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Last Saturday was my first BFD, and it was awesome.  BFD is a Bay Area all-day outdoor music festival put on by San Francisco radio station LIVE 105, which features mostly alternative and mainstream rock.  I’ve wanted to go ever since high school, but never ended up making it out to the Shoreline until this year.  I’m glad I did.  Here’s who I saw and what I thought:

The Airborne Toxic Event

Blistering, majestic viola-enhanced, anthemic rock that lives up to the bands advance hype. USA TODAY  Photo credit: Band MySpace

"Blistering, majestic viola-enhanced, anthemic rock that lives up to the band's advance hype." (USA TODAY) Photo credit: The Airborne Toxic Event's MySpace

I’d heard lots of people say they liked The Airborne Toxic Event before, but I have to admit, I was ready to dislike this band.  Until they started playing.  First, there was the cool Asian guy on guitar.  Then, the girl who was singing/playing keyboard started playing viola — and not just playing it for the sake of having a viola in the band, but really legitimately harmonizing and adding to the sound.  Then, the bass player started playing his bass like a cello, with a bow and everything.  Then, the cool Asian guy swapped his guitar for keyboard duties, causing a girl behind us to remark excitedly, “Cool Asian Guy is playing the keyboard!”  The whole band had really good energy and sounded awesome live.  They have solid musical theory behind their songs, which makes me confident that their popularity will carry beyond their single “Sometime Around Midnight”.  Thumbs up.

Dizzy Balloon

Dizzy Balloon

"Dizzy Balloon, a band with an infectious pop sensibility....were like the class clowns in AP English -- juvenile without being delinquents, fun yet smart." (SF Gate) Photo Credit: Dizzy Balloon's MySpace

Alex highly recommended Oakland pop rock band Dizzy Balloon to me after they stole the show when they opened for The Jakes at UCSD.  After BFD, I will agree — they are hands down one of the most fun live bands I’ve ever watched.  The audience can tell they’re having a blast playing, and that enthusiasm and energy is infectious.  Their keyboardist was my favorite; he dances while he plays, and I think I even saw him throw in a bhangra move or two.  They’re playing at the Oakland Metro this Saturday with The Cataracs, one of Davin’s top local picks.  I’ll be out of town, unfortunately, but if you can make it out there, you should not miss it.  Catch Dizzy Balloon now before they hit it huge.  Thumbs up.

Alkaline Trio

Alkaline Trio headlined the Bud Light Festival Stage in an encore performance at BFD 2009.  Photo credit Steve Jennings, live105.com.

Alkaline Trio headlined the Bud Light Festival Stage in an encore performance at BFD 2009. Photo credit: Steve Jennings, live105.com.

Alkaline Trio was a bit of a disappointment at BFD this year.  I thought they lacked the distinctive, raw vocals that made Crimson and Good Mourning such good albums — maybe touring the U.S. and Canada with The Offspring has them tired.  Thumbs down, I’m sorry to say.

MC Lars

MC Lars headlined the Local Lounge stage at BFD 2009.  Photo Credit: MC Lars MySpace

MC Lars headlined the Local Lounge stage at BFD 2009. Photo Credit: MC Lars' MySpace

Over at the the Local Lounge stage, however, headliner MC Lars delivered a great live set as usual.  It’s pretty incredible that I haven’t blogged about  him yet, because he’s one of my favorite artists.  For now, suffice it to say that he is an English major from Stanford who blends old school hip-hop references with snarky social commentary and literary allusions.  He and his friends rocked the stage and got the crowd jumping with a mix of old favorites (“Download this Song,” “Hot Topic (Is Not Punk Rock)”) and new tracks from his 2009 album This Gigantic Robot Kills.  It’s always a good sign when the crowd seems to know all the lyrics to all the songs by heart.  Thumbs up.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Karen O. rocks her poncho and the mic during the Yeah Yeah Yeahs set.  Photo credit Steve Jennings, live105.com.

