My Thoughts on the Lineup for Woodstock II

With a very strong lineup and a creative marketing campaign, Woodstock II stands a chance of being one of the best festivals of the summer, and a fairly fitting tribute to the event that changed it all.

Mid-August, 1969, White Lake, New York. Thousands of hippies were gathered for what had been billed as “Three Days of Peace, Love, and Music.” What they may not have known is that the event would dramatically change the nature of the way music is viewed in our culture, bringing to a head many important evolutions happening in the industry. The modern music landscape is what it is today largely because of the hippie movement and its culmination at Woodstock, and this is felt very much in the prescience of music festivals in modern culture.

The original Woodstock lineup was as star studded as a lineup has ever been. The 32-act list includes icons like Santana, Credence Clearwater Revival, Janice Joplin, The Who, The Band, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, and of course, Jimi Hendrix. It was a veritable who’s who of the early psych and arena rock movements, and though an argument can be made that other festivals at the time had better or more interesting lineups, there is absolutely no denying the cultural impact of Woodstock. With the 50th anniversary fast approaching, Woodstock II is scheduled the same days and same town this summer, and my outlook is fairly positive.

First and foremost, the lineup, though not lacking its fair share of duds, features quite the array of artists. There are, of course, the legacy acts who couldn’t and shouldn’t have been left off, namely people like Santana, Dead & Company, John Fogerty, and Robert Plant. However, the collection of young and established musicians is notable as well.

The first day is headlined by The Killers, an unexpected but strong choice, and Miley Cyrus, who is often overlooked despite a powerhouse voice and a multitude of impressive, live performances, most recently at the memorial for the late Chris Cornell. Earlier in the day, Run the Jewels will likely carry the torch of protest music in addition to bringing quite a bit of energy. Akon and The Head and The Heart will likely be quite fun, though both are somewhat odd choices. The dark horse artist of the day is easily Maggie Rogers who’s debut LP earlier this year was very strong, built on a modernized version of the 70’s aesthetic. Easily the highlight of the day, though, will be the Jack White lead Raconteurs. Put simply, Jack white knows how command a crowd, and the band’s blues rock sound will easily fill the large venue.

Day two is maybe the most impressive. Greta Van Fleet and Gary Clark Jr. were extremely obvious choices, and their styles will likely play extremely well here. Portugal. The Man will likely give a fun performance, as will Dawes, though nothing jaw dropping. The top row, however, is quite fantastic. Chance the Rapper is one of the most creative and exciting artists at work today, The Black Keys’ garage rock sound is tailor made for this kind of event, and Sturgill Simpson’s unique brand of psychedelic country fits this festival well. It will be an interesting battle between the three for the best act of the day.

Day three leaves a bit to be desired, though it’s not without it’s bright points. Jay-Z is nothing short of a legend in his own right and will easily give the best performance of the day. Cage the Elephant and Judah and the Lion will bring a diverse selection of rock to the heavily rap-centric day. Of course, Brandi Carlile and Janelle Monae can’t be overlooked as powerful songstresses in the lineup. Vince Staples and Earl Sweatshirt have both dropped solid projects in recent months. Imagine Dragon’s doesn’t belong within 10 miles of this event, let alone in a headlining slot, but underdogs like Amigo the Devil and Pussy Riot are welcome sites on the list.

Ultimately, the lineup may be the strongest of any festivals I’ve seen in a few years, and the mix of new and old is much appreciated. It should go without saying, though, that the event itself will carry on cursory similarities to its namesake. What seems to be an intentional move by the promoters to bill this more as a celebration of Woodstock’s legacy than a second coming of the historical even itself is a smart one. In that sense, I’m fairly optimistic.

With a very strong lineup and a creative marketing campaign, Woodstock II stands a chance of being one of the best festivals of the summer, and a fairly fitting tribute to the event that changed it all.

AMAZON LINK: https://amzn.to/2UbiiiB

Advertisements

The 61st Grammy Awards: Thoughts and Predictions!!

Let’s take a look at the 61st annual Grammy Awards! Who will win? Who should win? Will Taylor Swift sweep it all? All the big questions answered!

Best Comedy Album

Who Should Win:Dave Chapelle – Equanimity & The Bird Revelation

     After a very long hiatus, Dave Chapelle is finally back with one of the most thoughtful and hilarious comedy specials in the last decade. He touches on politics, marriage, race, and even O.J. Simpson, all with the trademark Chapelle wit and wisdom.

