Concert Review: FIDLAR at Gothic Theater 10/26

When I tell people FIDLAR is one of my favorite bands, they look shocked. The thought of a small basic-looking girl liking punk rock blows minds. But FIDLAR isn’t just like any punk rock band. Their tongue-in-cheek lyrics over heavy guitar riffs seems to be a product of their west coast skater lifestyle and embodies their acronym: “Fuck It Dog Life’s A Risk.” FIDLAR’s carefree but angsty attitude captures youth sentiment in a palatable way while touching on systemic issues that are reminiscent of early punk music.

I saw FIDLAR in D.C. after their album “Too” came out during my sophomore year of high school. My first punk concert was one of confusion, excitement, and fear. This can be said for all my girl friends that I have dragged into FIDLAR’s mosh pits. The mosh pit can be a dangerous place, especially for small girls. But honestly, if you aren’t moshing at a punk concert what the fuck are you doing.

The mosh pit is a place where people come to express themselves and confront emotional experiences as a community. Although I interpret FIDLAR’s lyrics as mostly sarcastic, they lay down some hard facts about social and institutional issues in America as well as reflect on personal struggles with relationships and drug abuse. These insights are usually buried in satirism, but never seem to be lost on the crowd. FIDLAR’s upbeat guitar solos and screaming chorus remind me that I don’t have to be alone with my problems. I’ve never felt so supported in a crowd of strangers than I have at a punk concert.

As soon as I saw that FIDLAR was on tour, I immediately raced to my computer to get a ticket and, with some bribing, took my friend’s truck down to the Gothic Theater in Denver with two other girls. We made our way to the front as the opening band Side Eyes jumped on. The pit immediately erupted into a sea of smashing shirtless bodies and flailing arms in response to the lead singers siren-like screeching. My friends and I looked at each other with a what-the-fuck-did-we-just-get-ourselves-into look as we watched a group of older kids hardcore moshing with fake blood coming out of their eyes and ears. This was just an opener. The energy mellowed out when the next opener, Dilly Dally, came on with an eerie ambience in the lead singer’s voice and bass guitar chords.The pit was still very much alive, but my guard was lowered as I soaked in the wailing chords and the most quintessentially girl punk screams ever.

The crowd started closing in as people on stage started tuning the arsenal of guitars against the pile of old TV’s on the stage. My friends and I agreed that we would try to keep our spot next to the metal gate at the base of the stage and mosh only if we were really into the song. This agreement was shortly broken after the guitar chords for “Alcohol’ emerged from the back of the stage. I felt the force of the entire crowd pressing on my back when the mosh pit began to push towards the front as Zac, Max, Brandon, and Elvis casually strutted onto stage. There was no introduction, just a small smirk from Zac, then an absolute explosion from the mosh pit as he began to sing FIDLAR’s hit song “No Waves.” I decided to abandon my post and join my people. I have never been in a mosh pit so chaotic; about 40 or 50 kids pushing and shoving each other so forcefully that it was common that groups of people would have to be picked up off the ground. I couldn’t tell if I finally found a crowd of true punk enthusiasts or a group of belligerently drunk men who needed to expel a lot of pent-up testosterone. Either way, I embraced FIDLAR’s acronym and assumed an athletic stance before throwing myself into the pit.  

Mosh pits are generally a very male-dominated space because of the physical dangers as well as their stigma. It felt very empowering to occupy this space with other girls and completely own it together. I befriended a few girls when I was moshing who were also struggling with the combative nature of the pit. It seemed like the band picked up on this issue because right after I was forcibly separated from my friends, Zac grabbed the mic. He told the pit to create an aisle down the middle and then announced that the space created was for a girls-only mosh pit. I weaved through the crowd of skyscraper-sized men and jumped into our pit. We screamed and laughed and moshed the shit out of “5-9.” I gained so much respect for the people around me that night. I don’t want to admit how many times someone pulled me out of an uncomfortable place in a mosh pit or caught me when I was about to fall, but I would like to say how much compassion I felt by FIDLAR and their fans. Near the end of the show, I told a girl I met that I wanted to crowd surf FIDLAR, and next thing I know, her boyfriend had rallied a group of people to pick me up and sent me across the crowd. The gratitude I felt for that couple I met and the FIDLAR community while crowd surfing was indescribable.

