DJ Fizzi Pop Attends LIB!

BY: DJ Fizzi Pop

The sun was setting, the floats were floating, and the musical vibrations from the loud stages were pumping through our bodies. Not a single face in sight had a frown on their face, and pure bliss was in the air. This is my experience of Lighting in a Bottle 2018.

Being my first LIB, I had no idea what was coming my way. I had camped at smaller festivals before, but not for 5 days in a row (meaning I did not bring enough spare sunglasses). I had arrived Wednesday night for the Early Entry pass, and hundreds of people already had their campsites up and ready, music blasting and friends in the making. I had previously dreaded the rumors that Bradley, CA is blistering hot and would be suffering most of the time, but surprisingly the temp stayed in the mid 70s to low 80s the entire weekend and was thoroughly enjoyable to walk around the campsite the explore.

The drive was only a short 2 hours to the campgrounds, so we were ready to set up and explore by sunset. There isn’t much music on the bigger stages until Friday, but the Pagoda and Favela Bar stages were poppin’ with smaller (but big sound) artists. At night, the festival grounds turn into a blacklight wonderland, where all the art structures glow (and are even interactive!). It was nice to get a feel of the grounds before all the commotion started; I recommend to anyone to get Early Arrival passes to get the full experience because there is way too much to explore and you just might miss an Easter egg!

Friday was the first big wave of music to hit the festival. Before we ran to the stages, I got to experience a short but wonderful session at the Yoga Luna exhibit, where yoga and flow classes were held all weekend long. Not only were there yoga exhibits, but you could walk into a random structure and there would be a meditation session, a hooping class, a cooking class, you name it. If you needed a break from the music, there was always something else to experience. Around 3 o’clock we headed to the Woogie stage, which is one of the favorite stages of LIB. Surrounded by enormous neon butterfly structures that refracted lasers off of them, the overall vibe was welcoming and groovy. The main theme of this stage was house and techno music, where we caught the last part of Walker & Royce’s set.

On our way back to the main grounds, we decided to check out the Favela Bar, which is a stage that has interactive treehouses surrounding the dance floor, and a gigantic disco ball that twirls during the night. To our surprise, 2 members of the Glitch Mob were having a secret set at this stage (and we got to meet them after!).

Before getting dinner, we headed to the infamous Meditation Mountain to catch the gorgeous LIB sunset. As the sea met the sky, every attendee unleashed their fellow animal and let out a howl to the sun. Practically everyone on the grounds partook in this spiritual moment!

To start the night off, we ran to the Lightning stage to get front-row views of sets by Sofi Tukker, the ultimate party groove master Griz, and the almighty Glitch Mob (all 3 of them this time). This by far was one of my favorite consecutive sets I’ve caught at a festival. The party was nonstop!

On Saturday, I ran between the Thunder and Lightning stage to catch sets from Edamame, Partywave, Tokimonsta, Tipper, and Anderson. Paak. All their sounds are super different so I wanted to keep it within variety! Each stage has a certain theme, but I wanted to jump out of the loop and check all the different music out. My favorite out of this day was definitely Anderson. Paak for his funky vibes, but Edamame also had a beautiful chillwave sound to his set.

On Sunday, I got to spend most of the day on the beautiful Lake San Antonio which was right by our campsite. There were probably 300 different species of animal floaties bouncing off each other, and house music was bumping all day long. Sunscreen was passed around, and so were the laughs. Everyone was sun-drunk in love with the beautiful atmosphere the lake had to offer. By the evening we got to check out Dirtwire, the folk-rustic-electronica group that features members of Beats Antique. We also got to check out Monolink, Beats Antique (their 10th time playing at LIB), Clozee, Zhu, and Emancipator. This lineup was stacked, and I was so happy to see such a great mix of talented artists. My favorite had to be CloZee, for her beautiful world-influenced flow of a set. Not a single person danced like they cared.

Overall, this is a festival I will be returning to over and over again. The atmosphere is filled with bliss, and everyone you meet is in a good mood and willing to share a good story. The art structures are out of this world, and there are fire dancers, flow hoopers, talks, meditations….the festival is PACKED with things to enjoy and maneuver. There is even an art car shaped like a beetle driving around the festival blasting music. The music lineup is amazing in taste, and not a single set was disappointing. I could go on, but it really is something to experience for yourself. The one downside is that the food is a little expensive, but I am personally willing to pay $14 for an exquisite bowl of mac and cheese. I will be back, this time with more sunglasses to spare!