Who Will Win: Dave Chapelle – Equanimity & The Bird Revelation

   After the long break and thanks to the massive amount of content he put out this year, Chapelle provides Grammy voters with something they love even more than a quality album, and that’s a great story.

Best Americana Album

Who Should Win:John Prine – The Tree of Forgiveness

   I’ve said on multiple occasions that this category shouldn’t exist, and should simply be folded into the country category. This is especially apparent this year with the rather weak field in both sets of nominees. The Tree of Forgiveness, however, would stand out in any crowd as one of the best entries in a legendary discography.

Who Will Win: John Prine – The Tree of Forgiveness

   The Grammys value popularity quite a bit, and Prine’s is the only name on the record with any mainstream recognition. In addition, the album contemplates quite a bit on the career of the infamous Singing Mailman, a quality the committee rarely fails to reward.

Best Country Album

Who Should Win:Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hours

   Here, there are two strong contenders, but I think Golden Hours edges out Stapleton’s record by an inch. It’s by far Kacey Musgraves’ best album to date, and the unique marriage of an orchestral pallet, classic pop-country songwriting, and progressive production makes for an ambitious album that deserves to be rewarded.

Who Will Win: Chris Stapleton – From A Room Vol. 2

   This isn’t a win that would disappoint me, but it’s certainly Stapleton’s least impressive LP and much weaker than its predecessor. However, Chris is a darling of the Grammy committee, having won last year with Vol. 1, and boasting a few other nominations this year.

Best Rock Album

Who Should Win:Alice in Chains – Rainier Fog

   2018 has been one of rock music’s best years in recent memory, this category stands as a shining example of how little the Grammys know about the current music scene. Of the rather weak selection, though, Alice in Chains’ most recent effort is easily the best. The heavy guitars and powerful vocals are a more mature form of grunge revolution the band pioneered in the 90’s.

Who Will Win: Fall Out Boy – M A N I A

   This is something of a worst case scenario. Only a decade after their seminole pop-punk debut, Fall Out Boy abandoned all semblance of rock influences and recorded one of the most grating, unlistenable LP’s of the century. Wouldn’t it be just like the Grammys to reward that?

Best New Artist

Who Should Win:Greta Van Fleet

   One of the more controversial bands nominated, I’m a fan of Greta Van Fleet, and I won’t apologize for it. No matter where you stand on the their originality, they’ve put out two very successful LP’s and played multiple festivals just this year. They’re the most accomplished nominee in this category, and they’ve got a lot of promise.

Who Will Win: Greta Van Fleet

   Regardless of the controversy, GVF seems to have accrued enough of a following and generated enough buzz that the Grammys would be out of their minds to pass them up.

Record of the Year

Who Should Win:Kendrick Lamar feat. SZA – All the Stars

   Record of the year is meant to reward the finished product of a track, as apposed to Song of the Year which rewards only the songwriter. With that in mind, “All the Stars” seems the obvious choice. The production is tight, Kendrick’s flow is as slick as ever, and SZA gives a powerful performance on the choruses.

Who Will Win: Post Malone feat. 21 Savage – Rockstar

   I can’t say I mind this song, and in fact, I love the album, but the production is slightly lacking and 21 Savage’s feature is one of the worst of the year. Regardless, this feels like a big year for Post Malone, and I doubt that will stop when it comes to the big four.

Song of the Year

Who Should Win:Childish Gambino – This is America

   It’s been a few months now and it’s easy to forget, but the entire country seemed to stop on a dime for a couple days when Childish Gambino released “This is America.” While the music video is the most important element to the song’s success, the lyricism and the brilliance of using trap influences as commentary in of themselves is more than deserving of this award.

Who Will Win: Drake – God’s Plan

   Perhaps I’m being a bit cynical here, but I can’t see Drake losing in a big four category, especially to such a creative and politically charged song. “God’s Plan,” was another massive summer hit, and it seems likely to me that it will bring home this award.

Album of the Year

Who Should Win:Post Malone – Beerbongs & Bentleys

   The Album of the Year field was particularly weak this year, but this Post Malone album is one of a few projects I could actually stomach giving this award to. Is it ambitious? No. Inventive? No. But it aims to be a collection of well made pop/hip-hop songs that everyone can enjoy, and it does that very well.

Who Will Win: Drake – Scorpion

   Again, perhaps I’m cynical, but when the field is weak, we tend to see the award go to a big name in pop music and there is no bigger name on this year’s list.