Karen O. rocks her poncho and the mic during the Yeah Yeah Yeahs set. Photo credit: Steve Jennings, live105.com.

On the main stage, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were busy being their loveably weird selves.  At various points during their set, Karen O. donned a large neon poncho; put a towel on her head; and jammed her microphone into her mouth, leaned waaay backward, and screamed.  At the end of the set, they fired what appeared to be hundreds of fluttering white moths out of a special white-moth-firing-cannon, much to the delight of the box seat audience below and, later, the local birds.  I can’t claim to be  the hugest Yeah Yeah Yeahs fan, but I do value their artistic statements (however inexplicable).  Thumbs sideways?

The Offspring

The Offspring headline the main stage at Shoreline.  Photo credit Steve Jennings, live105.com.

The Offspring headline the main stage at Shoreline. Photo credit: Steve Jennings, live105.com.

I couldn’t have asked for a better performance from festival headliner The Offspring.  They knew the crowd, which ranged from college students to highschoolers to families with small but awesome children, was there to hear classic Offspring, and rose to the occassion magnificently.  They hit all the favorites  (“The Kids Aren’t Alright,” “Come Out and Play,” “Why Don’t You Get a Job?,”) and made a nod to their newer ones (“Hammerhead”), sounding just as great live as they do in the recording studio.  Lead singer Dexter Holland even did a gorgeous piano arrangement of “Gone Away” he’s been working on, which was arguably better than the original.  Joining the band and 22,000 fans in sold-out Shoreline Amphitheatre singing “Self Esteem” was the perfect end to an awesome day.  Thumbs up.

The Metros are an indie rock band from south London.  Think The Libertines, if they were young enough to have gone to high school with you.

What The Metros lack in originality, they make up for in playful swagger.  Here’s a catchy single, “Last of the Lookers,” off their 2008 album, More Money Less Grief:

I love the lead singer’s suspenders, and the slangy British lyrics that make a minimum of sense to someone here on the other side of the Atlantic:

‘Cos we’re the south east lovers
Yeah we’re the last of the lookers
Wrapped up topshop coked up sweethearts know
Wrapped up topshop coked up sweethearts know

I met a girl, thought she was the bee’s knees
Turns out she’s ain’t even from Brockley, oh

The Metros, “Last of the Lookers”

Even when I know what they’re saying, I still don’t really know what they’re saying, but I have a damn good time singing along.  I think they’re worth keeping an eye out for as they continue to mature and develop their own sound.

If you like, you can view the band’s official website, watch the videos for singles “Talk About It” and “Education Pt. 2″, or read album reviews of “More Money Less Grief”.

“I Fought the Law” was originally recorded in 1959 by rock & roll group Sonny Curtis and the Crickets.

Sonny Curtis (second from right) and the Crickets

Sonny Curtis (second from right) and the Crickets

It has since been covered by pretty much every artist ever, and then some.

You know you have a hit on your hands when Colin Farrell asks to cover your song.

You know you have a hit on your hands when the venerated Colin Farrell asks to cover your song.

By far the most famous covers of “I Fought the Law” are by the Bobby Fuller Four, the Clash, the Dead Kennedys, and Green Day, whose version was used in an early iTunes commercial.

I’m partial to the cover by the Dead Kennedys, a 1980s hardcore punk group, because I once did a report on its lyrical meaning for history class.

The Dead Kennedys (Klaus Fluoride, Jello Biafra, East Bay Ray, and Ted) protest the commercialism of the music industry.Early Dead Kennedys: bassist Klaus Fluoride, vocalist Jello Biafra, guitarist East Bay Ray, and drummer Ted, protesting the commercialism of the music industry.

Jello Biafra, one of the most bad-assed and politically incendiary frontmen in the history of punk rock (and that’s saying something for an inherently bad-assed and politically incendiary genre of music), rewrote the lyrics of the song in a sarcastic derision of the controversial trial of Dan White.

