(Editor’s note: Wow, What the Hell Just Happened Week certainly dragged on, didn’t it? The idea was to recap all the amazing music I saw between 9/21 and 9/25, openers and headliners alike, and though travels prevented me from finishing this last chapter in a timely fashion, they also gave me plenty of time to mull it over. Without further ado, here’s the final installment (complete with eyeball-friendly left justification and paragraphs!).

What the Hell Just Happened?!? Week: Day 5 — Wilco

It’s hard to write about your favorite band in the whole wide world, and I can say with conviction that Wilco has earned that distinction for me.

Despite that conviction about my favorite band, I can’t tell you what my favorite song in the world is. The same is true with albums. I think it’s because the answer changes so often. But shouldn’t it be the other way around? Songs don’t change. They can be remixed, covered, sampled and chopped up to fit into a 15-second commercial, but the original text stays the same (Can Let It Be Naked be the one exception? Can we all pretend that’s the real one?).

Bands, on the other hand, evolve. Bands venture in new musical directions, add members, find religion, go to rehab, change labels, become political, release concept albums, go back into rehab… they’re as dynamic as the people that comprise them. Such is certainly the case with Wilco, a group that’s undergone a lineup change after almost every record, the exceptions being their latest two efforts. So why is it so easy for me to say that Wilco is my favorite band? Why hasn’t that changed? Their show at Merriweather Post Pavilion on September 25 gave me the perfect opportunity to figure that out, but not for the reason I expected.

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Nick Lowe

The Old Magic

What the Hell Just Happened?!? Week: Day 3 — Nick Lowe

Sometimes music feels like a enormous game of connect the dots — one you can play for your entire life and never finish. Nick Lowe’s solo-acoustic opening set before Sunday’s Wilco show at Merriweather Post Pavilion gave me the chance to connect a few dots that I didn’t even know were close to one another, and I’m incredibly glad I was there to see it. Before Wilco released their “I Might” single, the first from their new album The Whole Love, I didn’t know much about Nick Lowe. When I heard the single’s b-side, a cover of Lowe’s “I Love My Label,” I asked my father-in-law about its author and found out about Rockpile, the influential band Lowe fronted alongside Dave Edmunds. I enjoyed what I heard, and was excited when I found out Lowe would be opening for Wilco. But the connection that really blew my mind wasn’t made until halfway though Sunday’s outstanding opening set, when I realized he was playing Elvis Costello’s “Alison.” It was a great “Hey, I know this song!!!” moment. What I didn’t know was that Lowe produced the song, and that he’s credited with writing another tune made famous by Costello, “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love And Understanding,” which we also got to hear on Sunday. Lowe’s Wikipedia page is full of these crazy connections, like how he married (and divorced) Johnny Cash’s stepdaughter, but Lowe and Cash remained friends and recorded together and oh god Wikipedia steals so much of my time. But that’s one of my favorite things about music — the dots are just waiting to be connected, and there’s no right or wrong way to do so. Preview Lowe’s new offering, The Old Magic, below and grab the album from iTunes here.

Nick Lowe — The Old Magic

Animal Collective

Fall Be Kind EP

Special Two-Part Coverage of the Most Hipster Thing I’ll Do All Summer
Part 2: There Will Be Merch

