Columbia, Maryland (08.06.04)
With a summer full of cancelled tours, Curiosa is one of the few to survive the drought of fan support. Maybe it was the right combination of bands (The Cure, The Rapture, Interpol, and Mogwai) that attracted the crowds, or maybe it was the need to see Robert Smith still rocking his make-up. Whatever the reason, I had to make the trek to Curiosa; the festival of the summer.
Before the shows started, I had a chance to talk to Auf der Maur. Melissa Auf der Maur, formerly of Hole and the Smashing Pumpkins, recently released her solo debut on Capitol and was as down to earth as one could be. We sat on the ground outside of her tour bus and started chatting. She was excited to be part of this “beautiful” thing that Robert Smith had created. Describing the crowds as “intelligent and left of center,” she was happy to know there was a crowd that was still attracted to artists that are in it for just making music. More concerned with making music that she was satisfied with then pleasing others, Auf der Maur has respectable reasons for being in the industry.
After talking to Melissa, I met the Rapture. While their music is wonderful, they were quite unpleasant folks. Surprisingly, Daryl Palumbo (of Glassjaw and Head Automatica) was exceedingly nice and full of thanks for coming out to the show.
Head Automatica kicked off the show. They had a tight set and flawless performance. I really don’t like Glassjaw, but I thoroughly enjoyed Head Automatica. High energy and adrenaline sparked their performance and ran throughout the set. They were followed on- stage by Mogwai. Now, forty-five minutes to play isn’t that long, and if you are familiar with Mogwai, you know that there will only be room for about four songs. To say the least, the Mogwai set disappointed me. Had it been longer, I could have enjoyed it, but I just can’t grasp them in a mere forty-five minutes.
The Cooper Temple Clause took the second stage next, and while I wasn’t impressed with their CD, they are impressive as a live unit. They managed to pull of five good songs in only thirty minutes. On the main stage, the Rapture began their set immediately after the end of Cooper Temple Clause. Their performance at Curiosa was sub-par compared to the other times I’ve seen them. Normally I want to get up and dance when I hear the music, but I ended up bored and despondent. Auf der Maur were the third act on the second stage and her performance was solid. In her thirty-minute slot, she managed to do a great job of getting the crowd into the music.
Interpol were the biggest disappointment of the show. I love Turn on the Bright Lights, but their live show left a lot to be desired. Just to emphasize that, don’t waste your money to see them live. All they do is stand there like they are glued to the ground; listen to their CDs, it’s a much better experience.
The last act on the second stage were Muse. While huge overseas, they have been slow to catch on in the States. Not surprisingly, they put on the best show of the night. It was a packed crowed around the stage, and they performed to every standard I had set for them. They are a great live band and their latest, Absolution, is worth your dime.
While everyone else performed either thirty or forty-five minute sets, The Curewere on stage for two hours. Robert Smith sounds just like he did when he came out, just looks a little more haggard these days. They played flawlessly, had two encores, and were altogether fabulous. There isn’t much else to say; Why? Because it’s The Cure.
All in all, the festival went along seamlessly. I commend the managers on their planning of the shows. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have to stand around to wait for the next act to start playing. It was band after band in a flawless succession. Forty dollars is worth it just to see Muse and the Cure alone.
Hatchie – Keepsake
Keepsake, the debut album by Brisbane dream pop artist Hatchie is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars
Brisbane indie-pop artist Hatchie (known to her friends and family as Harriette Pilbeam) is in the envious position of being a pop artist unspoiled by the many trappings of what it is to be a modern pop artist. Unlike some of her contemporaries who craft music by committee or with Sheeran-like self-importance, Hatchie is as of now, unsullied by the pressures of the cookie-cutter pop machine. Hatchie’s debut full length is a showcase for a talent who is supremely confident and composed in her abilities, and Keepsake is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars. The album is also a wonderful throwback to pop’s dreamy 60s influences that shuffle in and out of this delirium while working alongside distinctly more current musical touches.
There is the lush dream pop sounds of “Without a Blush”, taking cues from the best of what Stars and Goldfrapp conjure but heaping a tonne of Pilbeam’s charisma on it. Like her vocals, “Without a Blush” has this elegance that has the ability to elevate songs from being beautiful to grand. It is the kind of vocal elegance that really shines through on songs like the skittering, beat-driven “Obsessed” and the alternative, guitar-fuelled (yay!) “When I Get Out”. Indie/electronic closer “Keep” is a wonderful end to proceedings.
However, the great strength of Keepsake is not just its composure in how all the songs have been put together. It is also this genuine, natural-sounding quality that permeates the album- nothing overly written, overly produced or put together by research groups or music analysts. It just sounds like talent. We can argue that much of pop music is constructed to appease the moment- designed to grab as much attention as possible in an A.D.D. world. And sure, that can be said about almost any kind of music, but the resulting aural tone of Keepsake is anything but transient or transparent.
The best way to combat tepid chart-topping music is to write better pop songs. Songs like “Her Own Heart” and the disco-toned “Stay” are examples of pop music that come across as timeless. We are moved by the songs found on Keepsake when we listen to them today. And I suspect that in 10 years time, or in 20, we will most likely feel the same. It is rare to find the sort of ageless beauty you find on Keepsake.