A Welcome Back To My Blog

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 Blogging season is back and I have album reviews and musical opinions ready to go, but to kick things off, here is a little summary of how my life has been going since my last post:

This week I’ve cried to ‘Supercut’ by Lorde approximately 68 times. I’ve drafted up several different blog posts, re-read them, and then deleted them out of fear of sounding mindless and shallow. I’ve had zero will to do the things I’m supposed to be doing, and instead have been hoarding bottles of Smirnoff in my room.

This past week I’ve embarrassed myself on at least 16 different occasions, one of them being right in front of Nick Jonas. I am going to snap my neck if one more person comments on how “edgy” my new haircut looks. I despise the word, “edgy” with a passion and being, “edgy” was not what drove me to cut off 12 inches of my hair, but in fact was just the aftermath of a full-blown Britney Spears styled mental breakdown, which I am still having. Evidently.

I out of impulse booked an appointment to get another tattoo (which I really can’t afford). I also booked plane tickets to go back to California (which I also, really can’t afford).

Ever since I went to California this summer, I’ve been extremely frustrated every morning when I wake up and realize that I am no longer in California. I whole heartily believe that is where I should be, and not in the Midwest, causing me to have even more of an existential crisis.

I’m on the verge of dropping every single one of my classes, I busted my iPhone, and I finished watching every season of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” on Netflix and now I don’t know what to do.

And that’s been a brief summary of my life since my last blog post.

Though I sound like a total pessimist, I promise I am not. I’m living in a “glass is half empty, half full” kind of world right now, and while part of my life is going great (I truly do have a lot to be thankful for), and the other half is going not so great, I am trying my hardest to see the “half full” side.

With that being said, however, today is just not a “half full” kind of day, so here’s a playlist I put together to soundtrack this weird funk I’m in.

  This year on my blog, I’m sticking to my theme of music news and reviews, with a political piece here and there, and in addition to that, I am also going to push myself to write a personal storytime piece every other week, so stay tuned! 

If you want to keep up with with my saucy life, follow me here:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tarabolar

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Green Day: Wrigley Field

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Once upon a time, around 2009, in a place not so far called the United Center I attended my first concert. I was familiar with the band, but still had a lot to learn and many songs to hear in their 14 album discography.

Where better to fall in love than at a concert? Not with any one person specifically, but with the music, the experience, the energy of not only the performers but the crowd, my fellow music lovers. I was 11 years old when I first saw Green Day. Although the seats my brother and I were in were the farthest section from the stage, the smell of weed hovered, the phone camera quality sucked in 2009, and the noise of Billie Joe Armstrong singing into the mic overwhelmed me, this first concert laid the foundation for my love of concerts.

At that age I knew, just like I know now at 20, concerts were where I’d always feel most at home, no matter how small or big an arena was, if it was outside in wet grass, mud, or inside with seats and AC. Whether this feeling has to do with the artist performing or actual environment at a concert, I’m not sure.

Fast forward 9 years later: Wrigley Field, my third Green Day concert, and I’m still overwhelmed by the connections, love, and rage. Although it has been 8 years since that first concert, I can always expect a couple of things: a great experience with the crowd, drunk bunny opening the show and Green Day playing something for every fan.

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The setlist changes a bit over the years, accommodating their newest released songs and jamming in classics from their most popular albums. Green Day’s setlist was filled with songs ranging from their second album, Kerplunk (1991) to their latest, Revolution Radio (2016). As a hardcore Green Day fan the almost 3 hour show wasn’t enough, songs I loved like Amy from their 2012 album, Dos! still would never make it onto the setlist. However, for their longtime fans they played songs like 2,000 light years away from their second album, Kerplunk. And of course the classics for every Green Day fan: She, Welcome to Paradise, When I come around and Basketcase from Dookie (1994); American Idiot, St. Jimmy, Jesus of Suburbia, Holiday, and Boulevard of Broken Dreams from American Idiot (2004). Some other songs touched on in the 2 and a half hour set were: Hitchin A Ride and King For A Day from Nimrod (1997); Minority from Warning (2000); Mass Hysteria, East Jesus Nowhere and 21 Guns from 21st Century Breakdown (2009). They also played songs from their newest album Revolution Radio (2016): Still Breathing and Forever Now were some of my favorites. Everyone in the stadium held up their phone flashlights as songs like 21 guns played, the sight was enough for even the security crews to stop, stare and smile.