The pit never lost steam, and continued to mosh even after FIDLAR ended their set. After a lot of screaming and pushing, FIDLAR came back on for an encore to perform “Blackout Stout” and then absolutely killed their final song. Zac ordered the pit to sit down on the floor so we were forced to sit on top of each other and quietly waited as the looping guitar riff introduction for “Cocaine” teased us. The pit burst to life as soon as Zac screamed the first lines: “you take Sally and I’ll take Sue/There ain’t no difference between the two.” Everyone emptied the rest of their emotions and energy in the pit with that song. I left the concert feeling like a weight had been lifted off my soul, but redistributed onto all my bruised limbs. Honestly, it’s worth the trade-off.

FIDLAR continues to be one of my favorite punk rock bands. Their emphasis on gender inclusivity aligns with the ideology of punk rock. I encourage everyone -especially women- to go to a punk concert and join its wonderful community of strangers at least once in life. The people that I have met in the pit become less like strangers and more like friends after sharing even a moment of moshing together. FIDLAR recently announced that their third studio album “Almost Free” will be released January 25. No tour dates or locations have been announced yet, but I am already looking forward to seeing them and the FIDLAR community again!

On Top of the World: Louisville, White Reaper, and I

My old Kentucky home is the land of many of the world’s superlatives. The world’s greatest horse racing, the world’s best bourbon, the world’s most influential boxer, the world’s largest baseball bat, and also the World’s Best American Band, White Reaper. Both White Reaper and I hail from the same city, Louisville, unknowingly frequenting the same restaurants and music venues for years before I discovered them. They put out their first EP in 2014, three years before I would first register hearing their music, and four before I would meet them and grow to be a huge fan. I must admit that I have not been a fan of White Reaper’s for long, but nonetheless, their music has grown to become a significant part of my life.

The author’s signed White Reaper album. Image Credit: Jane Harris.

My relationship with White Reaper’s music started on Record Store Day a year ago, when I was lucky enough to stumble upon a DJ set by the Wilkerson brothers, twins Sam and Nick, who make up the rhythmic section of the band. They play bass and drums, respectively and amazingly. That day I also met Tony Esposito, lead vocals and guitar, and Ryan Hater, who rocks harder than any other keyboard player I’ve seen live. (This experience left out Hunter Thompson, an incredibly talented guitarist who ironically has the same name as a Louisville icon though he is the only band member who is not from Louisville). At the record store I remember picking up one of their records from the “W” artist section, looking at the picture of the band on the sleeve, holding the record up to my face right next to the band members in real life, and doing a double-take. Within five minutes the record was purchased, I already had their signatures, and was engaged in conversation with the boys. From multiple interactions with the band members it is with ease and certainty that I can say they are some of the most genuine guys I’ve met in the music scene today. I acknowledge my bias as a fellow Louisvillian, but their onstage charm translates offstage as well. Their fan base is so dedicated partly because of how personable they are. They’re cool guys making cool music.

(from left) Ryan Hater, Tony Esposito, Nick Wilkerson, and Hunter Thompson rocking out at Louisville’s Forecastle Festival 2018. Image Credit: Jane Harris.

“The World’s Best…” is a title I would readily give them if they hadn’t already given it to themselves. Their second studio album, The World’s Best American Band, cements their self-fulfilling prophecy as one of the new, upcoming “greats” with tracks that rock, and don’t stop. Listening to the album I was immediately seduced by “Judy French,” as all other listeners are. Soon my favorite off their sophomore album became “Daises,” and before I had exhausted The World’s Best… I was already deep into their earlier tracks: first album “White Reaper Does It Again” (funny, right?) and self-titled EP. Fast forward a few weeks from the day I met them and all my “Spotify heavy rotation” tracks belonged to White Reaper—some personal favorites are still “Alone Tonight,” “I Don’t Think She Cares,” and “Tell Me.” Go a couple more weeks into the future and I’m getting whiplash in the front row at their concert.

