Summer Concert Reviews

April 18, 2010 in Ithaca, N.Y.

The Flaming Lips has been touring non-stop since November to deliver its neo-psychedelic sound worldwide; on April 18, the band left an unforgettable mark on Barton Hall in Ithaca, N.Y.

The mood of the concert was in place even before the show began, probably influenced by the thousands of smiling, drugged-out youth sporting body paint and sneaking smokes in the corner. The half dozen or so employees handing out laser pointers to all 4,800 attendees of the sold-out show probably helped as well.

When Lips front man Wayne Coyne made a brief announcement before the show warning concert-goers about the intense use of strobe lights and lasers that have caused individuals to pass out, the atmosphere in the room intensified. You know a concert is going to be wild and weird after an announcement like that - and it certainly was.

The show began with the band emerging from a neon woman's pulsating vagina on a giant video screen. Coyne was the last to emerge; he arrived in a giant inflatable ball, crawling on top of the crowd and waving to the sea of cheering fans. The rest of the concert was equally ridiculous and featured a continuous inundation of confetti and balloons. At one point, Coyne produced a mirror from off-stage, strapped it to his arm and commanded the crowd to shine its lasers on him, flooding the hall with red rays shooting in every direction.

In the midst of laser hands, confetti rain, balloons, what seemed to be the world's largest disco ball and two half-naked couples rolling around under the influence of some assortment of drugs, there was music. The 17-song set list largely featured tracks from the band's 2009 album Embryonic, but the Lips also satisfied demand to play older tunes including "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song," "In the Morning of the Magicians" and sing-along versions of "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" and "She Don't Use Jelly." The live renditions of the songs were faithful to the recordings but also amplified by the performance aspect.

The group ended its set with a double encore, performing Pink Floyd's "Brain Damage" and "Eclipse" and finally a heartfelt rendition of its own "Do You Realize??" Although many in the audience were either unfamiliar with the song or unable to control themselves after an evening of substance use, everyone managed to sing along through a final cyclone of confetti that defined an extraordinary evening.

June 28, 2010 in Hartford, Conn.

Since 1990, Dave Matthews Band has been jamming on the stage, and they did just that on June 28 at Comcast Theater in Hartford, Conn.

Never becoming a darling of the media spotlight but always selling out concerts and producing chart-topping hits, Dave Matthews Band has become one of the most transcendent groups of our generation.

For fans, a Dave Matthews Band performance is so much more than a concert. It's an experience like no other: immersion in sensational music around others just as passionate about that music.

When Dave Matthews sang "Rain, rain, rain down on me," not a single spectator could have cared if the skies opened and drenched them all. Thunderous applause and screams erupted from every direction as the band started jamming. As red and white lights engulfed the stage Matthews danced around with his acoustic guitar, Carter Beauford tore up the drums and Boyd Tinsley never made a violin look so cool.

The set list was largely comprised of songs from their most recent, Grammy-nominated album Big Whiskey and the Groo-Grux King including "Seven," "Spaceman," "Funny the Way It Is," "Shake Me Like a Monkey," and "You and Me." Additionally, the band played fan favorites "Satellite," "Grey Street," "Dancing Nancies" and "Too Much." They closed with possibly the most recognizable DMB song "Ants Marching."

As the concert's end neared, the audience naturally burst into applause and requested encores. Waiting to hear which songs would be played, the crowd shouted out speculation and hopes, and then they reappeared, delighting the audience with two more songs: "Wait for It" and "You Might Die Trying," The audience reluctantly accepted the end, but will no doubt be return for more.

Sept. 12, 2010 in Rochester, N.Y.

On Saturday Sept. 12, Rochester, N.Y. natives James Searl and Chris O'Brian returned home with bandmates Dylan Savage and Aaron Lipp in the form of musical big shots: The Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad.

According to Giant Panda's page, the band "is relentless reggae sound. Roots reggae and experimental dub. North American International Body Music." The group has been touring for three years and has played over 500 shows. This particular show at Rochester's Water Street Music Hall celebrated the release of Live Up! II, a collection of live recordings "hand picked by Rochester, N.Y.'s psychedelic reggae road warriors."

Giant Panda's sound is based in traditional reggae made rich with the addition of brass and "riddim" samples that emphasize the bass line of previously recorded instrumentals. As a treat for the hometown crowd, Giant Panda played an acoustic set that featured each member sitting on a folding chair at the stage's edge playing and singing. The three-song set was folksy and sweet but also suitable for dancing.

Opening for Giant Panda was The Beautiful Girls, an Australian dub band arguably more dynamic and rhythmically rich than the headliners themselves. The Beautiful Girls has been around since 2000, emerging from the underground scene as a combination of well-known musicians struggling to find a sound together. A few years ago, however, something clicked and they have since risen to new heights.