MS MR’s ‘How Does It Feel’ tour takes a packed Fox Theater Oakland by storm

MS MRPhotos by Steve Carlson // Written by Nik Crossman //

MS MR with Jack Garratt, Heartwatch //
Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland
October 23rd, 2015 //

Following the success of their debut single “Hurricane”, MS MR took the Fox Theater Oakland by storm on Friday night with a new kind of energy as part of their “How Does It Feel” tour.

The New York City dance-pop duo comprised of Lizzy Plapinger and Max Hershenow joined forces at Vassar College in 2011 to Plapinger’s record label thesis project Neon Gold Records to life. Their second and latest LP How Does It Feel strategically balances the tumultuous theme found in their debut album Secondhand Rapture with a few more get-up-and-dance songs. As Plaplinger explains in an interview with New York magazine: “We want to make an album we can move to, but let’s explore all the elements of movement.”

MSMR_FoxTheater_102315_SteveCarlson-body

At the Fox on Friday, Plapinger and Hershenow had no problem influencing movement with their electric stage presence and spectacular lighting. Donning her shimmering sleeveless jumpsuit, Plapinger bounced around the stage, making verbal love to the crowd with her sultry lyrics. While others may gamble away the attention of the audience by playing more new than old, MS MR’s following proved loyal as the Fox erupted with singalongs to most of the tracks from the group’s new album.

Plapinger and her fantastic complement Hershenow returned the admiration, declaring the Fox “the biggest and coolest venue (they’ve) played.” Building on mutual appreciation, she dedicated “Dark Doo Wop” to the audience and even changed the chorus to “Oakland, you should stick around!” With only a few years of production and two studio albums under their belt, MS MR are set to reshape the contemporary pop landscape, and based on their show at the Fox, they will not disappoint.

We don’t burn … we swym! Symbiosis is not another Burning Man pretending to be a music festival

Symbiosis Gathering 2015Written by Nik Crossman //

Symbiosis Gathering //
Woodward Reservoir – Oakdale, CA
September 17th-20th, 2015 //

As the “Burners” venture back to a reality absent of playa-dust bikinis and Mad Max gear, another breed of community-driven enthusiasts get ready for one of the world’s most unique music festivals: Symbiosis Gathering 10 Year Re:Union.

Since its inception in 2005, Symbiosis Gathering has brought together individuals from all over the world to celebrate the power of music, art and education. With humble beginnings that saw less than 1,000 people attend the festival, the enlightening success of the first Gathering set the stage for years to come. 2015 marks the 10-year Re:Union of The Gathering, and as co-producer Kevin KoChen explains, “Nobody is prepared to witness what happens. And when it does, it makes all the planning worth it.”

Symbiosis is not another music festival, and it’s not another Burning Man. Similar to Lightning in a Bottle (read our review of this year’s festival here) now based in Central California, it’s something in between. With community contributions from chocolatiers, astrologers and nutritionists as well as yogis hosting a variety of talks and workshops, The Gathering aims to educate just as much as entertain over four days at Oakdale’s Woodward Reservoir. Symbiosis, furthermore, intends to gather many facets of the counter-culture movement and provide a collective environment to foster symbiotic relationships among those who wouldn’t normally cross paths.

Beyond a stellar music lineup (pictured below) impressively influenced by international trends, Symbiosis offers a variety of shenanigans ranging from the popular shows like Tourettes Without Regrets and Chaos Karaoke to Kidzbiosis, which are focused workshops dedicated to children.

Alas, no music festival/Burning Man hybrid would be complete without the presence of some mind-blowing art installations. For its 10th year, The Gathering sets itself apart even more by leveraging the sandy beaches and cooling waters of Woodward Reservoir and introducing art boat installations. From stationary sculptures to human- and wind-powered cruising vessels to motor-powered ferries, the art boats at Symbiosis will be as diverse as the attendees. In the traditional “Contribute to the Community” mentality, The Gathering encourages everyone to build and bring their own art boat with them, presenting participants with an interactive, aquatic escapade not seen at any other music festival. It’s just another reason why Symbiosis is one of our eight California music festivals you won’t want to miss before the end of 2015.

Experience Passes are still available online for $280 and at participating ticket vendors. Festival walk-in camping is included and car camping passes are also available for purchase.

2015 Symbiosis Gathering lineup

A one-man pop machine, Penguin Prison basks in the spotlight while energizing The Independent

Penguin PrisonPhoto by Shane Killian // Written by Nik Crossman //

Penguin Prison (Live) //
The Independent – San Francisco
July 23rd, 2015 //

Better known under the alias Penguin Prison, this Upper East Side New Yorker-turned-producer, remix artist, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist began his musical journey at age 10 when he sung alongside Alicia Keys in their school’s gospel choir.