Ryan Hater, Tony Esposito, Sam Wilkerson, and I at Forecastle Festival 2018. Image Credit: Jane Harris.

Headbanging and moshing to White Reaper’s music is easy with their catchy guitar riffs, strong rhythm, and especially Esposito’s piercing and unique vocals. You can listen to any White Reaper track once and then be able to pick out Esposito’s voice again, that’s how unique and profound in a strange, ambiguous way he sounds. In combination with their recognizable sound, their stage-presence as some sort of self-proclaimed rock gods also entices and draws in a dedicated audience and fan base. Their energy is pure and contagious. They easily bring everyone to their feet—with songs like “The Stack” it’s impossible not to dance. In this song Esposito sings the truth, “If you make the girls dance, the boys will dance with them,” but White Reaper doesn’t need to make people move because the audience is already dancing. The songs on White Reaper Does It Again, though the production can sound fuzzy at times (something I think adds to the character of some of the more eccentric tracks, like “Friday the 13th”), end as strong as they start. Listening all the way from their first EP to The World’s Best… it’s fun to watch the band grow, gain members, and develop a sound that has potential to fluctuate, develop, and continue to excite. Saying I’m excited to hear new tracks from them in the future would be an understatement—their music makes me feel at home.

(from left) Nick Wilkerson, Hunter Thompson, and Sam Wilkerson during their Forecastle set. Image Credit: Jane Harris.

Strangely enough, of all the things to be proud of about my city and state, White Reaper is at the top of my list. I’ll never forget the first time I saw them live in Louisville—how genuinely proud I was to be a fan of their music, proud of the great Louisville music scene they’re helping to develop, and proud of them being great, compassionate people. From my new, small room in Colorado Springs, listening to White Reaper takes me back to Kentucky in the fall. While blasting White Reaper I’m driving fast around Louisville at night, hanging out with my friends, and feeling like I’m strong, opinionated, and on top of the world.


You can listen to White Reaper’s discography on this handy playlist I’ve made of all their songs on Spotify:

ALBUM REVIEW: Khalid- “Suncity”

 

Khalid’s rise to fame has been slow and steady. His smooth sound and relatable lyrics make for versatile, chill music for a variety of settings.  But apart from being solid background music, his most recent album, Suncity, shares some words of wisdom about his journey to stardom as well as the unpredictability of life that we can all relate to.

Unlike his first album, American Teen, which centered on Khalid’s relationships and teenage experiences with catchy but simple songs like “Saved” and “Young, Dumb and Broke,” Suncity’s abstract feel is more of a focus on instrumentals. Apart from “Saturday Nights,” with the chorus “all the things that I know, that your parents don’t” which echoes the angsty teen of Khalid’s previous album, Suncity tackles life’s obstacles in a way that all age groups can relate to.

Suncity begins with “9.13,” a short instrumental which concludes in Khalid being given the key to his hometown of El Paso, Texas, or as he calls it in American Teen, the city of the 915. In “Vertigo,” Khalid reflects on his rise to prominence in the music industry among other accomplishments in a whimsical, dubious way. After going back to his roots with the somber, moody teen passion in “Saturday Nights,” he returns to a more reflective vibe with “Salem’s Interlude.” “Salem’s Interlude” revolves around life’s obstacles that we all face as well as the struggle of which path to take. Through the interlude, Khalid invites listeners to step back and contemplate their direction and goals in the craziness that is life. “Motion,” my personal favorite song on the album, is the most unique and has a dreamlike quality. The album ends with a note of pop in both “Better” and “Suncity,” definitely the most radio friendly of the album. “Better” is catchy, romantic and overall average. “Suncity,” featuring Empress Of, expresses Khalid’s tie to El Paso and the community he grew up in, ending back where he began in an upbeat, refreshing tone.

All in all, “Suncity” is both a continuation of Khalid’s style and an example of his progression into a variety of lyrical and instrumental genres. After being featured in songs with artists from Halsey to H.E.R., I was pleasantly surprised to see Khalid’s old style and growth reflected in Suncity.

