Alex Lefaivre Quartet: Naufragés (album review by Christa V.)

Alex Lefaivre is a bassist and composer based in Canada. Here he gets together with three friends (Erik Hove on alto saxophone, Nicolas Ferron on guitar, and Alain Bourgeois on drums) to create a new album consisting of five originals and three covers. The music that was created has an energetic, biting energy to it, and you can feel the expression of joy from the musicians. The second track, “Boiler Room,” introduces oscillating sounds from the musicians that throw the listener off but never get out of sync from each other. “Sly” then is a classic spy jazz tune that allows for soloists to shine, and finishing off the album with an inventive and energetic cover of “Immigrant Song” is a perfect way to leave the listener wanting more! Favorite tracks: 2, 6, 8

SoccerMommy @ Governors Ball (festival review by Laura T.)

When Soccer Mommy walked out for her set on Sunday of Governors Ball, you would have thought the whole band was dressed for class, rather than a set at one of the biggest festivals. In their black skinny jeans and tee shirts, they stood in front of a screen with visuals from their latest project, Sometimes, Forever. As the biopsy videos swirled behind Sophie Allison, she began with their biggest hit, Circle the Drain. I noticed how this set took a darker tone than the rest we had heard at Governors Ball. The crowd was at its grungiest point so far, and were enamored by the interludes between each song. Her keyboardist played ambient synth noises under her talk of releasing their new album Sometimes, Forever that was released the week after the festival. The new song featured a pushing drum and reverb-treated vocals, and followed the light atmospheric guitar riffs matched with heavy drums that I have come to expect from Allison. The drums help turn their almost depressing lyrics into anthems. Her new song Newdemo stood out against the rest. With string-like synths and an unaffected guitar with a tamborine (quite a change from the beating drums earlier), the organ-inspired keys and nature-inspired lyrics broke the formula successfully. It featured a muted guitar riff, and eventually built up to the usual soccermommy energy we come to expect.

Photo and Review by Laura T.

Derrick Carter @ smartbar (concert review by Zach N. and Ethan B.)

House music would not be quite what it is today without Chicago, or smartbar, or Derrick Carter. Last Friday, these forces all aligned, and I was lucky enough to be there as well.


Derrick Carter was a major contributor to the evolution of house music in Chicago in the late 80’s and onward, and has remained at the top of the underground house scene ever since. Although its popularity never really died down at any point, house has been undergoing a recent surge within the United States, with Beyonce and Drake among many others recently releasing heavily house-inspired tracks. This span of time was definitely represented in the crowd, with a heavy smattering of people from their early 20’s up through their 40’s and 50’s. There was also a wide range of scenes present, drawing everybody from the t-shirt and jeans crowd to the nothing-but-a-little-bit-of-leather crowd to the unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt and urban outfitters sunglasses crowd. Regardless, everybody was clearly enjoying the set very much, and the full, but not overly crowded dance floor was full of moving feet and smiles.


The impressively long (6 hours!) set was comprised primarily of funky Chicago house music sitting around 126-128 bpm. Derrick Carter tossed in a number of fun remixes and vocal-heavy tracks, including Lemon by N.E.R.D. and Rihanna, and my second favorite Dua Lipa song, Break My Heart. It was all relatively bouncy without a super overpower or blaring bass, and the sound system translated this beautifully.


What truly defined the set as a display of profound skill was Derrick Carter’s masterful usage of dissonance and negative space. I’ve heard it analogized that good DJing is like pulling a string from both ends, letting it wobble, and then having it settle completely taught at just the right moment. This set certainly exemplified that analogy. Over and over, Derrick Carter would build dissension between two tracks as he was mixing, often using the echo and reverb effects on the mixer to accomplish this. Beats would misalign and waver, falling in and out of place. At first it would sound like a mistake, unintentional chaos. The hairs would raise slightly on my arms and I would be shaken from the state of trance that a four-on-the-floor kick drum can so deftly lull you into. But then, invariably at the perfect moment, just as the discordance reached a tipping point between intriguing and irritating, he would bring the tracks together in a way I never could have foreseen. It injected such a powerful and positive energy onto the dance floor; nothing is more gratifying than the perfectly timed dissolution of the threat of disaster.


The show was an artful demonstration and utilization of the deep ties between dance music and the psychology of the subconscious. And so, so much fun.


Photo by Ethan B. and Review by Ethan B. and Zach N.