You’ll recall from this blog’s reviews of Milk that White was the San Francisco city supervisor who assassinated fellow supervisor Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone in 1978.

Former San Francisco City Supervisor Dan White

Former San Francisco City Supervisor Dan White

What Milk doesn’t cover is the aftermath of the killings and White’s subsequent trial in 1979.  White, a former police officer, turned himself in to authorities as the shooter later that day, whereupon his old coworkers allegedly applauded him.

His trial saw the introduction of the infamous “Twinkie Defense”.  White’s lawyers argued that he should not be convicted of murder because his capacity for rational thought was diminished in the days leading up to the shootings.  His lawyers offered as evidence of White’s altered state of mind his uncharacteristic consumption of junk food.

They did not argue, as the film misstated, that a chemical imbalance resulting from eating junk food prompted White to carry out the shootings.

In any case, the jury bought the argument and found White guilty of voluntary manslaughter rather than first degree murder, convicting him to only seven years in prison as opposed to a life sentence.  This sentence, criticized by many as being an overly lenient one delivered by a jury sympathetic to White’s status as an ex-policeman, sparked the White Night Riots in San Francisco.  Jello Biafra rewrote the song from Dan White’s point of view, and many of his lyrics reflect this anger as well:

“The law don’t mean shit if you’ve got the right friends

That’s how this country’s run

Twinkies are the best friend I’ve ever had

I fought the law and I won”

“I’m the new folk hero of the Klu Klux Klan

My cop friends think that’s fine

You can get away with murder if you’ve got a badge

I fought the law and I won”

Jello Biafra, the Dead Kennedys

For your comparison, I’ve compiled the Youtube videos of the five most famous versions of “I Fought the Law”.  I chose live performances over studio recordings wherever possible.

Sonny Curtis and the Crickets: “I Fought the Law”

The Crickets disguise themselves as wildflowers.  Thrilling hilarity ensues.

Bobby Fuller Four: “I Fought the Law”

The Four play in a jail cell to the delight of an appreciative fellow inmate/go-go dancer.

The Clash: “I Fought the Law”

The Clash radiate pure awesome at a live show at the Lyceum Theatre in London.

Dead Kennedys: “I Fought the Law (and I Won)”

Jello Biafra sings with vitriolic sarcasm at an L.A. show while the audience? (bouncers?) mosh onstage.

Green Day: “I Fought the Law”

Billie Joe gamely tries to blink his eyeliner out of his eyes.  A female audience member and probable Hot Topic patron at front and center shows off her startling proficiency at pointing in the general direction of the band, frustrating the event’s cameramen at every turn. Unfortunately, near 1:58, her clapping is temporarily thrown off beat when she attempts to point and clap simultaneously.

Hi everyone!  Today we have a guest blogger.  Katelyn was my roommate last year in the dorms, and now she interns at ChunkIt! with me to show Cal students how they can research faster and more effectively.  She’s pretty awesome.  She got me addicted to The Hills, and today she’s going to tell you about Britney Spears’ new album, Circus.

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Alright, hello everybody! While my Saturday nights have recently been occupied by Spanish tests and Political Economy papers, I have discovered one of the best stress relievers- just in time for finals; Britney Spears’ new album, Circus, debuted last Tuesday. And, although her previous album provided the aging Britney fan base with one intriguing single, Womanizer, the new album is jam packed with techno-influenced dance songs perfect for a study break dance party.

Britney has experienced quite the transformation since she first appeared on MTV’s Total Request Live over ten years ago as a “not that innocent” teenager. Over the past decade, Britney has managed to produce six albums, two not-so-successful marriages, two baby boys, one blockbuster bust and the infamous bald fiasco we all wish we could forget.

Britney's close shave

Since then, however, Britney’s hair has grown out and she has managed to reclaim the hearts of her unwavering fan base. Last Sunday MTV premiered  Britney’s documentary, “For the Record,” in which Britney explained that there was a lot the public did not know about her life over the past few years.