In Green Day’s four part documentary, Green Day: The Early Years (2017), “The separation between audience and the band, we weren’t used to that in our scene” Drummer Tre Cool says in response to how it felt playing Woodstock and Lollapalooza in 1994. “They were so far away, I felt like we weren’t connecting in some way,” Billie Joe adds. 23 years later, these same guys that were nervous playing a festival, are now playing stadiums as if it were a small club.

Green Day has been playing stadiums since the American Idiot era, but never Wrigley Field. This also wasn’t their first time playing a sports field, at the beginning of August they played the Oakland Coliseum, home of the Oakland Athletics.

“I never wanted to turn my back on the intimacy that you get from a crowd, I love playing arenas and I love playing stadiums, that shit is amazing but to this day we will always play venues where we can get as close as we can to the audience.” – Billie Joe Armstrong, Green Day: The Early Years (2017).

Even when playing a stadium like Wrigley Field, Green Day managed to interact with the audience every chance they got: bringing someone on stage to stage dive, handing the mic to someone in the crowd to sing, having EVERYONE sing along to “Hey Jude” by the Beatles, and “Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones.

They also kept up with their little tradition of having one lucky fan play the guitar onstage. During the cover of “Knowledge” originally by Operation Ivy, Green Day pulls one lucky audience member on stage, “who knows how to play 3 chords?” Billie Joe asks, the lucky fan then plays the three chorded song on a guitar handed to them, at the end of the song Billie Joe points and says, “you get to keep that guitar.” The first time Green Day ever brought someone on stage to play with them was during the Insomniac Tour (4th album, 1995).

In Green Day Wrigley Field Press Conference In The Sound Lounge when asked if they ever thought they’d be playing Wrigley Field, Billie Joe joked he thought it’d be more likely to be playing shortstop than performing. The band also reminisced about how many cities they had to play in Illinois before being able to play Chicago, “because we had to play so many other cities before playing Chicago, it’s very near and dear to our hearts,” says Billie Joe.

After about 2 and 1/2 hours of an amazing Green Day show, it ended even better than it started, the beginning middle and end was nothing short of amazing. Ending with a small firework show that had everyone in Wrigley Field in awe, the red and white Confetti stamped with “Green Day” soon followed.

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Review: Lana Del Rey – “Lust For Life”

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There’s a moment on Lana Del Rey’s fourth record, Lust For Life, that should hit her biggest fans (or as Hipster Runoff dudebros in 2011 once called them, apologists) harder than nearly all of her lyrical catalog. For those listeners that once found themselves entranced with the smoky voice totally consumed, and maybe a little depressed, by the moments of quiet domesticity with her lover on “Video Games,” it should come as a revelation to hear that same voice turned outward to the world around her: “We get so tired and we complain / Bout how it’s hard to live / It’s more than just a video game.”

This watchful eye on a world in turmoil is a motif across Lust For Life- which, in the early days of the promotional cycle for the album, seemed worrying considering all the obligatory “political pop” done so inelegantly by her peers. Still, if any major voice in pop music seemed fit for the challenge, it was Lana- an artist so deeply reliant on iconic Americana imagery that even the slightest shift away could seem like a revolution.

Continue reading “Review: Lana Del Rey – “Lust For Life””

My K-Pop Awakening Part 3: I Saw Both My Bias Groups In One Month

안녕하세요! UIC Radio 소니아 입니다.

It’s been such a wild ride.

So, I know undergoing this ~K-Pop Awakening~ (I now say with a hint of an eyeroll @ myself) has been weird, not only for me but also for my friends and probably everyone I know as well. K-pop, as I learned, can pretty much completely take over a person’s life, and I now realize I am a living example of this. Where is my shame, though? Do I have any? I really don’t think so anymore.

I learned a lot by entering the k-pop community. First: there is rarely such a thing as a casual fan. You either hardcore stan a group (or more than one, in most cases) or you don’t. Gray areas don’t exist, and once you catch feelings for a group, there’s no turning back.