Continuing to pursue the spotlight, Chris Glover joined a punk band in high school and formed a boy band in college named The Smartest People at Bard. Glover’s relentlessness, surpassed only by the whim of his journey, finally paid off in 2009 when Neon Gold Records released Penguin Prison’s Animal Animal/A Funny Thing EP.

After making a name for himself as a synthpop wunderkind from New York, Glover released a self-titled, full-length album in 2011 and proceeded to demonstrate his musical prowess by producing remixes for Ellie Goulding, Imagine Dragons, Marina & The Diamonds and more. He dropped Penguin Prison’s second and latest album Lost in New York in early May.

Last Thursday, Glover basked in the spotlight once again with a rare, live performance at The Independent. Accompanied by a full band wearing all black, Glover stood out in a plain white tee, white jeans, white mic and white guitar. The tireless stage presence of this electropop enthusiast lit up the sold-out crowd, even during his more mellow tracks like “Caught in a Daze”.

Balancing the old with the new, Glover played songs from his full discography and engaged his adoring fans. While Lost in New York is only two months old, the crowd absorbed the easy-to-digest, catchy arrangements as though they’ve been radio hits for years.

When Penguin Prison finally wound down the dance-filled evening, Glover donned his sweat-drenched uniform of white as proof of a lively performance. Despite his exhaustion, Glover hopped down from the stage after the show to connect with his fans, take pictures and shake hands with anyone who wanted to meet this multi-talented, one-man pop machine.

Setlist:
Calling Out
Never Gets Old
Golden Train
The Worse It Gets
Try to Lose
A Funny Thing
Caught in a Daze
Show Me the Way
Laughing at the Floor
Hollywood
All Night Long (Lionel Richie cover)
Don’t Fuck With My Money

Oakland’s Trails and Ways use their worldly travels to captivate a sold-out Independent

Trails and WaysPhotos by Tomáš Valda // Written by Nik Crossman //

Trails and Ways with Bells Atlas //
The Independent – San Francisco
June 5th, 2015 //

With sounds derived from their worldly travels, the four Oakland natives of Trails and Ways promoted their debut album Pathology at The Independent after the soulful melodies of Bells Atlas. The inspiration for Trails and Ways began abroad and amalgamated with a bedroom recording project, which produced their hit single “Nunca” and transformed the project into a dedicated passion. Thanks to their recent national tours and performance at Outside Lands last year, this up-and-coming foursome is one to watch.

Flowing over a sold-out audience in SF, Trails and Ways set out to debut the latest songs from Pathology, which was released just three days prior. The public infancy of the first few tracks made it difficult for the audience to rally behind the sing-along energy produced from their better-known hits like “Mtn Tune”, “Sure Thing” (a Miguel cover) and of course “Nunca”, but Trails and Ways seemed to pick up on the energy and quickly shifted gears to the crowd favorites, enlisting everyone to move and sing along.

While there were different expectations across the board, it’s always difficult to debut new music and maintain solid engagement with a crowd. Fortunately, Trails and Ways were able to leverage the delicate intimacy of The Independent and create the best of both worlds, leading fans on a journey through Pathology. Once Trails and Ways abandoned the stage, the crowd quickly summoned them back for an encore, and they happily obliged.

Chromeo & The Glitch Mob throw a funky fresh dance party at the Greek Theatre Berkeley

Chromeo


Chromeo

Photos by James Nagel // Written by Nik Crossman //

Chromeo & The Glitch Mob with Com Truise //
Greek Theatre – U.C. Berkeley
May 29th, 2015 //

Chromeo swept the crowd at the Greek Theatre Berkeley last Friday following an impressive performance by Los Angeles electronic trio The Glitch Mob.

Hailing from Montreal, the funk-tastic duo combines sexy guitar riffs and addictive lyrics by David “Dave 1” Macklovitch to go along with Patrick “P-Thugg” Gemayel’s talk-box retro synthesizer. Macklovitch’s zeal for the spotlight is only surpassed by the crowd’s fondness for this Hollywood playboy. Donning tight leather pants and a jean jacket, Macklovitch danced around the stage with a shiny, mirrored guitar, riffing solos between the sing-along vocals every fan knows and loves.