Greta Van Fleet Releases Explosive First LP, Despite Production Issues

Greta Van Fleet still has a lot of room to grow, but this album leaves me excited to take that journey with them.

     Greta Van Fleet is neo-classic rock group based in Frankenmuth, Michigan. The group has achieved massive success since the release of their debut EP, Black Smoke Rising in the summer of 2017 and the follow up, From the Fires a few months later. The latter was certified gold and peaked in the top 40 on billboard, reaching number one in their hard rock classification.

   Their sound is often compared to that of Led Zeppelin, an observation which gains the bulk of its credibility from from frontman, Josh Kiszka’s high pitched vocal with which he wails over virtually every track. Beyond this, the instrumental work, particularly Jake Kiszka’s guitar, is evocative of the indulgent style of rock’s golden age in the early to mid-1970’s. Greta Van Fleet have continually dispelled the direct comparisons to Zeppelin in many interviews, and it’s become something of a hot topic in online circles. Personally, the similarities are far to obvious to be missed, but it’s never bothered me or effected my enjoyment of the band’s work, which I’ve found to be some of the best in modern rock music over the past few years. That being said, this LP had it’s work cut out, as it was tasked with exploring new sonic landscapes without losing the group’s classic style. It’s a difficult juggling act, but I must say, Anthem of the Peaceful Army performs it quite well.

   The Greta we know and love is hear in full force, particularly on tracks like “The Cold Wind,” or the lead single, “When the Curtains Fall.” Here, we’re treated to well toned guitar work, rock beats, and pure rock vocals. It’s fun, it’s powerful, and in every way it’s classic, which is everything we’ve come to love and expect from the group.

   There are also consistent improvements, however. Sam Kiszka’s bass work, which has been lacking up to this point, is excellent on “The New Day,” and “You’re the One.” In addition, Danny Wagner’s drums on tracks like “Mountain of the Sun,” are vastly better on this project, retaining the basic rock beats of From the Fires, but adorning them with well placed fills and crashes.

   And, of course, Josh and Jake Kiszka’s contributions on vocals and guitar respectively are fantastic, as expected. A tracks like “Lover, Leaver,” and “Brave New World,” just couldn’t be accomplished by many bands in the current rock scene, but Josh and Jake muscle them to excellence through catchy hooks and soaring vocals, both of which can be found on nearly every second of the forty minute runtime.

   The best addition to Greta’s arsenal, overall, are the dark and atmospheric tracks like “Watching Over,” and the opener, “Age of Man.” The latter works in a bit of orchestration and the latter uses an almost minimalist approach and an excellent guitar solo, but each achieve a more nocturnal feel than was ever possible on the band’s earlier hits. The best example of this comes in the closer, “Lover, Leaver (Taker, Believer),” the longest track on the record and my personal favorite, which dances between droning guitars, minimal interludes, and explosive screams to carry all of its six minutes. This is an obvious moment of growth for Greta, and as such a young band thrown into such a bright spotlight, the willingness to branch out is commendable, as well as sonically enjoyable.

   On the other hand, there was a surprising amount of acoustic guitar on this record, which doesn’t always work to the band’s favor. “The New Day” utilizes this quite well, but tracks like “Anthem” and my least favorite entry, “You’re the One,” which also suffers from poor lyricism and, my biggest complaint with this record as a whole, boring production.

   The production team at Republic records seems to have missed a large portion of what makes Greta Van Fleet the group they are, and because of this, this album suffers from multiple missed opportunities. This band has the opportunity to build a lush, maximalist sound, and instead, it sounds like for, albeit talented, musicians performing together. One of the best elements of the indulgent, stadium rock of the 70’s was hearing lead riffs, drum fills, and vocal hooks seem to peak above a powerful wave of sound for only a moment. This is a missed opportunity which I hope will be corrected in later projects.

   Anthem of the Peaceful Army is a blast to listen to. Its made to be played very loud and harken to a much earlier, prouder time in rock’s history, and yet it delivers substance along with its aesthetic. Every aspect of the band’s sound has improved and, despite a few lyrical and production missteps along the way, they’ve crafted an extremely enjoyable LP.

   Greta Van Fleet still has a lot of room to grow, but this album leaves me excited to take that journey with them.

7/10

HEAR ANTHEM OF THE PEACEFUL ARMYhttps://open.spotify.com/album/7zeCZY6rQRufc8IHGKyXGX