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Elbow at the 2011 Popped! Music Festival

27 Sep

A little after 8 o’clock on Friday at the Popped! Music Festival in Philadelphia, Elbow took the stage, and, in an instant, it was evident that these five rockers were the veterans of the two day line-up. Not to say that the acts who came before them were bad or amateurish in any way, but Elbow is a flash forward of who these acts can become two decades down the line. In fact, singer Guy Garvey announced, “We’re celebrating 20 years together,” after someone down in front wished him a Happy 20th.

Overall, Garvey had a very laid back vibe about him, but the band’s musical stylings were anything but. Accompanied by two “violin girls,” Elbow’s sound was grandiose and robust – a transcendental, otherworldly force of spell binding noise.

The set opened with “The Birds,” and “The Bones of You,” a pair of haunting, celestial ballads that turned into an all out aural assault three songs in when the band launched into “Grounds for Divorce.”  Striations of their Brit pop/rock counterparts Duran Duran, New Order and even Oasis were laced throughout their songs, outing them as a product of the early 90s. However, they lent credit to the old adage, “You’re only as young as you feel.”

Most of the acts playing Popped! were solidly planted in their early to mid-twenties, but despite being a tad further along in years, Garvey was very pro-youth, fitting right in with the largely college-age crowd. “If you treat people like dicks it’s because you’re a dick,” he said, after referring to youths being inaccurately judged and mistreated in the band’s native UK.

And youth seems to be a theme for the band on their fifth and latest release, Build a Rocket Boys!  The album originally had the working title Lippy Kids, and according to Elbow’s Wiki page, Garvey told BBC 6 Music’s Shaun Keaveney,

“It’s quite a nostalgic thing. I’ve got a thing about growing up – not needing to! But a certain period of your life when – well kids are called ‘hoodies’ these days, aren’t they, when they reach their teens. I remember it being an amazing important time, so I’ve written a lot about that.”

This nostalgia trip notion showed most in “Lippy Kids” off their latest. It also confirmed comparisons in the media that Garvey is Peter Gabriel’s vocal doppelganger. “Look out for each other. Cheers,” Garvey said before launching into the final song for the evening, “One Day Like This.” At Popped! last Friday night, Elbow separated the men from the boys, and hopefully, they’ll be rocking the same way two more decades from now.

Popped! Music Festival Finds a Home at Philadelphia’s FDR Park

19 Sep

This Friday, September 23 and Saturday, September 24, the Popped! Music Festival will take place in its new, permanent home of FDR Park in Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love has some of the largest parks in the country, one of which being FDR Park, and after four years of holding the festival in various venues scattered throughout the city, Popped! is finally in a set and recurring location. Festival creator, Alexis Rosenzweig, says, “Our goal was really getting into the park and we did that, and now we have a permanent location to operate out of.”

The idea for a festival in Philadelphia emerged from Rosenzweig feeling that the city would be a great destination where the people living in and around the city, as well from all over, could come for one weekend and enjoy great music, food and comedy. In its earliest incarnations, however, that wasn’t entirely the case.

The first Popped!, held in 2007, was what Rosenzweig would call a “DIY operation.” There were no investors then and each day was treated like a show to a few thousand people across multiple venues. Then, the next year, the festival took place in one location, outside on Drexel’s campus, and featured Vampire Weekend and the Ting Tings, two artists who were on the cusp of major recognition, which is what Rosenzweig looks for when booking acts for Popped!

“For me what Popped! is really all about is being trendsetters,” Rosenzweig says. “I really try to find acts who are about to blow up, and the Ting Tings are a perfect example of that.” The Ting Tings opened the Drexel campus festival, and by that point, “Shut Up and Let Me Go” was number 1 on the Billboard charts. “I try to look for acts like that who are going to be relevant by the time the festival happens,” she says.

As far as stand-out artists at this year’s festival, Rosenzweig puts Foster the People at the top of the list. They appeared on her radar by way of a promoter friend when the band was playing at Philly’s 110 capacity seating, Kung Fu Necktie. Her friend forwarded her a Craigslist ad showing a listing by someone scalping tickets for the show for $70, which is more than a single day ticket at Popped! Rosenzweig didn’t even know the name of the band at that point but based on their buzzworthiness, she booked them for the festival without ever having seen them. Then, that all changed at this year’s Lollapalooza this past August, and Rosenzweig saw how people were freaking out to their songs. “It’s exciting to see a band like get so successful so quickly,” she says.

Also on her list of artists she’s excited to see are Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. who are friends of hers and have an incredible live show. She says, “I’m excited to see them in a festival vibe.” She adds that Girl Talk always does well in this market, and Kreaysean will not only play her first show ever in Philly, but Popped! marks her first festival, as well. The Shins are only doing a handful of shows this year and Rosenweig is excited Popped! is one of them. “Pretty Lights have grown tremendously. I haven’t seen their live show yet, but I hear it’s out of control,” she says and adds, “I think the lineup is really great.”

Rosenzweig has been working in events for the last decade, half of which has been spent working in the Philadelphia area, working largely with the Roots. While working on events in music is her background, she says a lot of it is a politically driven job. When planning a festival, so much has to do with the city and the location, and it has to be sold as what it will bring in terms of revenue and will be good for the city. “I was very lucky to have people who believed in this and had the city very much onboard,” she says.

