In and around 5 PM (PST), the initial edition of the Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival gets underway in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. While the historic park has hosted numerous rock concerts over the years, Radiohead will hold the distinction of being the first act to actually play there after sundown. The three-day festie-much like its Tennessee brother-offers up a diverse bill spread across a whopping six stages, so this week’s Mix Tape is dedicated to some of those acts.
We kick things off with one of the bands that actually kick the fest off – San Francisco’s own psychedelic-blues revivalists Howlin’ Rain with Dancers At The End Of Time. How about some hip-hop from another local act? Lets check in with Lyric Born for Callin’ Out. Saturday sees a rare solo set from M. Ward, who has been doing the She & Him thing all summer long. Here’s Matt with Chinese Translation off his fantastic Post-War album. From there we move into one from the night’s headliners, here’s Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers with a live version of his classic American Girl. Early in the day Sunday sees a set from reggae legends Toots & The Maytals who will undoubtedly play their signature tune Funky Kingston. Finally, we close the mix out with a ripping Spiders (Kidsmoke) from Wilco’s career spanning residency at Chicago’s Riviera Theatre.
I’m in San Fran all weekend for the fest, so be sure to become one of our “followers” on Twitter to get loads of updates from throughout the weekend.
For most of 2008, Howlin Rain’s sophomore release Magnificent Fiend has completely dominated my listening. For those of you who don’t know, Howlin Rain is Ethan Miller of Comets on Fire’s other band. The record came out at the beginning of March, but I’d received an advance copy early in the year and took to it immediately.
Howlin Rain’s 2006 eponymous debut was damn good, but in retrospect laid the groundwork that was undeniably built upon with this release. Where the debut was cautiously and deceptively unadorned, MF is full of vintage goodness, sounding like a lost gem from the golden era of album-rock. It brings us back to an age when organic chemistry and clever arrangements lead to an album sounding like a complete, cohesive thought. Ethan Miller’s marathon vocals lie atop a rich tapestry of organs, pianos, horns, and overdriven guitars set against a rock-solid rhythm section. Long story short – Magnificent Fiend kicks serious ass.
After 2+ months of immersing in the record, I was ready to see those tunes live. I finally got my chance March 27 at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. I’d spent so much time with the studio output that I’d conveniently forgotten about how the songs might play out differently live. From the opening moments of Death Prayer in Heaven’s Orchard off the debut, I was quickly reminded that Howlin Rain is a living, breathing organism just beginning to find its legs and navigate through life. Throughout the course of their hour set (which was WAY too short), there were moments of absolute brilliance and moments where the whole thing was hanging on by a thread. The biggest thing I noticed watching Ethan and company navigate through the set was how real it all was. Read on for more…