Posted in Reviews

Coachella: Solo and Sober

I went to Coachella for the first time this past year. I went to Weekend 2 mostly because I wouldn’t have to take a day off of work if I went that weekend. Over the years, it had always been something I wanted to do, but was out of my reach. Coachella is this huge festival that has an immense influence on the music industry and popular music. I saved up during the year and thankfully was able to get a ticket.

I got my tickets before the lineup was announced. Honestly, I had higher expectations. For the headliners, I’m not a huge fan of ACDC, I like Jack White’s other projects more than his solo work, and I don’t like Drake’s music. I was there to see the opening acts and the spectacle of Coachella.

Because Coachella is really expensive and usually sells out, many of my friends were deterred from going. So I went by myself. Because of this, I decided it was best that I was sober during the festival. I had an overall unusual Coachella experience in contrast to the majority of the attendees.

Thankfully, the first thing I think of when I look back on Coachella is the music (which is good considering that’s why I went). I am a huge fan of Father John Misty and his music has lingered with me since Coachella. Father John Misty was incredible. For me, it was just very cool to see him perform his set with the beautiful desert in the background. The audience reception for Sylvan Esso really surprised me. I heard them on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic one day and decided I’d check out their set at Coachella. The singer Amelia Meath thrives on the audience’s energy. She absorbs it and exudes it. She dances on stage with confidence and as though no one is watching. It was so empowering to see her on stage. She does not look like the typical front-woman, especially in her genre. Her voice is stunning. They blew me away. Jenny Lewis has always been for me on the border of meh and great. I hear some of her songs that move me so much and then others that make me cringe. But her newest song “Magic” is incredible. And she was at her best at Coachella. I’ve seen her with Rilo Kiley, Postal Service, and as Jenny and Johnny, but this was different. Her voice sounded great and she was really connecting with the environment. I also enjoyed Tame Impala and it was awesome to see them perform for such a large audience. They have such a large sound and were in their element. I wish I saw more of Kasabian because, from what I saw, they had the audience engaged. Alabama Shakes were great. Brittany Howard is a force to be reckoned with.

The fashion of Coachella has become iconic. For women, it involves flower crowns, denim cut-off shorts, and wavy-styled hair. As a fan of fashion, I wanted to see what trends were around. I was pretty disappointed mostly because everyone looked the same. There were a few people here and there who were wearing something interesting, but overall, everyone blended together. All the guys were wearing tank tops and shorts…or just shorts. All the girls were wearing flowy blouses and shorts. It was pretty hot, but I was expecting some variety. I wore dresses each day with boots. The dresses were because it was really hot and the boots were because in certain areas, it was dusty or muddy. I must mention, that my Coachella style icon has always been Dita Von Teese and I was bummed she was not in attendance this year.

Overall, Coachella did not feel like the right festival for me. I felt like an outsider. I have gone to FYF Fest since 2008 and feel like I with like minds when I am there. There is such an array of fans within the alternative music community and they are all represented at FYF Fest. At Coachella, I felt like I was in high school. The majority of people at Coachella looked like they were in sororities and fraternities. The biggest audience at the festival (that I saw) was for Kaskade, an EDM artist. The beer gardens were packed and weed was everywhere. As expected, Coachella was really hot. And it wasn’t even that hot this year. I was miserable, especially day 2. I was trying to keep myself hydrated, but I didn’t do the best job. It was hard to enjoy the music when I was hot and dehydrated. It was also disappointing to see how many celebrities pervaded Coachella. The VIP sections could not be avoided and it was annoying to see celebrities in attendance. I presume many were there to be seen to develop their image.

I did enjoy my experience though. The desert was beautiful at night and it was very special to see many of the bands in that environment.

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Posted in Reviews

10 Year Anniversary of Peace Love Death Metal

I have revisited this album hundreds of times and still love it as much as I did when I first heard it.  It is absolute genius. The sound, the lyrics, the humor, the naïveté. It’s perfection.

Jesse Hughes, frontman of Eagles of Death Metal, formed this project after going through a life-changing divorce.  Because of this, he felt very unsexy and reconsidered the future course of his life. He takes a complete detour, with the result being Peace Love Death Metal. Of course, Jesse Hughes does not do this journey alone.  Along by his side is Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, steering him into promising territory.

This journey takes you as a listener through a series of emotions. The first few songs, “I Only Want You” and “Speaking in Tongues,” bring you immediate pleasure and satisfaction. You’ve been drawn in under false pretenses. Soon enough, the heart of the album is exposed, empty and lonely in “Midnight Creeper.”

I can listen to this album and notice something new with each listen.   And as I age, I appreciate different aspects of the album with a new lens. I still listen to this as a 26-year-old; I was 16 when this album was released. I’ve been listening to this for 10 fucking years!  But this album has left me with a lasting impression I can’t shake, even if I tried.

As I listen to this album, I separate the artist and the work.  I have met Jesse before and unfortunately, I do not really care for him as a person. In addition, subsequent EODM albums cannot compare to the magnificence of this first gem. But thankfully, the present does not impact this album. It is a time capsule, encapsulating a specific feeling at a specific time.   I can’t deny the fact that this is a piece of art.

Posted in Reviews

The Punk Singer (Review)

This review’s a bit older, since I went to the screening like a month ago.  But since the film hasn’t been released yet, I figured I’d still post this.

I was in elementary school when Bikini Kill broke up.  When I was in high school, Le Tigre announced they were going on a hiatus.  My full awareness of Kathleen Hanna and her influence came in college, mostly secondhand, seeing it through her musical descendants, bands like the Gossip and Mika Miko.  But these bands drove me learn more about Kathleen Hanna and riot grrrl.