The Jim Knapp Orchestra: It’s Not Business, It’s Personal (album review by Christa V.)

The Jim Knapp Orchestra is a 13 piece big band led by the trumpeter and composer Jim Knapp. The group primarily plays his original compositions, with no shortage of gusto! The tightness of the ensemble is incredible, you can tell that this is a group of musicians who have been playing together for a while and have experience. Additionally the solos are beautiful and really let the individual musicians shine. Of particular note is the trumpet solo during “Gray Skies” which is carried out with masterful precision and musicality. Overall though, it’s the compositions themselves that shine through here, the pieces seem to be crafted for this particular group of people and you can tell in the way they come together and are performed. Favorite tracks: 3, 5, 8

Gus Dapperton @ Governors Ball (festival review by Laura T.)

My second day at Governor’s Ball in NYC started with indie artist Gus Dapperton. Performing in his home state, he walked out with his band with a shallow hollow body electric. Immediately phones popped up through the crowd. I was surprised how many phones were recording for such an early set, perhaps alluding to his massive internet success found in Prune You Talk Funny. His guitarist pointed at a spot in the crowd where people were dancing and smiled as they started their set with Bluebird, a waltz with a surf-y guitar and synths. 


Even though the crowd was mostly stagnant, with some slight sways or head bobs, the stage was dancing and animated. His keyboardist danced and swayed the whole set, while Dapperton had a host of different dance steps he rotated through. He two-stepped, sashayed, and fake stumbled his way through the set. The crowd was almost sedated, with calm faces and smiles across the whole crowd. Dapperton played his breakthrough hit, Prune You Talk Funny, fourth in the set. I hadn’t heard the song in a while, even though it was a song I often listened to in high school. This live performance included an absolutely rediculous dum break down which amped up the crowd significantly. 


It was then that I had realized that the calm feeling that washed the crowd was nostalgia for the bedroom pop era of our lives, high school for me, but for the surprisingly young crowd of Gov Ball it could have been middle school or even younger. The song was followed by My Favorite Fish, a ballad with a huge build up, and Palms. Palms was introduced with a metronome that sped up until it hit the tempo of the song–-commanding my piquing heart beat and interest– -matching the build of the previoous song. 


Dapperton finished his set, but then quickly came back for a two song encore. Finishing with two songs off of his most recent album Orca, as graphics matching the album art flashed on the screen and in front of the keyboardist while they performed the hit Post Humourous and the crowd broke into contained, small, dances. All in all, a solid performance from an artist who was able to take me back in musical-taste-time while still keeping me engaged with newer music.


Review and Photo by Laura T.

Joji @ Governors Ball (festival review by Ciaran C.)

Throughout our Saturday Governors Ball coverage, it was clear to both Laura and me that Joji’s performance was a highly anticipated one: from our interviewed attendees saying that they were most excited to see his set to the groups of media personnel planning to cover it, the signs for that traditional, cramped shoulder-to-shoulder festival set that we briefly lost to COVID were all there. Even an hour before his set, as big names like Roddy Rich and Denzel Curry performed, the crowd forming in the pit was comparable to the peaks of smaller performances from earlier. People crammed in to get the best spots while it was still possible. Seemingly anticipating that this crowd would bring problems, security staff indiscriminately threw packets of emergency water into the crowd, striking those in the pit (myself included) every other minute. The incessant pelting of emergency water packets eventually gave way to the crowd’s screams as Joji came on stage after a few minutes’ delay.

Accompanied by hazy retro visuals and guitar backings that often drowned his voice out, this set was heavily defined by an air of melancholy and sadness that often defines his discography. Split between songs from Nectar and Ballads 1, he maintained a very minimal stage presence, occasionally interjecting between songs to express his love for New York, and, more commonly, throwing miniature bags of chips into the crowd, claiming that “sharing is caring”. It seemed incredibly strange to me that a man known for a brash and eccentric YouTube personality only a few years earlier could make the transition into such a reserved performer. This lack of stage presence didn’t seem to affect the crowd at all, though: they weren’t there for theatrics, but rather, to experience the music. Occasionally, I caught glimpses of people with tears welling up in their eyes or small groups of people swaying together: these groups reminded me of how difficult it is to truly review a performance, as it is impossible for one to experience it through the perspectives of everyone in attendance.

