(Day 1 recap here and here.)
1.Jukebox The Ghost
Finally knowing the lay of the land (and making sure to bring warmer clothes) after Day 1, I started Monolith Festival-Day 2 off with my DC brethren, Jukebox the Ghost. Now living out of Philly, this piano-laden power pop trio is upbeat, kinda quirky, rather witty, and know how to put on a kick-ass live show; in other words, the perfect people to start a day with. Think Ben Folds Five meets They Might Be Giants, the latter merely for the quirky factor: TMBG does songs about Istanbul and Constantinople, JBTG does songs about God taking out the state of Nebraska then realizing woops, maybe that wasn't such a good idea. Unlike TMBG, JBTG also does great songs with the serious fodder of relationships, love, and the 'What the hell does one do now?' conundrum, many with ridiculously catchy melodies.
And though they were playing in that awful indoor hallway stage (see entry on Liam Finn from Day 1) that would continue to curse me on Day 2 in terms of bad lighting and sound, you couldn't stay agitated when watching JBTG. Especially keyboard player and singer Ben Thornewill, as his animated body and feet moved around behind his keyboards like a 5 year old with ADD.
Listen: Hold It In-Jukebox the Ghost
2. Rosewood Thieves
I ran down the 230 steps to the main stage for the first, but certainly not the last, time that day, for the Rosewood Thieves, a group of five out of NYC. We all wondered (and applauded) the fact that this smallish, kinda unknown band snagged a main stage slot. And once they started playing you saw why: consummate professionals, they owned that stage.
Playing folk-pop, lead singer/guitarist Erick Jordan channeled both parts of Lennon and McCartney (Lennon with his voice, McCartney with his very handsome Rickenbacker). But make no mistake, the Rosewood's sound, pop with heavy folk influences, is all their own.
I got to chat some with Rosewood's very nice and really talented lead guitarist Paul Jenkins after at the rather stinky (literally) media tent. He mentioned the band will be doing some east coast dates; they'll be in DC at the Red and the Black on November 20.
Listen: Silver Gun_The Rosewood Thieves
I'd really liked what I heard from Atlanta's Snowden beforehand, so I raced back up the 230 steps to find plenty of other folks shared my good taste. I really like lead singer Jordan Jeffares voice- it's got a calm, lilting sound to it but also an edge...imagine Paul Simon's voice from the Simon and Garfunkel-era but covered in tar.
What makes them interesting is that the band has a great shoe-gaze fuzzy pop sound with a pretty hefty backbeat.
A lot of that is owed to their really energetic and dynamic female bassist Corinne Lee, who kicks the proverbial ass of her bass live. I bumped into Jeffares at one point later on and remarked how much I liked their set and how cool it was to watch Lee. He said, “Yeah, we get that a lot about her.”
Listen: Like Bullets_Snowden
4. Tokyo Police Club
I’m probably killing my indie-cool cred (if I ever had any heh) with saying this, but Tokyo Police Club didn’t wow me much. I liked their energy and the idea of their hard-driving pop sure, but in terms of the songs, eh...they were a bit too run-of-the-mill for me. I know many folks love these guys like Lindsay Lohan loves the ladies, and while I do acknowledge they have a special somethin-somethin there, I, personally, just wasn’t feeling it.
But I do have to give ultimate props to the band’s keyboardist, Graham Wright. His hopping, jumping, and stomping around kept everyone riveted to stage right.
Listen: You English is Good_Tokyo Police Club
5. The Avett Brothers
I’d read raves about The Avett Brothers before arriving at Monolith and once there, I learned two things: 1) I think I'm the only one who came to Monolith unconverted, based on the huge crowd they drew, and 2) unlike what I read about Tokyo Police Club, these raves were absolutely, positively, and definitely all justified. Out of Concord, NC, this 3-4 piece (the cellist only seems to play sometimes) makes this one disarming amalgam of rock and bluegrass.
Now I know you’re like, “Bluegrass? In an indie band?” But oh my, the Avett Brothers ensure you know that rock and bluegrass are indeed two great tastes that go great together. Over an instrumental tag team of an acoustic, an upright bass, and a banjo (and at times drums and a cello) are these really intimate and harmony-laden songs of love, loss, and yearning that filled the vast Red Rocks Amphitheater in an utterly graceful way.
Seriously, don’t let the “bluegrass” tag avert you, these guys bring the rock. The bluegrass is filtered through in ways you don’t even notice until you realize you’ve stopped breathing because you’re so overwhelmed by the beauty of their melodies. And the two vocal harmonies of Scott and Seth Avett are so perfectly fused; it’s hard to believe the sounds are coming from just two people.
And here’s a ponder for the day: is it me or does Scott Avett and a young Keith Richards circa 1964 sorta look separated at birth? Hmm...
The Brothers performed a song at Monolith called “Laundry Room” (which absolutely slayed the Monolith crowd). It’s not out yet but video from a performance earlier this year in Atlanta is below.
6. Tilly and the Wall
Much like Tilly’s show in DC, there was tap dancin...
and crazy outfits...
and super kinetic hyperactivity on stage (as well as a crazy guy named "TRL" but we'll get to him in the Sharon Jones/Dap Kings segment). This is a band that is always upbeat and positive, and it absolutely seeps into and amps up the crowd.
I didn’t get close enough in DC to see this, but singer Kianna Alarid sports an impressive amount of ink. Go girl!
Listen: Pot Kettle Black_Tilly and the Wall
(Still to come...The Whigs, Hearts of Palm, The Airborne Toxic Event, TV on the Radio, and CSS.)