 

A ‘Pretty Hate Machine’ Retrospective

Listener’s discretion is advised.

Recently I was having coffee with an old friend. I was drinking my third cup for the day. He was surprised at my caffeine intake. I hadn’t even realized anything was off about my habit. I wondered where all that energy was going. I think I’ve figured it out.

In celebration of the recent Nine Inch Nails come back, I’ve been returning to their seminal debut, Pretty Hate Machine. It seems that its dark grooves have been syphoning out my negative energy like it’s popping some sort of cathartic pimple. This record is very near and dear to my heart. It is a classic in the genre of industrial music, but also a classic in my personal music canon. Its an album loaded to the brim with emotional energies, despite being composed, recorded and produced solely by Trent Reznor. It has moments of ecstasy, and moments of absolute despair. I am celebrating its 29th year of existence (It turns 30 in October of 2019) by going over some of my favorite bits from the album.

The album opener (and lead single) is “Head Like A Hole.” This track was the world’s first encounter with NIN. “Head Like A Hole” begins with an orchestra of insect-like drum hits. Trent deliberately sequenced every little click that appears in the track, and result is a track that’s as groovy and funky as it is creepy and crawly. This is a recurring theme on the record. Its music is wrong but so right, evil but so danceable, owed in part to all the wonderfully 80s drum hits, but also the arpeggiated synths that appear on later tracks like “Terrible Lie” and “That’s What I Get.”

Third track, “Down in It,” is a dark take on 80s hip-hop, like a goth reinterpretation of LL Cool J. It features samples that accent beats not unlike what a DJ would place into a beat for an MC, but these accents sound like the roar of a crowd in the gladiator arenas of hell. The lyrics and the title reference to at one point feeling as though you were better than something – some behavior, person, or idea – only to find yourself caught up in that very something. Like saying “I listen to everything but rap and country,” only to find your future self at a Florida Georgia Line concert, shilling out 40 dollars for a tour t-shirt. You were up above it, but now you’re down in it.

“Something I Can Never Have” just about marks the halfway point on the record. The track is a Trent Reznor love-ballad, with all that that descriptor entails. Trent has a few of these types of tracks in his discography, all of which stand out in different ways. His most famous is “Hurt,” a track off his third album, The Downward Spiral. The track really blew up after Johnny Cash covered it during his come-back sessions with producer Rick Rubin. Trent really isolates a specific human emotion with “Something I Can Never Have,” as the title suggests. At the center of the track are Trent’s vocals and a dissonant piano part that repeats unending throughout the track as synthesizers swell around it. The track captures the longing for that which you depend on – love, drugs – that empty feeling; an unfillable void. The track is one of Reznors magnum opera, capturing a feeling that he continues to portray years later in NIN as well as his soundtracks for several recent David Fincher films (Gone Girl, The Social Network).

The second half of the album returns to the pace set by the first four tracks. “Kinda I Want To” brings the drums once again. It chops up classic breakbeats sampled from jazz records and intersplices them with synthesizers that evoke a capsizing Starship Enterprise. Combined with Reznor’s aggressive vocal delivery, a bouncy and distorted anthem of desire is birthed from the fire and brimstone. “That’s What I Get” is another highlight of the album. It beautifully contrasts hectic drum sequences and synthesizers of the other tracks with sparse instrumentation and Trent’s vocals on the verses. The standout moment on the track for me is the bridge where Reznor laments: “Why’s it come as a surprise – to think that I was so naïve // maybe didn’t mean that much, but it meant everything to me.” This bridge, where the isolated vocals and synthesizer really shine through, keeps me coming back to this track.

Just as the track swells to a climax, the album takes you in a different direction with the penultimate track, “The Only Time.” This track is a lyrical highlight if you enjoy pure and unrefined edginess. I won’t quote any of the lyrics as they are a bit raunchy, but the track has a sinister sort of lust to it that does not fail to entertain. The breakdown around the 3-minute mark of this track is another highlight of the album, with an ascending baseline and punchier than punchy drums as Reznor barks “This is the only time I really feel alive” repeatedly.