“People think that you go through something in your life and you need to go to therapy, but for me art is therapy,” says Britney. “I sit there and I look back and I’m like I am a smart person, what was I thinking?”

Britney Spears

So, before you typecast Britney as another one of those pop artists gone insane drug addict, try to look past the superficial facade of Circus’ album cover, and listen to some art therapy.

A few days ago, I heard a track called “Mr. Rock & Roll” by a Scottish female vocalist named Amy Macdonald.  I enjoyed it and think her acoustic folk-pop sound is worth a listen; it’s somewhat reminiscent of KT Tunstall and the multitudes of other girls with dark hair and bangs who have been playing indie music on guitar of late.

Amy’s songwriting is nothing earth-shatteringly innovative, but she has no average voice, and as a self-taught musician, she’s not bad at all.  NPR Weekend Edition tells me that her popularity has been growing in the UK for a while and is just starting to make its way over to the US.

If you heard about Amy Macdonald ages ago, feel free to inform me that I am totally behind the times on what young people are listening to nowadays.   I’d also be interested to hear your opinion on whether Amy’s style is refreshing or unremarkable.  You can listen to more full tracks by Amy Macdonald on last.fm.

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is a spoken word piece by Gil Scott-Heron, who is widely considered to be the “godfather of rap”, and is probably Scott-Heron’s best known work.  Most of Scott-Heron’s work was centered around the political issues of his day; “Revolution” references Richard Nixon and the Watts Riots in L.A.  I like the references to slogans Scott-Heron employs throughout to make a point about rampant commercialism.  All in all, it’s a great song, as Dan reminded me the other day at dinner.

Screenshots from Apt Studio's video of "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" to promote "Now and Then", a collection of Scott-Heron's poems and lyrics.

Screenshots from Apt Studio's video of "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised", to promote the book "Now and Then", a collection of Scott-Heron's lyrics and poems.

If you like the visual representation of GOOD’s “The Hidden Cost of War”, then you’ll find this music video of “Revolution”, created by Apt Studio, equally appealing.  It’s done in a different artistic style than GOOD, but it’s equal parts eye candy, especially considering it was created in 2001.  You can watch it on YouTube below, but I recommend watching the original on Apt Studio’s website for better quality and faster loading.

While you’re watching, here are the lyrics to “Revolution”, below; I excised the stanzas that this music video cut out, but the full song and lyrics can easily be found online.

You will not be able to stay home, brother.

You will not be able to plug in, turn on, and cop out.

You will not be able to lose yourself on skag

and skip out for beer during commercials,

because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox

in four parts without commercial interruptions.

The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon

blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John

Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat

hog maws confiscated from the Harlem sanctuary.

The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be brought to you by the

Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie

Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.

The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.

The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.

The revolution will not make you look five pounds

thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.

There will be no pictures of you and Willie May

pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,

or trying to slide that color TV into a stolen ambulance.

NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32

on report from 29 districts.

The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down

brothers on the instant replay.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down

brothers on the instant replay.

The revolution will not be right back after a message

about a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.

You will not have to worry about a dove in your

bedroom, the tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.

The revolution will not go better with Coke.

The revolution will not fight germs that may cause bad breath.

The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,

will not be televised, will not be televised.

The revolution will be no re-run, brothers;

The revolution will be live.

Just in case you haven’t yet gotten around to watching to the magical wonderment that is “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”, I thought I’d write a friendly blog post reminder for you:  Watch it now, damn it.

The sing-along blog is really a short musical film that explores the life of an aspiring supervillain named Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris).  When Dr. Horrible isn’t plotting to take over the world with his Freeze Ray or fretting over his application to join the Evil League of Evil, he’s awkwardly and adorably crushing on Penny (Felicia Day), the sweet girl from the laundromat.  His plans to rule the world and get the girl are repeatedly foiled by his archnemesis, the hilariously vapid and self-absorbed Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion).

