This past Friday night in Urbana, local self-proclaimed emo-punk act Jarring debuted their first full-length album, and along for the ride was a slew of great opening acts from the Champaign-Urbana area and beyond. Opening for Jarring came Terribly Happy, Spandrels, and Puzzlequest in that order. Each brought their own sound and spirit to the show.

Peoria based group, Terribly Happy,  opened with a distinct atmosphere for the show. Led by energetic and angsty vocals, the audience followed the dynamic band into the night. The air was filled with excellent guitar riffs and inspired rhythms. Terribly Happy are an unmistakably creative group and a force to be reckoned with, so watch out for them in the future of the Peoria-Bloomington-Champaign DIY scene. Their most recent album Wanchu! is available online.

Indy-Urbana based act Spandrels was the second performance of the night. They brought along noisy strings and searing vocals reminiscent of I Had the Blues but I Shook them Loose era Bombay Bicycle Club. Their sound didn’t change much from song to song, but there’s something to be said for consistency and injecting a contrast of sound to the show as a whole. Their upcoming album is close to completion, so stay tuned for demos releasing in the very near future.

 

The last opening act to perform was Puzzlequest. Based out of Urbana, they will have been together for a year this Halloween. Warm vocals and a cool laid back air highlighted their set. They brought a rebellious vibe which fits snugly within the theme of the night. Puzzle Quest’s show was the ideal segway into the night’s main event…

 

Jarring was the highly publicized star of the night, as this show marked the release of their album S/TTheir songs had a rowdy and exciting chord progression that looked to be the crowd favorite. The group’s evolution from an indie rock sound to their current emo punk vibe was made apparent in their multifaceted sound. The band had a synergistic charm that only a group with substantial chemistry could achieve. Jarring wrapped up the night with a smattering of covers that included the likes of the Killers and Modern Baseball, much to the delight of the swelling crowd. Their live performance was vibrant and the album is surely worth a listen for all new music lovers. Pizza FM and Spotify both play host to a compilation of their songs.

Overall, the show was a triumph in which several deserving acts gained glory and exposure. The night rattled on without a single dull moment, a sure sign of good things to come for this year’s music scene in Champaign-Urbana.

I jumped at the opportunity to see Fela Kuti’s youngest son, Seun, and had heard good things about Charles Bradley (though when I learned he used to be a James Brown impersonator my enthusiasm waned). It turned out that Seun Kuti did not make an appearance at the House of Vans that night. Despite this, I thought the show was entertaining. The opening rap duo, The Cool Kids, delivered an upbeat, old-school flow with production reminiscent of Beastie Boys. Lively and fun, their performance set the pace for the rest of the night. I was pleased to see an age diverse crowd that really danced during a performance.

Bradley’s band began playing a bland, funk revival introduction. It was a monotonous throwback to the early seventies live introductions of groups like The Temptations (see, “The Temptations in Japan” Track 8). After about five or so minutes of this and the pianist revving up the crowd, Bradley came out in a black sequined vest and slacks. Surely, he must have been an incredible James Brown impersonator. Of course, this modern replication of the early era of funk can’t be equated to those that created it: Funkadelic, Sly & the Family Stone, and James Brown with The J.B.’s. Bradley, though, did succeed in emulating Brown’s showmanship and vitality. Considering only one year ago he was diagnosed with stomach cancer, I was thoroughly impressed with his vocal intensity and his extremely physical performance that included a wardrobe change. Unfortunately, his songs were glib and forced imitations of funk standards paired with an unremarkable lyricism. A cover of Black Sabbath’s “Changes” ended the show and serves as a perfect example of Bradley’s disappointing artistic choices: it begins, “I feel unhappy I feel so sad.”

Though his ability as a songwriter and bandleader is vastly inferior to the man he once impersonated, I stress that he put on a hell of a show consisting of all the flash one would expect of funk.

    Artists have always served as crucial members of the community finding ways to inspire, represent, make heard, and empower oppressed groups across the globe but today’s modern artists are some of the most radical and exciting this world has ever seen. With the population steadily growing, we find the world becoming more diverse and beautiful than we could have ever imagined but with this beauty comes a dark underbelly. Millions of people face discrimination for their identity be it their race, gender, age, economic class, religion, culture, or their beating heart in general. Luckily, today’s artists are some of the bravest artists to arise during these poor conditions of human rights.

    A powerful ensemble of musicians have begun paving and painting the way for the next wave of marginalized youth, many of them can be found at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival hosted at Union Park on July 14th-16th. Their voices and messages will be heard throughout the beautiful fields of Union Park in Chicago’s diverse Near West Side neighborhood. These are performances and rallies of great magnitude, voices and souls not to miss!  

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Gavin Russom from LCD Soundsystem

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Photo Credit: Gavin Russom/Pitchfork

Gavin Russom became an official member of the musical collective LCD Soundsystem when the band recorded their third studio album, “This is Happening,” in 2010. She’s largely responsible for the band’s distinct sound as she’s worked as a veteran technician, creating a variety of analog synthesizers which continues to mold LCD Soundsystem’s roaring sound.

In an interview with Pitchfork, Russom stated that she’s taken steps towards making her trans identity known to the public and fans but it wasn’t until recently through the inspiration of another amazingly talented artist, the renowned sci-fi author Octavia E. Butler, and the support of New York’s grand trans women community, that she decided to become a ‘whole person’. After taking a short hiatus from music to focus on her self-care, Russom revealed her trans identity to the public on July 6th of this year. Russom stated, “Over the last year and a half, I went from my trans identity being something I was in touch with and worked through in one way or another, to suddenly this shift where it’s on the front burner. Now it’s time to become a whole person.”

If you would like to read the full detailed account, you can check out Russom’s full Pitchfork interview here

Vince Staples

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Photo Credit: Danny Clinch

“Pray the police don’t come blow me down ’cause of my complexion”

Vince Staples is a rap artist hailing from Long Island who has never strayed from political discourse. Often within his music, he relays messages concerning America’s sore topics such as the devaluing of black youth, police brutality, and censorship. On “Bagbak,” from his new album Big Fish Theory, Staples raps,

Clap your hands if the police ever profiled
You ain’t gotta worry, don’t be scary ’cause we on now
Ain’t no gentrifying us, we finna buy the whole town.

Vince Staples places himself at the forefront of conversations regarding the institution of racism in the United States, a systemic problem which targets and discriminates against people of color through the usage of violence, abuse of power, microaggressions, gentrification, and cultural appropriation.  

Solange

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Photo Credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

The big star headlining for the fest on Sunday is Solange. Her latest album titled “A Seat at the Table,” has received outstanding praise and highlighted her as one of the most important voices in pop music today. A Seat at the Table is both the breath of fresh air which breezes smoothly into one’s ear and the forceful gust of wind that challenges and empowers listeners alike. This album reaches out and offers encouragement for African-American women while criticizing white transgressions with authority, as heard in “Don’t Touch My Hair.”  This album is equally a celebration and a critique, it’s explicitly anti-complicity. Solange has been a prime example of how powerful one’s voice can be as she sings over wispy melodies. It’s her lyricism which adds depth to her sound, not necessarily the instrumental production, but rather her spirit in relation to the album’s context.

See Gavin Russom, Vince Staples, Solange, Thurston Moore, American Football, PJ Harvey, Mitski, A Tribe Called Quest and many others at Pitchfork Music Festival at Union Park on July 14th-16th.