Second: k-pop fans have no chill. Contrasting to my last point, this can vary from fan to fan. You can show your love for your group in small ways such as wearing items of jewelry or clothing adorned with the group’s relative symbols or your bias’s name, whereas other times fan groups with numbers in the hundreds or thousands get together and purchase ad space in Times Square to honor their bias group’s anniversary or plaster their faces on a bus for their birthdays. How they manage to pull it off is beyond me, but there is no denying the love they have for these groups and members is real.

Third: the k-pop community is one of the most accepting communities I’ve ever been a part of. Aside from fan wars (which is a completely different story), every person I’ve met and disclosed my “I don’t know what is happening to me but I love it” spiel to has given me a look of sympathy and said “it’s okay, I’ve been there too and I know what you’re going through and you will be okay,” followed by an exchange of how we discovered our bias groups and/or consequently gotten sucked into the k-pop void. It’s comforting to know that having your entire mindset and lifestyle taken over by this stuff is not only not unusual, but it is rampant, and you form an immediate bond with everyone else who this has happened to. In losing yourself, you find others.


Fourth: K-pop groups don’t come to America very often, but when they do, everything happens so fast. I am used to western artists announcing a tour anywhere from several months to more than a year before they actually hit your city. This gives you plenty of time to plan when you can go, maybe save up for a ticket or at least purchase it and make the money back later, but for k-pop groups, you get maybe a month or two’s notice before they begin a tour. This is stressful as h e c k. Not only are you bewildered that your bias group is coming to America at all, can you actually go? And if you can, can you afford it?? (Ticket prices are no joke, even the cheapest seats are half of one of my minimum-wage pay checks). If you’re able to take off school or work (which many, if not most k-pop fans go to that extent to do), you’re set… that is, as long as you’re part of a major US city. Likely, if you live anywhere that’s not NYC, LA, or Chicago, among other factors (being underage/can’t travel by yourself, can’t drive, can’t take off school/work, etc), you have to face the agony knowing your favorite group is in your country for once but it’s impossible for you to go see them.

Being a k-pop fan is not easy, especially when your dream is to see your favorite groups live even once in your life. In stanning these groups, both your pride and your wallet often ache with frustration.

That being said, in a surprising turn of events…

I got to see both of my bias groups within a month of each other!! Something I thought I would never get to do in this lifetime!!! Especially considering I’ve only adopted this lifestyle for a mere few months, whereas most of the k-pop fans I’ve met have been into this stuff for years. I’d be lucky to catch even one group’s show, but for once the stars (and my bank account, miraculously) aligned and I managed to see both of the two k-pop groups I fell in love with over the fall! Continue reading “My K-Pop Awakening Part 3: I Saw Both My Bias Groups In One Month”

Fast Romantics Interview with Noteworthy

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Photo credit: Jen Squires

Ivan of Noteworthy here again (Mondays, 6PM-8PM at uicradio.org). Make sure to mark your calendar for this Wednesday, June 28. Fast Romantics, an indie rock band out of Toronto with a flair for big Springsteen-style hooks, will be performing at Township (2200 N. California Ave.) in support of their latest album, American Love. I spoke with lead singer/guitarist Matthew Angus through e-mail (pictured 3rd from right) about love in times of political turmoil and rebuilding the band.

Noteworthy: For folks who may be hearing about you for the first time, tell us the origin of the name Fast Romantics.

The name Fast Romantics precedes this band.  It was the result of a brainstorming session we had in the very first version of the [group] many years ago. We just locked ourselves in a room and came out with those words. There’s no meaning behind it really. But when we reformed Fast Romantics a couple of years ago with all these new members, we decided to keep the moniker, and now it’s just one of those meaningless names you give to anybody. Like “The Beatles” or … “Fred.”

NW: The band got its start in Calgary and you recently filmed the video for “Alberta” there during a tour off day spent visiting family and friends. What is one surprising thing about the town that most people wouldn’t know about it?

Calgary is known for the Calgary Stampede and most people in America picture it as full of cowboy hats and boots and rodeos and farms but really it’s nothing like that at all. It’s become a pretty cosmopolitan town with a lot of amazing subcultures and a thriving music scene.