Directed by Joss Whedon, who also dircted Buffy, Firefly, and that great episode of The Office when Dwight thinks Jim is a vampire.

Directed by Joss Whedon, who also dircted Buffy, Firefly, and that great episode of The Office when Dwight thinks Jim is a vampire.

Neil Patrick Harris is just the right combination of earnest and awkward in his role as the title character, and is a surprisingly good singer when it comes to the musical numbers.  I was too young to watch Doogie Howser when it was still airing, so my first knowledge of who Neil Patrick Harris is was from his cameo doing a line of coke off a stripper in “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle”.  (This is only slightly less awful than my friend Ellie knowing Kim Jong-Il as “the guy from ‘Team America: World Police’”.)

An educational film addressing global politics.

Team America is an educational film addressing issues in global politics today.

Just to get you started, here’s a clip of Dr. Horrible singing about his secret crush on Penny, the girl next door:

How could you not be rooting for the villain for once?

The musical is 43 minutes long and is broken up into three parts, so you really have no excuse not to drop everything and watch it legally on Hulu.com right this minute.  Shouts to Ayse, who introduced it to me, and in turn Cheese, who I believe introduced it to her.

One more reason to love Last.fm: selected free (legal) MP3s.  Music artists can choose to have select tracks available for free download by users; users can browse through them by genre tags and download at will.

Today's tag cloud of downloads.

Tag cloud of today's downloads.

It’s a great method for new bands to expand their listening base (I’ll be blogging about Racetrack and The Dellas, both of which I discovered on last.fm), but established artists do it as well to promote certain tracks (today I see Nine Inch Nails, Sufjan Stevens, and Broken Social Scene, among others).

It all just goes to prove to the RIAA that the recording industry can succeed with a new business model that involves artists sharing some of their music freely on the Internet, rather than suing the pants off fans who just want to listen to their favorite bands.  That’s my take; how about yours?

One of the neat things about living in the San Francisco Bay Area is the music scene here.  My friend Davin, whom I met at Cal, is in a band called Fox Culture.  They call themselves a mix of indie, alternative, and baroque pop; their sound is mellow and introspective.  Fox Culture is the kind of indie band that often does duets between one male and female singer.  They sound kind of like Broken Social Scene and the Arcade Fire.

Fox Culture after a gig at Santana Row in San Jose, CA.

Fox Culture after a gig at Santana Row in San Jose, CA.

“Oh yeah- ol’ school organ to set the stage; nice. Nice how you follow each other around vocally and musically. Like lovers chasing each other around town.”

Perry Farrell (Jane’s Addiction, Satellite Party, founder of Lollapalooza)

I used one of Fox Culture’s songs, “Phony”, in a video commerical I created at my internship this summer.  The video basically demonstrates my company’s new product, ChunkIt!, which allows users to find information on the Internet more easily.  I used Camtasia Studio to create a video demonstrating ChunkIt!’s applications to Last.fm, one of my favorite music websites.

Fox Culture recently entered and won a contest to be featured on an album from one of UC Berkeley’s largest student festivals, Caltopia Live 2008.  The album can be downloaded for free on iTunes and features 14 tracks from bands at UC Berkeley.  I just downloaded it, and will let you know which local artists I think are worth a listen.

“Gotta say, this isn’t a sound I usually gravitate toward, but there’s something about your music that gets under my skin–in a good way. Maybe it’s the subtle, off-kilter songcraft or the double vocals and hypnotic finger plucking, or the noise guitar at the end of Fireman. Your heart is really in this and it shows–and I don’t say that about of a lot of what I hear on this site. Lots of luck!”

Doug Brod (editor of SPIN Magazine)

If you liked the sound of “Phony” from my ChunkIt! Last.fm video, you can check out more Fox Culture songs on their MySpace page.

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