 hours in a Rav4 and extreme sunburn, I managed to survive the 2nd annual Hangout Music Festival on the beaches of Gulf Shores, AL. The sold-out festival featured three days of incendiary music, including over 60 acts right on the Gulf Coast. Festival headliners included Paul Simon, Foo Fighters and Widespread Panic, and those were not even the weekend’s best sets.

Gulf Shores was the epitome of a tacky tourist town; think Myrtle Beach crossed with Wisconsin Dells, with an added pinch of southern hospitality. The main strip, Highway 59, was lined with attractions including over the top souvenir shops, an amusement park (featuring the Wild Woody go-cart track, definitely worth the ride), bold colored beach houses and neon-lit restaurants including oyster bars and shrimp shacks.

The festival itself was set on the beach, roughly 25 feet from the coast. Everyday the sun beamed down from cloudless skies, incinerating the flesh of thousands of scantily clad fans. Stumbling through sand, insane music fans and sweaty southerners while watching the likes of My Morning Jacket, the Flaming Lips and Ween made the Hangout Festival a priceless experience. When the overabundance of skin and scorching temperatures became too much, all one had to do was walk a block out of the festival grounds, and take a dip in the ocean. I was honored to represent Hidden Track in witnessing all the glory the Hangout Festival had to offer.

Day 1: Easy Star All-Stars, Umphrey’s McGee, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, My Morning Jacket

Hangout officially kicked off Friday May 20 to 85 degree heat and blazing sunny skies. I started my experience with some mid-afternoon, soul soothing dub-reggae by the Easy Star All-Stars (ESA). The seven-piece collective are best known for their dub renditions of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (Dub Side of the Moon), Radiohead’s OK Computer (Radiodread) and the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band). ESA heated the afternoon with signature Dub Side and Radiodread selections. They also performed original songs off their April 2011 release First Light, the collective’s first full-length album of original songs.

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Review: Neutral Uke Hotel @ Schuba’s

Neutral Uke Hotel @ Schuba’s, April 23

A sold-out crowd gathered at Schuba’s in Chicago on April 23 to hear a live ukulele tribute to Neutral Milk Hotel’s beloved 1998 classic In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. The band responsible for the feat was Neutral Uke Hotel, lead by Golden Bloom multi-instrumentalist and singer Shawn Fogel, baritone ukulele contemporary Michael J. Epstein of the Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library and The Motion Sick, Matt Girard on pocket trumpet and euphonium, Josh Cohen on melodica and Andrew Laubacher on percussion. The complex, cryptic and texture rich “Aeroplane” was seamlessly and sentimentaly stripped down, simplified and movingly played via ukulele.

While the band tuned up Fogel set the mood for the next 45 minutes. “Tonight is not about us,” Fogel said, “but about what we are going to create. Do whatever you need to do. Sing at the top of your lungs like a big campfire and celebrate Neutral Milk Hotel!”

The audience followed Fogel’s directions and journeyed deep into the surreal twisting of Jeff Mangum’s words. From the stage the band appeared equally wrapped up in the moment, swaying between minor harmonies and seamlessly transitioning between songs.

Fogel’s vocals accurately matched Mangum’s nasally folk croon, which added to the authenticity. Neutral Uke Hotel chiseled away detailed layering the original recording held doing away with much of the heavy electric distortion and fuzz folk, and opting for the psychedelic lo-fi fixings of a melodica. Neutral Uke Hotel’s simplified acoustic approach highlighted the emotional intensity of the albums lyrical content, making way for cryptic moments of instrumental silence. READ ON for more on Neutral Uke Hotel…

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Review: DeVotchKa @ HOB Chicago

DeVotchKa, March 31 @ House of Blues – Chicago

Worldly romantics DeVotchKa performed a sonic drama ripe with emotions on March 31 at the House of Blues in Chicago. The Denver quartet played selections spanning their five-album catalog including a number of songs off of their latest release, 100 Lovers.

There really is no easy way to describe DeVotchKa. Their music is deep rooted in exotic feelings, desires and cinematic tones. In its most basic form it carries multiple cultures and scapes of music. DeVotchKa are sonic jet setters out to share melodies and harmonic dialects from all over the world. Their music represents a crossroad of deep rooted tradition and contemporary story telling, best described with imagery (as opposed to buzzwords such as rock, pop, folk, etc.)

Every note DeVotchKa played glided around the House of Blues with rich layers of perpetual melodies. I listened to the music with my eyes closed tight. I felt circular rhythms flow through my mind and awake my imagination. The vibrant music lead me to distant lands far from home; I imagined riding a caravan through a desert at dusk seeing yellows, pinks and blues blending in the sky. I could feel the dry, chilled night air and shadows of canons in the distance. Suddenly the music shifted gears and lead me to a Spanish villa, then to a sultry Eastern European café located down a dark cobblestone alley. READ ON for more of Allison’s thoughts and images…

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