NW: Another American Love track, “Why We Fight” was recently played during a broadcast of this year’s NHL playoffs. What was that moment like and do you have any all-time favorite players from the Calgary Flames?

It did, that was a trip. As Canadians, having your song open up a hockey playoff game is kinda like playing the Grammys, it’s a big deal y’know. You’re talking to a band of mostly Toronto Maple Leafs fans, believe it or not, but Jeff’s still holding out for the Flames. Me personally, even though I’m a Leafs fan, you gotta love former Flame Lanny McDonald. Not only was he a badass hockey player but I went to school with his daughter and met him a bunch, and he’s just a super nice guy. Continue reading “Fast Romantics Interview with Noteworthy”

A Working Spring

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Courtesy of Lost TV.

Three jobs and twenty one credit hours have kept me off of UIC Radio’s front page this semester, much to the dismay of my twelve readers (I ❤ you guys & gals). A busy spring also kept Nick V, Cheech, and me from sitting down in the same room together for about two months. When we finally found overlapping free time, we spent the better part of two hours animatedly talking about Syria, Chicago’s water, and the prison system. But between catching up and conversations eventually bleeding into politics, I managed to ask a few questions and listen to some phenomenal answers.

I wanted to interview the FreeFAM founders for a second time. Last fall, they’d impressed me with their business-minded approach to their genre. Without sacrificing individuality and independence, they seek to create a brand to support all kinds of artists. Coming from a city with a music culture that’s very “out-for-yourself,” their message is refreshing. FAM is in the name.

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Courtesy of Lost TV.

 

An obligatory catch-up is needed first, as these guys have not sat still since the last time they visited UIC Radio’s studio. They’ve been playing gigs, traveling, and working with producers like CB Mix, credited on Chance’s Coloring BookThey’re working with LRG to create clothing and Pat Banahan of Lost TV to make videos. The group just released a music video for Bless the Bottles, (my personal favorite so far) featuring the same BMW I8 King Louie and Vonmar used in their own video. They even played a show at College of DuPage, which only sounds mildly impressive until you learn COD won’t back anyone without a tax ID and business number. They even have a website. FreeFAM is officially in business.

On Tuesday, I asked Nick V and Cheech about branding. I wanted to know what audience FreeFAM would draw as a full-blown music label complete with t-shirts and dispensaries. Both brothers said “local” immediately. They don’t want to limit themselves to Chicago, but their focus is building up a platform to support all members of music production. Their circle includes engineers and videographers, animators, and even a few family members for legal counsel. The want anyone who’s drawn to an image of family, brothers, positive moves, and a platform that’s there to serve their clients. Cheech commented that “non-threatening artists” are what resonate in Chicago today.

 

Nick said he wants people with energy. “Energy to party, to help, to create.” He’s got a vision of FreeFAM as a charity and force for good in Chicago. We inevitably broke into ranting about senators and bills, but Nick had a ton to say about water quality. It was endearing and inspiring and had me walking home thinking how one could add water filters to a music label…But that’s beside the point.

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Courtesy of Lost TV.

I asked about brands that could “make or break” an artist. Lil Wayne and Cash Money were brought up, as was Future, who got in a legal battle with his manager and was forced to release two albums ahead of time so he could start making his own money. Some artists get caught promoting BS; Cheech brought up the Fyre Festival flop. But Jay-Z’s own streaming website was mentioned as a positive. “It all depends on if a brand will encourage or control you,” Nick told me. A label obviously wants a return on investment and will have to control an artist’s image if money is lost. So who’s got their label working for them? Cheech laughed at this thought and brought up Kanye. “His label has been taking so much money from his music. Someone’s been making 50% off all of his songs.”

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Photo courtesy of Lost TV.

Controlling the artist is beyond the aims of the Freedom Family. Both brothers explained respect for their artist is the only reason they’d sign someone, and there’s no need to control someone they respect. They don’t intend to cultivate a brand that interferes with music production or limits the evolution and development of an artist.

