Virgin Fest Review – Part Two

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Spoon

We arrived at Pimlico around 2:00 in the afternoon; a couple of songs into Matisyahuís set on the South Stage. The bearded Hasidic reggae artist extraordinaire had already drawn a sizeable crowd by the time I arrived. Matisyahu has gained fame for being a novelty act for sure, but the man can certainly dish out rhyme and groove. His beatboxing on ďLate Night In ZionĒ was the highlight of his set, dropping several jaws in the audience.

During the instrumental bridge on one of his songs, the lithe Matisyahu scampered up a stack of speakers to the right of the stage and clung to the scaffolding, waving out to the crowd. This was probably the most prominent stage antic I witnessed on stage prior to seeing Yeah Yeah Yeahs perform on the North Stage later that day. For the most part, the artists were complacent and werenít keen on leaping into the crowd, spitting blood, or busting their instruments. After hearing a few songs, my next destination was the North Stage to catch Spoon.

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Virgin Fest Review – Part One

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Three months after purchasing the tickets, the Virgin Fest date had pulled up to the driveway. My colleague and I had all we needed and departed somewhat late, inevitably causing us to miss Fountains of Wayne (something I wasnít too concerned about). We were about fifteen minutes down the stretch of 95 between DC and Baltimore when Eddie Moneyís ďTwo Tickets to ParadiseĒ came on the radio. My colleague suddenly says ďoh shit, the tickets!Ē I suppose Eddie Money finally did some good in the world by prompting a spark of memory and preventing two concert-goers from embarrassed idiocy at the gates.

Our arrival at Pimlico was greeted by instant sweat and a lot of people on the sidewalk selling a lot of shit at ridiculous prices. Pimlico Race Track is best known as the home of the Preakness Stakes, the shortest leg of the Triple Crown. Thatís all I ever care to know about the venue. I reveled in the idea that this lightning rod for yuppie starched collars and people who give a shit about horseracing was destined to become a haven for freaks, bad beer, loud music, and a lot of weed during the weekend of August 4th.

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Rocky Votolato The Brag & Cuss [Barsuk]

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Rating: 6.0

Slide guitar and harmonica are the dusky super duo in country and folk rock, melding like beer and chips, steak and potatoes, or cheese and crackers. A band could be composed of a troupe of retarded turtles, but if thereís slide guitar and harmonica, you canít help but tap your toes. Seattle folkster Rocky Votolato incorporates plenty of both on his second record with Barsuk, The Brag & Cuss. The singer-songwriter melds a warm retro approach with an organic vibe to create a record that is as comforting as a crackling campfire.

Postcard from Kentucky [mp3]

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Immaculate Machine Fables [Mint Records]

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Rating: 7.0

Maybe itís the humidity, but Immaculate Machineís music conjures up images of cropped-haired liberal arts girls wearing American Apparel panties and high socks dancing in dorms. Itís either erotic or infuriating, a feeling I sometimes run into with indie pop releases that are painted with pastels, keyboards, and clean guitars. But as I will say again and again, if thereís substance in the music, those imaginary theater majors can dance in my head as long as they want. The Canadian trioís whimsical approach to tune-crafting on Fables weaves a lovely tapestry of jangly hits that stick like glue.

Dear Confessor [mp3]

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Tool – Live in Baltimore

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For me, Tool is something of an experience. Sure, the atmospherics and mystical content are retarded at first glance, but there is much more depth in Toolís music than most credit. Iím mostly talking about writers over at Pitchfork and Stylus who leap at the opportunity to cut an hour of writing time by pasting failing grades on the bandís albums and not much else. I can understand not liking modern metal, but reading verbose jargon about how Tool is somehow the epitome of shit because they arenít an Englishman with crooked teeth and a Rickenbacker is particularly grating. Tool is a lesser Led Zeppelin, not only because of the mystique and lyrical content, but because Tool is a band of four musical virtuosos. Adam Jones is a modern hero of the rock guitar, pulling more effects out of limited pedals than magicianís tricks out of a hat. Danny Carey can pound drums like a Ben Hur slave-driver on speed. Justin Chancellor can make his bass sound like a screaming guitar, synth funk machine, or metal factory at the turn of a beat. And Maynard James Keenan can bellow out so much disgust, loathing, and incendiary blast furnace rage that he could make it an Olympic event.

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The Go Find Stars on the Wall [Morr Music]

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Rating: 6.3

The Go Find is a characteristic melodic indie band of the latter half of the Ought Decade, drawing on the twee pop and lovable aching of bands like Death Cab for Cutie. However, this solo project is from the other side of the Atlantic in the heart of Belgium. Dieter Sermeus incorporates jangling guitar arpeggios with plenty of digitization and somber lyrics. He has a penchant for thick synthetic bass and mid-tempo marches which glaze over the production in a viscosity that gives weight, but never glowers. Although most of Stars on the Wall is familiar, thereís plenty of genuine sweetness to appeal to college rockers and starry-eyed dreamers alike.

Dictionary [mp3]

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All Smiles Ten Readings of a Warning [Dangerbird]

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Rating: 5.5

What do you get when you mix a former guitarist of a respected indie outfit, chiming guitars, a piano, and a lot of ooey-gooey feeling? Well, generally you get shit, but in this case itís not quite that extreme and at least itís not a major label doing the dumping. All Smiles is the name for the pet project of former Grandaddy guitarist Jim Fairchild. The Modesto axeman teams up with Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney and Joe Plummer of Modest Mouse to form his solo debut, Ten Readings of a Warning. Although Fairchild certainly knows how to spin a yarn and deal out wild poetry with both his voice and his instrument, the album is largely a mixed bag of a few standouts and a lot of dull.

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