When I first caught the formerly Chicago, now Traverse City, Michigan-based trio Salem at the Biz 3 showcase at South by Southwest last March, I was struck by the fact that I hadn’t seen an electronic group so polarize an audience since Suicide back in the day. The dense, difficult, sludgy, but sexy sound was simultaneously alienating and seductive, with elements of trip-hop, gothic darkwave, classical chorale music, Southern hip-hop, and electronic pop.
The group breaks no ground on “Wilderness Heart,” but that’s not what it’s about. These 10 tracks are a loving homage to a dazed and confused era of massive fuzz and feedback, thundering drums, a mood of ponderous, portentious doom and gloom bordering on the near-apocalyptic, and riffs, man, riffs.
From the point of view of the musician onstage, there can be no better sight than to look out mid-song and see a throng of people dancing.
On a good night, when the band is in synch and firing on all cylinders, the non-verbal communication between members locked into the same rhythms, anticipating one another’s next moves and simultaneously reacting to and spurring them on, is the most intimate exchange that people can have outside of sex.
When listeners are dancing in response to these sounds, this deep and visceral connection extends into the audience, the feedback loop expands, and the energy swap grows ever more intense.
You play harder, tighter, maybe a bit faster, and certainly with more spirit. You have to: The dancers depend on it.
Aside from the vast back catalog, which remains one of the richest in rock history, and his astounding energy as a live performer, which persists even as he approaches his 65th birthday next month, the most inspiring thing about Neil Young is that he differs from so many of the other legends of his generation by his refusing to rest on his laurels, consistently challenging himself and his audience by pushing to innovate five decades on.
As noted in an update Wednesday afternoon to Monday's blog post about Lollapalooza not paying city taxes, Department of Revenue spokesman Ed Walsh emailed to say that my reading of the Municipal Code was wrong -- and by no means is that a hard thing to do -- and I cited an incorrect figure for the taxes that a concert like Lollapalooza should be paying.
Nine studio albums into a career that began in Glasgow, Scotland, way back at the dawn of the '90s, and which provided one of the enduring masterpieces of that decade with the timeless, endlessly chiming, Big Star-inspired power-pop of "Bandwagonesque," it is all too easily to take Teenage Fanclub for granted. (Are they, like, even still around, man?)
Set to take place in the heart of the Texas capital at Zilker Park Friday through Sunday, the Austin City Limits Music Festival is the smaller sister of Lollapalooza -- maximum capacity 75,000 a day there versus 90,000 daily here -- though the success that promoters C3 Presents have had with their hometown shindig since its launch in 2002 is what inspired them to expand to Chicago's Grant Park in the first place in 2005, and to sign a deal that keeps them here through 2018.
However, starting with the great "Dillo dirt" scandal of 2009 -- it turns out that festival-goers were emerging from Zilker Park literally covered in crap, thanks to compost covering the grounds that partly was made of treated sewage sludge -- Austin residents have started to question many aspects of the way C3 does business there, just as Chicago residents are questioning the way it operates here.