See what you think!

Listen to Suncity here:

Jerry Paper October 10th Lost Lake Lounge

JERRY PAPER – Photo by Joe Leavenworth for Fader

As the season’s first snow fell in Denver, I made the trek to the capital’s Lost Lake Lounge to see Jerry Paper. It was my second time at Lost Lake; the staff were just as friendly as I remembered, the venue just as intimate. I came just in time for the last opener, Kiefer. Although a bit bummed to miss his predecessors, Prophet and Stimulator Jones, I easily got carried away with Kiefer’s rhythmic, floating keyboard-and-drum kit melodies. Citing J Dilla, and covering him once, Kiefer swayed his shoulders, letting his eyes close and his head fall back, as he grooved with the crowd. At the end of his set, he slipped off stage and stuck around to chat and enjoy the rest of the show.

I had seen Jerry Paper once before at a converted Free Mason lodge in Los Angeles this past summer. Then, the band had just finished recording Like a Baby, their newest and most accessible record. They were just introducing it to a live audience. Now, two days before the worldwide release of Like a Baby, the band had grown into the new songs. On the record and in concert, they had traded in synthetic instrumentals and muffled vocals to explore a funkier, organic sound that matches well with Jerry Paper’s jovial, live crooning.

Now, in Denver for the first time, wearing a purple t-shirt, Nathan Lucas, the songwriter, producer, and bodily vessel through which Jerry Paper is experienced, strolled and spoke with concertgoers. Minutes later, he was on stage, this time wearing a silky green dress. Joined by a tight, able five-piece backing band, Jerry began to do what he came there to do. If you’ve never been to a Jerry Paper show, it’s a sight to see. Jerry dances with a looseness and a focus like no one else. I would be hard pressed to find a performer whose enjoyment is more contagious.

The set was largely new material. For me, that was wonderful. The new songs feel made to be enjoyed live. It’s almost like the energy Jerry brings in every step and swing was transcribed into a song. However, his lyrics don’t come from his hips but from a deep, scary place in his head. On Grey Area, he sings: “Grey area come and find me/ In the cereal aisle/ Which corporate mascot/ Will bring me joy or paste me up a smile?”. Jerry’s newest songs are nihilistic anxieties of consumerism, society, and the afterlife, and, when you listen closely, the messages are every bit as contagious as his joy. But Jerry didn’t come to make anyone ponder their existence. He just wants people to get lost for one night.

“Right now, you’re experiencing pleasure and ecstasy. It’s what I do for you with my little song and dance”, he reminded the crowd. “Hope you like it”.

The crowd did like it, and the band seemed to like us. By the end of the show, Jerry was comfortable enough to ask the crowd at-large if he could use anyone’s shower.

“No funny business”, he warned. “I just feel dirty and live in a bus”.

After a beautiful rendition of “Reprogram Ourselves”, Jerry appeased the crowd with an uncharacteristic encore.

“Personally, I hate encores, but we’re never here”, he told the crowd.

With great songs, a fantastic band, and a truly lovable leader, I had a wonderful night. Jerry, you’re welcome in Denver anytime!

Soccer Mommy & Slow Hollows Concert Review

 Recently I saw two shows for free, in exchange for reviewing them. The first show I took up on a whim, trying to convince myself that I liked this particular band, Slow Hollows, enough to drive up to Denver for an hour and watch them play to a sparsely filled out audience. Mostly, that was true –– I was looking for an easy way to keep the few scraps of leftover summer spontaneity alive, in an attempt to offset the quickly settling CC-induced feeling of utter boredom.
The second show, though, was Soccer Mommy––someone I’d already loved, with another favourite––Sasami––as the opener.
Both Slow Hollows and Soccer Mommy consist of people that are about my (and probably yours’) age, which, every time I think about it, induces in me a complicated feeling of awe, inadequacy and existential dread. Like a lot of other people nearing the end of their time in college, I have no fucking idea what I’m doing. None of my most beloved pursuits inspire any confidence in their ability to provide for a simple roof and a (to be fair, not-so-simple) meal, and I spend at least a few minutes each day wallowing in this mind void. So, this confrontation with people who are actually doing what they love, is both sweet and ego-destroying, especially when they’re successful.
    The success segment looks different for the two bands. Slow Hollows, fronted by Austin Anderson, are on their first national tour; still, Anderson is featured on both Tyler, The Creator’s “Flower Boy” and Frank Ocean’s “Blonde” and “Endless.”
Slow Hollows at Lost Lake