“At the end of the day, music is the most important. But music won’t be heard without branding.” Other groups have PR people to handle web pages, social media, and scheduling. But for FreeFAM, “It’s just me and Cheech,” Nick says. The work is taking a toll; Nick V’s been off social media and left with what sounds like carpal tunnel in his hands and a prescription for range-of-motion exercises. “Shouldn’t be constantly posting, anyway,” he admitted. I told him not to worry about it. “It’s always nice to hear from family.”

 

Have a Scien-tastic Day!

American Rage and Suburban Malaise: A Study of the Urban Punk Underground

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Martha’s Got a Limp Wrist (Photo by Christian Contreras)

This piece has been censored for the UIC Radio blog.

It’s difficult to write about punk without draining it of its chaos.

The greatest punk shows are soaked in sweat and blown into the red. The best punk lyrics are incomprehensible, the best punk venues include a highly suspect dirty mattress in the corner, and the best punk showgoer is one who will sweat all over you, push you into other strangers, scream in your face, and then let you bum a cigarette at the end of the night. When writing about punk neglects to include that sense of disorder and entropy, you get sterile talk of what is, above all, the art of violent, cathartic release.

When I was a teenager, DIY punk shows in Chicago were my safe haven. Growing up gay, there are very few spaces in which you know that you’re not the only outcast- which isn’t to say that I was some sort of hunchbacked adolescent hermit, but when you come out of the closet early, there’s a very thin line you have to walk, knowing all the eyes that rest on you. Getting drunk, then moshing and screaming and sweating in trashed apartments on the weekends was just the sort of chaotic release I needed to keep from cracking under the pressure.

There’s an energy at every great punk show that finds its way up your spine and lets you know you aren’t the only one who just needs a f*cking break. There are systems in place working against all of us- some more complicated or institutionalized than others- but the fun of a punk show is sourced from the moment it allows for young, frustrated, bored, and fed up people to stop needing to think for a while.

Eventually though, you stop being seventeen years old and it’s no longer socially acceptable to struggle through an Aquafina bottle full of whiskey, sweat through your shirt and make out with a high schooler at the end of the night.

Continue reading “American Rage and Suburban Malaise: A Study of the Urban Punk Underground”

Troye Sivan Takes On Coachella

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The incredibly talented Australian pop star, Troye Sivan, surprised his fans with a surprise performance at the 2017 Coachella music festival.

Sivan joined DJ Martin Garrix on the Sahara Stage during his set to drop their new song together, “There For You.

This is the first piece of new music that we have gotten from Sivan since his 2015 debut album, Blue Neighbourhood, and we couldn’t be more excited about it.

Sivan has been hinting on his Twitter that a new album is in the works, and new music will be coming our way in the, hopefully, near future.

There For You” is a brilliant song with a beautiful message. It’s pop heavy and radio-ready, and while it may be a great song to bop to, the lyrics hold a lot in them.

“I got you, I promise

Let me be honest

Love is a road that goes both ways

When your tears roll down your pillow like a river

I’ll be there for you

But you gotta be there for me too”

Communication is the most important thing in any relationship. You cannot expect someone to always be there for you, if you cannot be there for them. Communication, and as stated in the song, love, goes both ways. One sided relationships are toxic and unfair and I cannot stress this enough.

There For You” is a song I feel like everyone can relate to at some point in life, and songs like this are perfect to find comfort in. Sweet and soft.

With that being said, I cannot wait to hear what Sivan has planned for his sophomore album.

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As a longtime fan of Troye Sivan (and a fan of music and talent in general,) it’s been an emotional ride watching Sivan go from posting quirky videos on YouTube, to preforming on the iconic Coachella stage.

It just goes to show that if you’re passionate about something, and you want your dream bad enough, hard work and dedication pays off, and living the life you’ve always dreamed of, is possible.

Lust For Life

Lana Del Rey – the goddess of dark pop –has done it yet again

On Mistajam’s BBC Radio 1 show, Lana Del Rey premiered the title track from her soon-to- be-released LP, Lust For Life, featuring The Weeknd.

Lana and Abel have teamed up in the past with Prisoner, Stargirl Interlude, and Party Monster; the two just mesh well together. Their eerie, silky vocals complement each other in the best way, and they proved that to be true yet again with the 1960’s inspired Lust For Life.