The Glitch Mob


The Glitch Mob

Gemayel’s stoic presence and groovy synth work sets a solid foundation for Macklovitch’s catchy lyrics, proven by the crowd’s jump-up-and-down eruption during their popular hit “Jealous”. Toward the end of their electro-funk dance party, lady-killer Macklovitch commanded the girls to get on a pair of shoulders and sing along to “Over Your Shoulders”, a sexy confession professing the beauty in women. When one guy in the crowd obeyed the shoulder order, Macklovitch applauded and assured the audience that “of all the ladies, there’s one guy … that would be me!”

It’s wildly entertaining to see Chromeo take the stage with such vigor, enthusiasm and love for themselves and the crowd alike. Their journey over the last 14 years has accumulated a wide following, only strengthened during their performance when they forge personal connections with their fans.

Sasquatch! continues to reign supreme as the Pacific Northwest’s premier music festival

Sasquatch! Music FestivalPhotos by Pedro Paredes // Written by Nik Crossman //

Sasquatch! Music Festival //
Gorge Amphitheatre – Quincy, WA
May 22nd-25th, 2015 //

2015 marked the 14th successful year of Sasquatch! Music Festival thanks to a hunch followed by a Pacific Northwest concert promoter. Back in 2002, when the U.S. festival scene was an infant, Adam Zacks decided to try his luck with an untapped market and bring the festival experience to the Pacific Northwest. The single-day festival sold out its first year, quickly validating Zacks’ hunch and setting the stage for one of the world’s most unique festival experiences.

Embracing the culture of the Pacific Northwest, Sasquatch! caters to the growing breed of indie-centric fans caring just as much about the festival experience (if not more) than the music itself. Over the last 14 years, Sasquatch! has become a “must-do” for festivalgoers and continues to impress with a stellar lineup playing against the majestic backdrop of The Gorge.

So, when I fell into tickets the week before the festival, I jumped at the opportunity to see some of my favorite bands jam out at Mother Nature’s cathedral. Having no campsite and no ride to/from the festival, I posted a Hail Mary message on the Sasquatch! Facebook page, asking a bunch of strangers to take me in as one of their own … and it worked! That’s when I realized Sasquatch! is more than the music — it’s coming together as a community to lend a hand and help a fellow human.

The two-hour drive from Seattle to The Gorge wet the appetite for the alluring landscapes to come. My two new friends and I arrived Friday afternoon, just in time to set up camp and catch the sun fall behind the mountainous horizon.

Sasquatch! - Little Dragon


Little Dragon

Friday

Kicking off the festival, Friday’s lineup included the sounds of Ought, Mother Mother, Gogol Bordello, Action Bronson, Angel Olsen, AlunaGeorge, Little Dragon, Of Monsters and Men, Sleater-Kinney and of course, Flume, the 23-year-old Australian DJ/producer who has been taking the electronic music scene by storm since dropping his debut album in 2012. Despite a little rain early Friday night, the festival was in full swing and the energy inside the grounds built on itself with each performance. The unique sound of Little Dragon had the crowd flowing together, sprinkling in rumors and heightened anticipation for SBTRK‘s set on Sunday night. “Will Little Dragon come out for ‘Wildfire’?!” By the time Flume dropped his first beat at the Bigfoot Stage, the energy was palpable and everyone could feel why this young DJ was chosen to close out Friday night.

Sasquatch! -  Modest Mouse


Modest Mouse

Saturday

With the loving melodies of Milo Green rushing over the Bigfoot State by mid-day, Twenty One Pilots picked up the tempo with an animated performance on the Sasquatch Stage, where the dynamic duo commanded their early-day crowd. Sylvan Esso threw down a Bigfoot dance party when their hit “Coffee” ignited the entire crowd to dance along with the ever-so-strange Amelia Meath on stage. Chromeo‘s love for themselves may only be surpassed by the massive turnout the funky duo brought to Sasquatch! main stage early in the evening. Their funk-tastic sound and vibrant stage presence was perfectly timed to set the stage for following acts like Glass Animals, Kiesza, Modest Mouse, ODESZA and Spoon. Kiesza took the El Chupacabra tent by stormy lights and surprisingly produced more vigor into the crowd than the Seattle duo ODESZA, who seemed to play a more mellow version of themselves than most are familiar with. Just down the hill from ODESZA, 22-year-old rock band Spoon spilled heavy guitar riffs over the crowd and presented an alternative ending to Saturday’s electronic scene. For the second night in a row, Sasquatch! closed out the night with a young, up-and-coming electronic act, staying true to their committed mix bag of new and established performers.