I have since become slightly obsessed with the idea of riot grrrl.  When I was in elementary school, my idea of feminism was through artists like Alanis Morissette, Gwen Stefani (of No Doubt), and Shirley Manson (of Garbage).  It was an accessible kind of feminism, because they were vocalizing things I could understand.  Bikini Kill was important on a different level because they were discussing the undiscussed.  Complex feminist issues like rape, incest, and violence.

Bikini Kill were/ are immensely important. They had a platform where they were able to say what so many women wanted to say.  Their presence has influenced and will influence women for years to come.

I wanted to start this review with my perspective, because my view of Bikini Kill/ Kathleen Hanna is different from someone who was following the band at the time.  I view them as this legendary feminist band.  As a fan of music and feminism, Bikini Kill/ Kathleen Hanna were able to do it all.

The Punk Singer was an inspirational documentary to me.  It made me want to go out and create music.  I’ve read about Bikini Kill shows, and I’ve read about the Sex Pistols’ live shows having this type of influence.  Unfortunately, I was not able to witness them live first-hand, but the movie kind of had that impact.  It was great to hear different perspectives on Kathleen Hanna and what her presence in music meant to them.  Interviews in the film included women like Ann Powers, Kim Gordon, Joan Jett, Carrie Brownstein, & Corin Tucker.  Hearing these perspectives was kind of like going to a concert and hearing the excitement from people about the band they are about to see.  Even going to this screening and seeing all the ladies in the audience who still held riot grrrl/ Kathleen Hanna in such high esteem was amazing.  Seeing the live footage on a big screen and being able to hear Bikini Kill’s music super loud, was so incredible.

Kathleen Hanna spoke about her upbringing in the movie and how this shaped her as a person.  One story that stood out was a “trust fall” test between her mother and herself.  Kathleen caught her mother when they did the first part of the test but her mother did not catch her.  Her mother said that it was a lesson to Kathleen to never trust anyone, even her own mother.

Kathleen Hanna also spoke about how many people did not take her seriously because she spoke like a “valley girl”.  She said that when she was a teenager, she tried to speak like a valley girl because to her, it was like a signifier of class.  Kathleen Hanna speaking like a “valley girl” seemed to be helpful to the riot grrrl movement (and maybe even more so to today’s girls) because many teenage girls talk like a “valley girl.”  It’s relatable.

The film answered many questions for me, because everything I know about Kathleen Hanna was received mostly secondhand from books and magazines speaking about her (not interviews).  To hear her speak about her own experience directly was informative.  It was sad hearing about the long process of her getting diagnosed with Lyme Disease and getting treatment for it.  When she left Le Tigre a few years back, she reasoned she said everything she had to say.  She explained in the film that she was lying and was feeling gravely ill, but did not want to admit it to everyone.

The good news is, she’s on the mend and doing much better.  She’s back in action with the band the Julie Ruin (I wrote a brief review on one of their LA shows).  The evening was extremely moving and to top it off, Kathleen Hanna did a quick Q&A.  A self-described  riot grrrl  in the audience said to Kathleen Hanna that it was “surreal” to be able to see her in person.  Kathleen Hanna responded with framing her hands around her face and moving them back and forth (so she looked “surreal”).  It was a great Q&A and gave many fans the opportunity to speak their mind.

I have never been prouder to have a blog called “Valley Grrrl” after seeing this film.  The film discussed the importance of feminism and why there has been a resurgence of girls searching for riot grrrl or starting their own movements.  Bikini Kill were so incredibly powerful and it’s awesome to see that now Kathleen Hanna’s important presence has properly been documented.

Posted in Reviews

Review: Not That Kind of Girl (proposal)- Lena Dunham

Even though this is just a book proposal (I read it through Gawker.com before it was pulled), I feel it’s necessary to post a review of it.
Overall, Lena Dunham is a unique storyteller, but her proposal is a disappointing read, even as a draft, since she is renowned for her ability as a writer. The deal she signed was for an astronomical amount of money ($3.5 million). I have read stories that are far more deserving of just being published (not to mention, gaining this level of attention) .

[I should preface this review by saying that when I was younger, I dreamed of being a writer. Writing was always an area I never struggled in, in school. Then, I did an editorial internship for a music magazine where I wrote blogs and reviews constantly. I ran out of words to use to describe music on a regular basis. It was a constant stream of writing and I began to hate it.  But, I am fond of other people’s writing and absolutely love reading. ]

This proposal, of course reads like an episode of Girls (or in the vein of Tiny Furniture, both are pretty similar). It would have been nice to read something a bit different, to get some variety from her. Instead, we learn more about Dunham, how her life was shaped, experiences, adventures, etc.
Her honesty in her writing is commendable.  Many people rewrite their pasts in biographies, so they look better, but it’s clear that she is not rewriting her past. She is unabashed in her depiction of herself.
However, her proposal is like having a lengthy conversation with a spoiled rich kid. She’s not a bad person, but is completely self-absorbed. This book is supposed to be chock-full of situations other girls can learn from, but I walked away from this feeling like I learned nothing. It is very hard to relate with Lena Dunham, even though on the surface, our lives are similar (white-looking women, same age, college-educated with a dorm experience, have supportive artistic parents, raised in big cities, feminists).  This is not good considering I am her book’s prime demographic.
One of her major downfalls is that you cannot completely immerse yourself into her stories.  As a reader, it does not feel like you can visualize her situations. There are holes. She frequently references her friends and people she knows in a way that makes you feel like an outsider.  I never felt like she was including me the reader in her conversation.
Her stories definitely need to be more fleshed out and have a broader appeal. Hopefully since this is just a proposal, this will happen.
More than anything, Lena Dunham is a talented comedienne. She is able to write about herself, while being brutally truthful, and poke fun at how ridiculous her thought process is at times.