The album is bookended by “Ringfinger” on the original release of the record (I mention this because on the remastered version there is a B-Side repurposed as a closing track that follows “Ringfinger”). “Ringfinger” is an industrial-house classic. Its driving 4/4 bass drum and syncopated synthesizers form a foundation for Trent to work his black magic over. It features distorted guitar stabs, sustained square wave synthesizers, and panning record scratches, and of course Trent’s vocals. The track, and the album, fizzles out into glitchy feedback, evoking the digital Dante’s Inferno that seems to characterize every track of this album as it cycles through the different circles of hell on each track, from limbo to treachery.

So, as finals season approaches once again, next time you feel like you have too much negative energy, purge it with a listening of Pretty Hate Machine, available to stream or purchase on all your favorite platforms.

Written by Nick Amerkhanian

 

A Wave of Black Snow

“Black Snow” is the lead single from Oneohtrix Point Never’s (Electronic experimentalist Daniel Lopatin’s most famous moniker) new LP. Lopatin is known for the electronic soundscapes in creates on his records. His previous record Garden of Delete, had an album cover reminiscent of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, but its ties to analogue music ended there. Paired with the bizarre visuals and world building of the music videos for several songs on Garden of Delete, the album grabs you by the collar and drags you into a sort of hell reminiscent of a turn of the millennia junkyard. Lopatin remains consistent on his new single. The new single is just as deliberate and detailed in the world it builds, but this world is on a much smaller scale.

Hopes are high for the next Oneohtrix Point Never record, especially with this lead single. The track is tonally like Garden of Delete – it feels as decayed and full of unintentional sounding (but secretly deliberate) digital artifacts. It features a vocal performance by Lopatin himself, a rarity in the Oneohtrix Point Never discography. The vocals are just as post-apocalyptic and sort of off as his instrumentals, though amazingly the vocal and instrumental tracks do not clash on “Black Snow”. Instead they perfectly conjure the tone conveyed in the music video – they portray a sort of “imp of the perverse,” a normalization of the most detestable evil possible. The video is set in a plane of existence other than our own, where a red-skinned demon, takes off his hazmat suit to reveal his sleazy summer-wear that is hidden underneath. This hellish creature with a smile of top row normal teeth and bottom row gross (I can’t describe them any other way) teeth turns out to be just like us, he’s got a messy room and a passion for music.

Watch the video here:

Oneohtrix Point Never’s new album, Age Of, will be out June 1st on Warp records.

Concert Review: Descendents at the UC Theater

Written by: Sierra Grindstaff


On their 2018 Tourage, the Descendents proved that after nearly 40 years of touring they still know how to put on a killer show.


Opening up for the Descendents at the UC Theater in downtown Berkeley, Radkey, a three piece band from St. Louis, Missouri, brought the energy and guitar solos. The trio made up of three brothers, powered through tracks “Love Spills” and “Cat & Mouse”. While guitar solos have never been a custom in punk rock; lead guitarist and vocalist, Dee Radke, had the whole crowd in awe, placing the solos at the right moment, and never over doing it.

The moment lead singer, Milo Aukerman, stepped out on stage with his glasses tightly strapped around his head and the words, “I want to be stereotyped / I want to be classified”, were spoken, it was over. The crowd erupted into excitement and floor opened up. The age divide was ever so present as a young audience member went to end his ride of crowd surfing, but was met by an upset older fan who was in the cross hairs of the crowd surfer’s ride, and punched the surfer in the face. The UC Theater security tolerated zero violence and escorted the abuser away from the front of the stage after the incident occured.

In the crowd, the Descendents had fans of all ages in attendance. Fans that were probably present at the same show as the one my dad attended in ‘95 were there to see their favorite band, some were even joined by their children. Young kids with earplugs and the look of shock in their face as the craziness of the circle pit broke out.


Their music proved to not be outdated as young fans belted out the lyrics to songs such as “I Don’t Want to Grow Up” and the unofficial, official theme song “Descendents”. Also promoting their newest album, Hypercaffium Spaziznate, the newer songs had calm the crowd down for only a few minutes before the pit opened up again for old favorites like “Myage”. Finishing the set with two encores, the crowd exasperated, the intensity of the Descendents followed through until the very last song, “Pep Talk”.