 

Instrumentally, their set felt tight, if a little generic, soaring to its peak during the trumpet’s occasional features. Lyrically, though, the songs lived in the realm of the cliché, with rhymes like “you/glue” and “leaving/dreaming” sticking so saccharinely they carved cavities in my auditory cortex. I wanted so badly to like them better than I did, so I heard myself using their ages as some sort of excuse or explanation for their relative mediocrity, employing that same “you’ll understand when you’re older” mentality I’ve felt so hurt and patronized by in the past. Mostly, I think, I wanted them to be better, because I projected this position of young-creative-new-and-improved American Dream (i.e. you can do anything if you just believe&work rly hard) onto them. I wanted them to feel ageless, so that I could stop feeling hindered by my age too. Alas, I left that show confused, though a little more energised for having briefly left the bubble.
Soccer Mommy at Globe Hall
    A few weeks later, I sped through dense, viscous tonkotsu-like fog on the I25 to Globe Hall, a BBQ place-stroke-venue in Denver. I got there just in time to catch the latter half of Sasami’s set, which was wonderful, although sometimes a little less full than I’d expected, probably because of Globe Hall’s funky acoustics.
Then, after a short break, Soccer Mommy came on. Instantly, the room’s attention tunnel-visioned onto the stage. Sophie [Allison, the frontwoman]’s voice sounded so clear and perfect that I kept having to ask my friends if it was autotuned. Each song took me through a new story, poignantly communicated in each sound and lyric. The songs felt self-aware; they seemed to know exactly what they were trying to say, and the most evocative way to say it.
The fact that Allison and her bandmates are all college-aged did not present itself to me, until she told the audience that it was her bandmate, Graeme’s, 22nd birthday. The lyrical content was only aware of its performer’s age within references to school. The artistry of each piece, though, was outside of the youth that’s synonymous with inexperience. Allison’s work is as intricate, grounded and steeped in craft as any of those artists whose age we don’t even seem to know.
She towers above the “you’ll understand when you’re older” mentality, showing us (or at the very least, me) that we can, and do, understand “it” now, even if the “it” looks differently today. Her success barely inspires any jealousy; instead, I drive home from the show inspired, bursting with energy, grinning, happy to be my age again.

NEW PLAYLIST: Sad Boyz Snow Falling

https://open.spotify.com/user/fionakherzig/playlist/4Q864k007a81NFjVQpueWE?si=7Pwgs4P2R2q3pBNZFewGxw

Sadboy hour is an essential part of my week. Watching snowflakes spiral slowly down to cover the once beautiful green lawn and listening to sad songs is the best way to welcome the winter season.

A playlist that includes both Bob Dylan and Drake is bound to be as confusing as snow in October.  I hope through the various vibes present in this playlist you can find one that aligns with your reaction to the early snow.

Click on the link above to listen! And happy snow watching! Or rather, sad snow watching!

Photo credit: Weeping Willow Photography

NEW PLAYLIST: Autumn

Orange leaves invade the grass and stick to the bottoms of shoes. The clouds swallow the sun completely and the air is quieter than it usually is.

This playlist is a compilation of songs that are meant to match the hazy, peaceful feeling that fall brings along with it. The playlist “Autumn” can be found on the SOCC’s spotify (link above).