Sasquatch! - St. Vincent


St. Vincent

Sunday

Milky Chance wooed the crowd at the Sasquatch Stage in the late afternoon on Sunday with their unique electro-folk-reggae sounds, lead vocalists Clemens Rehbein’s deep, melodic vocals and the magnificent backdrop of The Gorge. Shortly after Milky Chance stirred the crowd, the unlikely future of rap, Kate Tempest, lived up to her reputation as a force to be reckoned with while showering the crowd with positive affirmations. The sun started setting behind The Gorge while the idiosyncratic St. Vincent moved so distinctly across the stage like an elegant robot, convincing the crowd they made the right choice. The sultry vixen Lana Del Rey attracted one of the largest crowds to the Sasquatch Stage on Sunday night. While Del Rey is not as active as some of her siren peers, her presence was not lacking. Captivating the masses while her white dress blew in the wind, Del Rey abandoned the stage to walk among her amorous fans before leaving her set early to pass the spotlight to an epic instrumental jam session by her band. Madeon, the 21-year-old child prodigy, proved himself once again in the El Chupacabra late on Sunday night when he led the crowd on a fantastic journey of impeccable mashups and psychedelic lights.

Sasquatch! - Slow Magic


Slow Magic

Monday

Monday was the last day of the four-day festival, and the crowds started to thin between the intermittent rain clouds playing hide and seek with the sun. Monday was also the day of drums, at least in the El Chupacabra. Armed only with a wolf mask, laptop and two drumsticks, Slow Magic kicked off the night in the Spanish-flavored tent with a one-of-a-kind experience. With his rare combination of synth and live drumming, Slow Magic is re-imagining electronic music as we know it. Not far behind the solo drumming DJ were the three-piece veterans The Glitch Mob. The trio conquered the stage with their new musical element “The Blade,” which combines both lights and instruments into something that looks like it came out of a space-age movie scene. Drumming their way into the bones of the crowd, The Glitch Mob elicited some of the most hands-in-the-air praise I saw all weekend. They closed out Sasquatch! with a bang, literally.

Sasquatch! Music Festival

Camping

The Sasquatch! campgrounds were far from organized, which presents pros and cons, pending what you’re after. The grueling trek from general camping to the grounds made going to the festival more of a commitment than many appreciated. After a few journeys to and from, premium camping seemed well worth the investment. The wheel-and-spoke layout of the grounds made it easy to find other campsites and stumble into the food trucks for a late-night zombie dog. The camping community itself was friendly and full of love for each other, inviting neighbors to play beer darts and other awesome lawn games.

Sasquatch! Music Festival

Activities

Despite the loving nature of the campers, the Sasquatch! campgrounds lacked the festival-sponsored activities so many of us have come to appreciate and expect like morning yoga classes at Coachella and personal development workshops at Lightning in a Bottle (LIB). The Sasquatch! community inside the grounds attempted to provide this outlet with a vintage arcade, self-defense demonstrations and community dance parties, but they fell short relative to other festivals. One could also argue the lack of art installations throughout the Sasquatch! grounds presents an area of improvement for the festival. That is, until they’re reminded of the natural art blanketing all of The Gorge. Well done, Mother Nature!

Sasquatch! Music Festival

Sustainability

While LIB has been dubbed as “The Greenest Festival in America,” you’d think all festivals would have a strong commitment to sustainably responsible business practices by now. This was an oversight for Sasquatch!, as recycling bins were nowhere to be found and trash cans were often overflowing — a pretty easy, yet significant improvement that needs to be made.

of Montreal consume SF crowd with Da Vinci angels, Abraham Lincoln Spiderman, boxing stripper dogs

of MontrealPhotos by Pedro Paredes // Written by Nik Crossman //

of Montreal with Yip Deceiver, Springtime Carnivore //
Slim’s – San Francisco
March 24th, 2015 //

For the last 20 years, Kevin Barnes has led of Montreal down the yellow brick road of psychedelic mischief. Their journey transcends the decades and weds the sounds of the 60’s and 70’s with modern music production, presenting a unique, can’t-help-but-move sound.

At Slim’s in SF, of Montreal continued to impress and engage the crowds with their psychedelic mix of pop, funk and electronic glam. Their stage performance matched their instrumental prowess, consuming us with Da Vinci angels, Abraham Lincoln Spiderman and boxing stripper dogs. The two-hour show led us down a journey through time and space, embracing us with loving arms along the way.

of Montreal’s latest album Aureate Gloom dropped in February and contributes to their dynamic discography. This album evolves their sound and presents a more personal side of Barnes, making it more relate-able than most.