Proving that age is just a number, the connection that the Descendents has with all of their fans, of all ages, made for a memorable performance for everyone participating.  

Concert Review: Ghastly at the Catalyst (4/20/18)

Review by: Killian Fay

Ghastly played at the Catalyst last Friday, the 20th of April. The show can be aptly described as intense. I got there in time to see one of the openers who performed before Ghastly, who was called Riot Ten. Every song in his set was heavy dubstep, all sounding suspiciously similar, almost to the point of monotony. He did nothing innovative, in production or performance. By halfway through his set, I was ready for it to be over. Adding to that experience was the crowd. The catalyst was extremely full, and one was constrained to the space by the stairs at the back if they enjoyed having any room to move at all. The individuals making up the crowd also seemed to lack any particular amount of spatial awareness, bumping into their neighbors and pushing their way past people if they wanted to get somewhere.

The beginning of Ghastly’s set was a welcome change to the atmosphere. This is his first headlining tour, called the ‘Mystifying Oracle 2018 Tour’. The title comes from that of his debut album, releasing May 4th. The first half of Ghastly’s set seemed well put-together,  and had me and the rest of the crowd moving. He spoke to the crowd a decent amount, but not excessively so. It wouldn’t have hurt though if he had counted down from three just before the drop one or two fewer times. In the middle of his set, he played Avicii’s song ‘Levels’, in honor of the popular artist’s passing. This was received well, and had the whole room enthusiastically singing along. After that, his set felt disorganized, as he played mediocre dubstep songs, sprinkled with an occasional emotional, female-vocals-and-synth-heavy track. His set continued well past an hour long, and by the end, felt like it was falling into redundancy. Ghastly is a good producer, and not a bad DJ, but given his popularity and the time he has spent in the world of EDM performance, I was expecting a little better.

The Green Hill Zone — I mean The Garden

If you like Shadow the Hedgehog and getting wild to sleazy electro-punk music, do I have the album for you. The Garden is the name under which twin brothers Wyatt and Fletcher Shears dress up as jesters and sleaze around in sleepy southern Californian towns (see their music videos linked below). Their new album Mirror Might Steal Your Charm makes the spooky synthesizer sounds from the Time Splitters cabinet at the arcade in your local laser tag arena into a series of unique electro-punk tunes overflowing with personality. Mirror Might Steal Your Charm is a card reading from a cheat deck of playing cards. Its tricky and ambiguous, but still may provide you with some sort of meaning whether intended or not, long as you are open to that as a possibility.

I know what you’re thinking – “But why Shadow the Hedgehog?” Bear with me. Shadow the Hedgehog is a video game character from the Sonic the Hedgehog universe who is presented as a foil to Sonic – Shadow is morally questionable and obsessed with revenge. He acts as a medium between good and evil as he embodies a bit of both. The Garden is they same. The band acts as a medium between two forces as well – punk music and electronic music. If punk music is the side of morally righteous Sonic and the animals, and electronic music is the side of evil Dr. Eggman and his robots, then The Garden is Shadow the Hedgehog, the anti-hero.

I know I sound like I’m going off the deep end. So, I’ll try to reel you back into my Shadow the Hedgehog comparison one last time and then move on. A panel of SEGA executives designed Shadow to embody 2000s era edginess in its purest form. If he were a human he would wear JNCO jeans, Oakley sunglasses, and a backwards baseball cap, and listen to Limp Bizkit and Korn. The Garden channels this aesthetic with the same mix of irony and nostalgia that brought denim jackets from the 1980s into the 2010s. They bring the seemingly expired and uncool back into palatability with the help of a little self-awareness.

Self-awareness is The Garden’s strong suit (pardon the playing card pun). Their music is without a doubt confrontational and aggressive, but The Garden still manages to sprinkle in bits of wisdom like on the track “A Message for Myself” where they close the with the following line: “Because in the end, everyone has problems // And life tries to teach you something // No matter how many times you’ve lived // So keep in mind that everyone is equal // Nothing you do makes you more human than anyone else.” As sleazy as they may seem, the Fletcher twins are keeping an eye out for you and making sure you know that you’re great just the way you are.

Love,

Nick Amerkhanian (The Corpse King)