SONG REVIEW: Roky Erickson’s Cryptic “I Think of Demons”

Roky Erickson is considered an undeniable pioneer of psychedelic rock. He’s mostly known for fronting The 13thFloor Elevators, a group out of Texas that many argue to be the first psychedelic band. More than ever, The Elevators’ sound can be heard in modern psychedelic garage rock like Oh Sees, The Black Angels, and Ty Segall. “I Think of Demons,” however, is less psychedelic sonically than it is psychedelic in its strange, surreal lyrics. Put out in 1980 under Roky’s solo project, the song is more similar to a stereotypical hard rock song; the melody itself isn’t that innovative and it’s more so a feel-good, familiar classic rock groove. The simple melody lets Roky’s lyrics shine.

I, I, I think of demons
They never kill
I, I, I think of demons
They never will

They don’t need to
They’ll scare it’s true
I think of demons for you

Roky describes a demon he “reads,” a demon with fangs in dazed moonlight and “blood that never touches [his] lips.” I always feel emotionally hit by this song, the idea of being able to “read” demons and thinking of demons for someone else. Maybe it’s because I know Roky’s difficult history with drugs and mental health that I read into “I think of demons for you” as a declaration of the forced martyrdom he endures psychically. His personal context aside,  this sentiment serves as a perverse love song and an acknowledgment of monstrosity and inferno. “I Think of Demons” is one of the less cartoonish songs in the context of The Evil One, an album rife with vampires, zombies, two-headed dogs, and other monsters. While this could very well just be a goofy rock song about demons with my own projections running wild, I think there’s something mystic about the lyrics of this song. It continues to be something I keep with me and turn over and over.

Here’s the song below, and here’s a link to the full lyrics:

PLAYLIST: Well it’s Halloween Again…

Happy Halloween season!

Everyone knows as soon as the clock changes from 11:59 PM on September 30th to 12:00 AM on October 1st that Halloween has already begun. In this playlist I’ve complied some killer indie Halloween-themed tracks to help you gear up for the best and spookiest night of the year. You can find these jams on the SoCC’s Spotify: thesoundsofcc.

This season we’re celebrating red sunsets, brisk nights, black cats, and far away lights that look a lot like ghosts. So, put this playlist on and transcend the mortal plane into the world of spirits—happy haunting!

Image credit: Jane Harris

Jungle Concert Review

Photo credit: Bristol PA Hire

After seeing Jungle live in Singapore back in 2015, I never imagined I would watch them perform on stage again in Colorado Springs. I remember standing beneath the midday sun, on the grass lawn at the Gardens by the Bay Venue in Singapore, waiting to watch the band I had listened to on repeat, perform live for the tiny, but incredibly enthused city. Jungle wasn’t terribly well known at the time, at least in Singapore, and I remember watching a speckled crowd thicken instantly as the music began. I watched the collective of talented, and enthused musicians gain energy with the crowd, and the experience truly began to feel somewhat symbiotic. Although started by just two talented musicians, Tom McFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson, only two years prior to their visit to Singapore, Jungle is a music collective that now embodies community, inclusivity, and shared energy. I remember looking on stage with the impression of witnessing an orchestra perform, except I’d never danced like that to the sound of an orchestra.

Three years later I find myself patiently waiting within the dark, intimate setting of The Black Sheep in Colorado Springs, comparing the crisp chill outside to the humidity I remembered from Singapore. Three years and their songs “Busy Earnin’” and “Heat” still remained on my dance playlist; I anticipated the surge of energy I experienced in 2013, and watched other members of the audience as they waited excitedly. After two funky openers, who left the crowd animated, but full of energy still, a longer interlude from the DJ informed let the audience know Jungle was next. As the music died down slightely, deep red lights filled the room, and the crowd began screaming with excitement as the members of the band rolled out on stage.

I stood from a raised ledge that stretched down the side of the venue, and watched as the audience members fed off of the energy exhibited by the band, and the band absorbed the vigor from the crowd. The small venue space seemed to fill completely, and not a single person in the room remained still. The sound feels like a modernized combination of soul and funk, and it feels impossible not to move to in one way or another.

When Jungle plays through bluetooth speakers in the living room of my home, all I can think about is the experience of watching their live performance; the spirit of performance makes Jungle about being there, more than anything else. Not only does Jungle make their music about participating in it, but they make themselves accessible too, travelling halfway across the world to share their sound with the Colorado Springs community!