As the sun began to sink below the stage and the crowd became wearier, the encore began: a slow acoustic rendition of Slow Dancing In The Dark preluded an abrupt fake-out transition into the regular version of this song, sending fans into hysterics as they pumped the last bits of their energy into singing along to the chorus (even I put out a word or two). Then, just as abruptly as it had begun, the encore ended, with Joji taking a short moment to appreciate the crowd before retiring backstage. Overall, I would say I enjoyed this performance, as despite not knowing much of Joji’s discography, I was truly captivated by how he managed to enthrall the audience with so little engagement, and I was astonished to see how deeply his music affected those around me.

review and photo by ciaran c.


Tove Lo @ Governors Ball (festival review by Ciaran C.)

It’s no secret that if you grew up as a gay teenager in the early/mid-2010s, Tove Lo is a household name. From her mainstream radio success with Habits (Stay High) to her dive out of despair with Disco Tits, we can seemingly track every moment of our teenage years to a point in Tove Lo’s musical career.


Her Governors Ball set last Saturday was a well welcomed and incredibly cherished addition to this collection of moments: strutting onto the stage in a star-emblazoned leather ensemble, her hour-long performance was a fluid one featuring slinky movements and lots of gyrations. The crowd swayed along and cheered with her, throwing up beach balls and peace signs into the sweltering sky above Governors Ball’s main NYC Stage. Accompanying her hypnotizing movements was an array of swirling and trippy visuals, with deep landscapes of purple and pink overlaying clips from previous music videos and slowly traversing the stage. Her set encompassed seemingly every point of her career, from the beginnings nearly a decade ago to recent unreleased hits. However, there were some moments that truly stood out: Disco Tits saw Tove Lo accompanied by a sea of screaming fans and boob visuals as she paced around the stage in a sultry way. As I swayed around with the crowd, I felt oddly as if I had reached some full circle: I felt as if I was in the middle of some Tumblr edit that may have crossed my young-teenage dashboard. Taking the cake, though, was her Talking Body performance: in the middle of the second chorus, she fiddles with her ornate leather top and flashes the crowd for the entire second chorus, sending the crowd into screams and cheers. Overall, her stage presence was incredibly captivating, and only intensified the energy that oozed from her songs. With a potential upcoming album teased, I (and the early gay teenager inside me) will be waiting eagerly to see if she graces Detroit with her leathery, provocative, and exciting stage presence.


Review by Ciarán C., Photo by Laura T.

Diesel (Shaquille O'Neal) @ Governors Ball (festival review by Laura T.)

When I heard that Shaquille O’Neal would be playing Governors Ball under the DJ name Diesel, I thought it was an absurd joke. While Shaq really did play Governors Ball Saturday, the absurdity stayed with me through his entire set. I had found myself right by the barricade to the stage, surrounded by teenage boys waving Heat, Pistons, and Lakers jerseys around. The crowd was so energized, cheering and chanting for Shaq’s crew as they set up a dj table made for a giant. When Shaq finally did walk on stage, the crowd erupted. 


The set that followed would be exactly what you expect from Shaquille O'Neil. Full of loud bass and smoke machines, Shaq played hits such as Mo Bamba and Nonstop, to a song from the Zelda soundtrack and I Write Sins Not Tragedies. He switched relatively quickly between each song, almost as to not allow for the crowd to get bored. Each track switch was like whiplash, often switching tempos significantly and always swapping genres and mood. While the setlist was chaotic, it was clear the Shaq took his DJing incrediblt seriously, and entertained the crowd incredibly well. From Shaq himself, he would alternate between yelling “Where’s my mosh pit?” and phrases like “let’s go New York!” every minute or so. He would often invite people on stage, and had the vip festival goers join him on stage, cowering in the corner and videotaping him silently. Of the people he invited onstage, one man got behind the dj booth and was barely to be seen above the table, putting into perspective the behemoth who was dropping tracks in front of me. 


The crowd was the rowdiest I had seen that day, with everyone headbanging and moshing. I lost my lens cap several times in the mosh before I had to surrender and retreat from the chaos. He had attracted the ravers, the high school boys, and the occasional middle aged adult. Most were just there to see Shaq in real life, as one girl asked me, “is he just going to play other people’s songs?” The overall tone of the set was definitely swayed by this sentiment, as many were watching in disbelief of the set in front of them. Despite that, Diesel's performance held its own, and didn't need his impressive legacy to bolster it, even though that definitely helped bring in the crowds. This set was certainly unforgettable and I was impressed by Shaq’s dedication to DJing as an already world-class athelte.


Review and Photo by Laura T.

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