Lust For Life serves a sensual vibe, with layered synths, and honey-like vocals. As someone who has been a fan of Del Rey since Born To Die, I can honestly say I am satisfied with the new release and cannot wait to hear what is yet to come.

In February, Del Rey released the first single from Lust For Life, Love, as well as its video. There has not been a confirmation yet on when her fifth LP will be released, but you can read her interview with Courtney Love for more details here. 

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TREVIEW: Why Lady Gaga’s “The Cure” is the Most Depressing Song of the Year

“Treview” is a spontaneous and grossly-titled series in which I, Trev, review new tracks or artists that spark a greater conversation outside the music itself. Whether it’s titillating controversy, an impact on culture, or a shift in the musical landscape, these songs are more than meets the ear.


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Make no mistake: I was very disappointed with the direction of Joanne, and while I frequently sweated through my intense CrossFit workouts light cardio to the multi-culture appropriating ARTPOP, I recognize it to be largely a flop as well. News of Gaga returning to more standard pop fare was exciting. After periods of jazz and faux folk, I, like many, desperately longed for some new, certified Gaga bangers. It’s revelation to absolutely no one that Lady Gaga hasn’t been as musically or culturally relevant since 2009, when she released her goth-pop masterpiece The Fame Monster EP. Meat dresses, #1 hits, anatomical controversies; Gaga was on top of the world, sparkler ti***es and all. Her weird, theatrical impact on pop music continues to this day. This is why listening to her latest single, The Cure, is so sad. Gone are the sonic risks, the sexual ambiguity, the Ra ra-ah-ah Roma roma-mas. Every aspect of her identity on this track has been weathered and dismantled, removed board by board until all we’re left with is Scheiße.

The Cure is a song that is sure to be void of radio failure, but is also totally void of herself. Even at her lowest, most celestial-centric moments, Gaga could still be counted on to be one thing: Gaga. Where some nauseatingly tried to cash in on civil rights movements in an act of marketing expediency, Gaga championed the LGBT community in her songs with a true and tangible compassion reciprocated to the fans that offered her support when she was no more than a club act with some buzz. Where most album covers are focus-group-honed, inoffensive squares of current trends, Gaga’s are a clusterf*** mashup of motorcycle-meets-maiden. Now, she has abandoned her signature anthemic sincerity and advocacy, replacing them with a hollow dance-hall track indistinguishable from the entirety of current Top 40 convention, complete with cover art that features, presumably, the best result of a photo shoot who’s rank insipidness challenges its very songsake and a background of grey that borders on sardonic. Remove the vocals, and it’d be virtually impossible to tell that this is a project of Mother Monster’s at all. One can’t help but wonder how much of it even is.

With The Cure, modern pop’s true queen has handed in her crown for generic sounds and guaranteed sales.

I’m sure I’ll still find myself casually listening along, that is, if I can ever move past the fact that this is simply the least-Gaga Gaga song that’s ever been released. Having been a fan since I too was one of the many closeted, little monsters in a small town, listening for a source of identity and freedom (The Fame was the first album I purchased in its entirety), this admittedly cuts deeper for me than it probably should or does for most. It’s understandable for her to be fatigued after several attempts, and years, of trying to be true-to-self have, for the most part, not paid off critically or commercially. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with wanting your work to be appreciated. Perhaps this is the start of an era with a subsequent EP or album that will redeem it. Maybe this will just be a one-off Coachella gift. I have to admit, the initial seconds of the song gave me post-Joanne hope. Lady Gaga heading back to dance territory, or even dance-hall for that matter, is certainly something welcomed by myself and fans worldwide. This is to say as long as it’s her dance territory. As long as it’s not this. With The Cure, modern pop’s true queen has handed in her crown for generic sounds and guaranteed sales. Little Monsters everywhere are asking themselves: “Where’s mom?” I feel sad listening to this. I feel sad for Lady Gaga.

Listen to the song and cry along with me here:


Trev Richards is host of the weekly talk program Trev on UIC Radio; Live, Mondays 8:30 – 10:30 PM Central Time. Follow/listen on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, iTunes and SoundCloud