Citing Lollapalooza, again, as an example, Rosenzweig knows Chicago was very accommodating about hosting the festival there and says, “There’s always red tape and always hurdles in any city, but at the end of the day, the city has to be on board with, ‘Yes, this is going to generate commerce, going to generate revenue and going to bring people into the city.’”

But Popped! differs from Lollapalooza in that Rosenzweig isn’t trying to be exactly like the festival giant. “It’s about a long term goal, it’s about building. We’re trying to do this is in the most organic way possible and not going into it trying to do a Lollapalooza-type festival.” Meaning, it is not a touring festival, like Lollapalooza, which has its own identity and has x amount of money to hold it in cities that vary year to year without a set location.

“FDR Park is probably in the most convenient location you can imagine,” Rosenzweig says. The park is directly across the street from the Philadelphia sports complex. And while people are expected to come from New York, Baltimore, Allentown, New Jersey, Delaware, and any number of Philadelphia’s surrounding, which are vast, Popped! is about providing a festival for people who live in this area. “Philly is a driving city – lots of people work outside the city and drive in for work and to see shows,” she says. Those familiar with events held in Philly, are familiar with the area and know the drill in terms of driving to that location.

Popped! has built on itself since it started and has grown already from where it began. “It’s catered to fit where we’re at with the festival here, the grounds that we’re on and what the market is.” She says it’s important to look at all those things when taking on a project like this, and knows how easy it could be to go in, blow it out in an enormous way and not look down the road, long term. Rosenzweig is looking down the road, and at how Popped! Music Festival can grow in an organic way so the people of Philadelphia have a festival to enjoy for many years to come.

For more information on where to stay, transportation and a list of the festival’s full lineup, check out http://poppedphiladelphia.com/.

Scott Weiland Scratches the Surface with Memoir

18 May

When I read Fall to Pieces by Mary Forsberg Weiland, Scott Weiland’s now ex-wife, I devoured it. It was such an insightful and awesome biography – I loved, loved, loved it. I think it goes without saying, therefore, that I was highly anticipating Scott Weiland’s memoir, Not Dead & Not for Sale, with sky high hopes.

Those high hopes were quickly dashed.

Dancing Around Insight

Not Dead and Not for Sale tiptoes around stories already easily found in the press about Weiland, his troubled relationship with his ex-wife, his troubled relationship with Stone Temple Pilots, his troubled relationship with Velvet Revolver…that list could go on and on. The book reads like a rapid fire rebuttal to all the headlines, mishaps and intimacies provided  by Forsberg Weiland in her book. Where are the gory details? The nitty gritty, down and dirty about all the band in-fighting, the make-ups and break-ups, the sex, drugs and rock & roll I’ve come to expect from a musician’s memoir? (It’s shocking I would expect that, I know) All still locked in the vault of the mind, apparently. The entire book reads like an overview. A very, very brief overview.

Weiland starts to go there but can’t quite commit, circling back to his love of drugs, drink and, of course, Mary. He provides about four “in-depth” anecdotes in a 288 page span, and they wade in quite a shallow pool. They don’t seem to contribute to the larger arc of what the public already knows to be the Scott Weiland story of love, drugs and second, third and fouth chances, either.

Perhaps the book should’ve been called Between the Lines, the first single off their latest album. Weiland vollies between adoration for his ex-wife and getting his digs in in the very next sentence. A product of a wound that is still fresh? One would almost hope. The hurt is there, the love is there, the struggle to call a truce between the two is there, but Not Dead leaves the reader wanting. It’s understandable desiring to keep some things sacred and private. Don’t write a memoir.

To boot, the book is loaded with fillers – two inch margins at the top of every page, pictures throughout instead of featured in the usual mid-section, and text in a 64 pt font appear on every other page. Song lyrics are peppered throughout, as well, but, again, every STP/Velvet Revovler fan knows the songs and, again, Weiland isn’t telling his readers anything we don’t already know.

“What’s real, and what’s for sale?”

Like the lyrics in the STP song, “Vasoline,” it’s hard to dissect the truth, especially if you’ve read both Fall to Pieces and Weiland’s memoir.

A big beat in the Mary-Scott decades long plotline is the day Forsberg Weiland torched $80,000 worth of Weiland’s wardrobe on their front lawn in Toluca Lake, California. Forsberg Weiland starts the story off by saying the family was moving from one home to the next, and she needed Weiland to take their two children to a hotel so she could concentrate and pack. She didn’t realize it at the time, but she was having a major psychotic break with her bipolar disorder.

Weiland has a wildly different take on how that story began. He writes that he was already moved out, the couple had already broken up and Forsberg Weiland wanted him back after hearing he was dating someone new. She kicked him in the face and later strangled his mother – some heady accusations and not hard to imagine why she would leave those out. So which is the truth? Fall to Pieces came first and was a better read. First impressions count the most. By the time you reach this point in Not Dead & Not for Sale it’s the final nail in the coffin.

Weiland’s memoir is an entertaining read for any Scott Weiland/STP fan, but if you’re looking to get behind the curtain and see the magical, all-powerful Oz, look elsewhere. I so wanted to love this book, but sadly, Not Dead & Not for Sale left this fan wanting more.

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