I’ve been writing this blog for three and a half months now, and (sigh) it’s time. It’s time I shared with you that… here goes… I have a merch addiction. A raging one. Show me a merch table, and I’ll show you all the cash I have in my wallet. My triggers include concerts, NASCAR races, baseball games, basketball games, political campaigns, SXSW was a t-shirt collecting shit show… it’s bad, OK? So when I walked into Saturday’s Animal Collective concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion, my love for merch and my vinyl habit teamed up, and things got a little out of hand. I snagged a t-shirt, a copy of Animal Collective’s Fall Be Kind EP on vinyl, a 7″ single of Panda Bear’s “Last Night at the Jetty,” and a lime green Merriweather Post Pavilion bag (What? Sometimes a guy needs to tote some stuff around for a few hours). Did I feel a little guilty? Sure. Did that stop me from tweeting about it once I saw that the venue’s giant screens were set to scroll through posts related to the night’s concert? Nope! I informed the entire Merriweather Post Pavilion lawn that I was “All merched up,” and gleefully watched the post scroll by a handful of times. The other tweets were far more entertaining, though. Post after post of hipsters making fun of other hipsters. It was a sight to behold — through thick-rimmed glasses, of course. While I can’t condone my merch-first-ask-questions-later approach to money management, I can wholeheartedly endorse the music I picked up. Panda Bear’s single is fantastic (as is the rest of the album) and Fall Be Kind is one of the best EPs I’ve ever heard. Check out “What Would I Want? Sky,” which is historic, in that it features the first licensed sample of a Grateful Dead song, and grab the album here.

Animal Collective

Merriweather Post Pavilion

Special Two-Part Coverage of the Most Hipster Thing I’ll Do All Summer
Part 1: Expectations and Ogres

Hipsters love irony. Defying expectations is central to this most sub- of sub-cultures, so it’s no surprise (or is it?) that before I even made it to Animal Collective’s show at Merriweather Post Pavilion, I was already immersed in a complicated web of dashed preconception. Let’s do some untangling. The members of Animal Collective all have roots in the Baltimore area, yet they’d never played at Merriweather Post Pavilion, even though it’s the venue that inspired the name of the band’s most recent (and most successful) album, an album that, according to an interview with band member Dave Portner, we wouldn’t be hearing much of, since Portner foretold that they’d be playing twelve songs, 70% of which would be new (not a round number), the newness of the songs being old news, since it’s fairly well known that Animal Collective prefers testing new and evolving material on the road over the traditional practice of playing mainly tunes from previous albums. Whew. And I thought ogres had layers. All of this knowing so much and so little at the same time had me over-the-moon excited about the concert, and all hipster jokes aside, it was an incredible experience. There I was at a concert where the whole audience is participating in an exercise of shared discovery. Since most of the songs are works in progress, not even the most stalkery, show-taping, YouTube-searching superfan knows for sure what will happen. It brings to mind that moment you see in Victorian period pieces, when the foppish audience either dispassionately claps or roars in approval after the premiere of a composer’s latest symphony. I felt sublimely lucky to be there, watching one of the greatest bands in the world make beautiful music that’s creative in every sense of the word. Check out one of the songs the band did play off Merriweather Post Pavilion, called “Brother Sport,” and download the album here.


Drive-By Truckers and Phish in one weekend? You’re all like, “No Way!” and I’m all, “WAY!” Yessir/ma’am, after seeing Drive-By Truckers for the first time on Friday, I headed up to Merriweather Post Pavilion (noooo, not the Animal Collective album, the concert venue … yes, that was a very good album … why yes, I do have tickets to see them there on July 9! We should carpool, you know, to save gas and stuff … wait … what were we talking about?) to see Phish on Sunday night. It was a very good show, and it reminded me of one of the things I love most about seeing live music. Like the Grateful Dead before them, Phish is known for phaithful phans (see what I did there?) who phollow the band on tour (ok, I’m stopping now) and know their music inside and out. I have seen Phish a number of times, but Sunday’s show featured more unfamiliar songs than any other time I’d seen them. Some were covers, some were tunes the band just doesn’t perform often, but all of them gave me the gift of musical homework. I love musical homework. I love finding a setlist when I get home, so I can learn about the songs I didn’t know – songs that may have never known had I not heard them live. My favorite from Sunday is the Talking Heads’ “Crosseyed and Painless,” not just because it’s a great song, but because it gives me an entry point to explore the rest of the Talking Heads catalog. One of Sunday’s cover songs that I did recognize was the Rolling Stones’ classic, “Loving Cup.” Check out the video above, and the original version below for some historical perspective.