Seven Pickles


Infographic: Time Between Concerts [UPDATED]


I thought the ten year span between Man or Astro-Man? concerts was impressive enough to warrant making a graphic, so it only makes sense to update it when the Foo Fighters took over the top spot after ending a 12-year drought. Coincidentally, it was probably their last show together for quite awhile.


Infographic: Pygmalion vs. Midpoint

Over three days in late September, two music festivals will run simultaneously in cities less than four hours apart. Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, hosts the Pygmalion Music Festival, which is in its either year, while Cincinnati, Ohio, continues an eleven year run of the Midpoint Music Festival.

I'm not aware of any professional connections between the two festivals, so its surprising that the festivals will share a remarkable twenty-two headlining bands, lead by Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors, and Dinosaur Jr. The infographic shows how these 22 bands are scheduled to travel between the two festivals as well as their dates on the Tuesday and Wednesday before September 27 and the Sunday and Monday after the 29th. They will cover 23 other cities in the Midwest, South, the East Coast, and Canada.

Some of the more interesting bits from the map:

  • All the bands that perform at Midpoint on Friday night will perform at Pygmalion on Saturday night.
  • Grizzly Bear has two tour partners during the week - Unknown Mortal Orchestra for everything before Pygmalion and Lower Dens for shows after.
  • Unknown Mortal Orchestra then picks up a date in Milwaukee with fellow festival band Dirty Projectors.
  • Lower Dens and Night Beds meet up on the Friday for a one-off date in Bloomington, Indiana.
  • Night Beds then shares a bill with Julia Holter and Hundred Waters in Chicago.
  • Julia Holter and Hundred Waters are the only two acts that tour together the entire week and beyond.
  • At the time the graphic was created Best Coast, Cloud Nothings and Zeus will only perform at the two festivals during that weeks (and more than several days before or after).

Disclaimers: The show dates were pulled from numerous sources, but try as I might, may not be accurate or complete. Cities are generally spaced to scale, but the paths are nowhere near scale for length or optimum routing. Shared bands indicate bands touring together.


Infographic: Festival Maps (combined)

Here we have a "map" of the main stages for twelve of the biggest American music festivals all overlaid and lined up based on the festival's main gate. Clearly some festivals are more compact than others but when you're with thousands of other festival goers that may not be a good thing. The sizes of the stages aren't to scale and not every stage is shown. The location of the stages is based on the latest map produced by the festival.


Reconsidering Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Decade Two in Review

Sometimes it's easy to pinpoint when you started to lose faith in a band. In the case of Clap Yours Hands Say Yeah, it was at their performance at Bonnaroo 2006. At that time, their self-titled and much lauded 2005 album was (and still is) one of my personal favorites. I had already seen them live at a small-ish venue in Madison. That show was pretty good. So, maybe it was the big stage, or maybe it was the heat, but they just weren't very good on that June day. I can't even remember exactly why they weren't good, but I do recall the unanimous sentiment in my group that we should have skipped the few songs we did stay for in favor of Elvis Costello.

And sometimes it's easy to pinpoint when you almost completely lost faith in a band...


The Ever-Expanding Catalog of Stephin Merritt

Decade Two in Review

At the conclusion of 2011, Stephin Merrit has the equivalent of 21 LPs, 5 EPs and a generous handful of other songs, scores and soundtracks on his resume. The early 2010 release Realism was Merritt's tenth album with The Magnetic Fields and his 2011 compilation Obscurities brought together rare and unreleased tracks from The Magnetic Fields, The 6ths, The Gothic Archies and solo endeavors. The sheer breadth of material that Merritt has amassed in just over twenty years is truly impressive.

Merritt's catalog has a unique characteristic - it's nearly devoid of singles or "famous" songs. I'd imagine creating a traditional "greatest hits" album would be a difficult endeavor. This is by no means a criticism of the materials quality. Instead, it shows a belief in the good of the the album. Very few bands extend a concept like "no-synths" over the course of three songs, let alone three albums. Another result of having no hits is that there are no nagging expectations for your concert performance. The Magnetic Fields can choose from hundreds of songs when putting together a setlist and there is no pressure to put on those few songs-that-everyone-EXPECTS-to-hear. Those songs don't exist on paper.

And no band puts together an original, eclectic, and career-spanning setlist like The Magnetic Fields. Case in point - below are the two setlists from the shows I've attended. The shows, less than two years apart, featured 27 or 28 songs split between two sets and an encore. There was only one song, "The Nun's Litany", that was played at both shows. I can't think of another band who could do this and still leave their audience fulfilled.

A Venn diagram showing the overlap of songs between two Magnetic FIelds setlists

On March 6th, 2012, Stephin Merritt will add even more to the catalog when The Magnetic Fields release their eleventh LP, Love at the Bottom of the Sea, on Merge Records.


[LISTEN] The Magnetic Fields - "Beach-a-Boop-Boop" (from Obscurities)
[LISTEN] The Magnetic Fields - "You Must Be Out of Your Mind" (from Realism)


An Introduction to 2010 and 2011 In Review

Decade Two in Review

I didn't write a 2010 Review and that's a shame because there was quite a bit of good stuff to write about. I'll remedy that by wrapping 2010 and 2011 together in a big "D2 in Review" series of posts. D2 meaning decade two, meaning the second decade of the 21st century, meaning no one has come up with a sensible name for this decade. But I'm not writing this introduction just to tell you this.

I want to talk about SOPA.


Festival Scorecard: Noise Pop 2011

Or, a Cautionary Tale About the 7p Score for Festivals

Noisepop bannerNoise Pop
Dates: February 22-27, 2011
Location: San Francisco, California
Top Bills: Yo La Tengo, Ben Gibbard, Dan Deacon, The Concretes
7p Score: 43%

"43%?! What a crappy festival!" Not so fast...


Festival Scorecard: Sasquatch! 2011

Sasquatch! lineup poster
Sasquatch! Music Festival
Dates: May 27-30, 2011
Location: George, Washington
Top Bills: Foo Fighters, Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse, Wilco, The Flaming Lips
7p Score: 60%

Over the past four or five years I've found that Sasquatch! is very in tune with my musical tastes. So much so that when the lineup is released every year I immediately start searching for plane fares and rental cars. I could probably draw a pretty good map of Washington between Wenatchee and Spokane from memory. But every year I come to the same conclusion. Getting to Sasquatch! is hard.


Festival Scorecard: Bonnaroo 2011

Bonnaroo lineup
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
Dates: June 9-12, 2011
Location: Manchester, Tennessee
Top Bills: Eminem, Arcade Fire, Widespread Panic, The Black Keys
7p Score: 55%

Swap Kanye West for Eminem and toss in the requisite jam band or two and you've got Coachella East.


Festival Scorecard: Coachella 2011

Coachella lineup poster
Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
Dates: April 15-17, 2011
Location: Indio, California
Top Bills: Kings of Leon, Arcade Fire, Kanye West, The Strokes
7p Score: 52%

Coachella is in an enviable position. It's one of the most attended festivals in America (for better or worse) and can draw huge acts. Since it's the first major one-site festival in the calendar year, it is naturally the first to announce its lineup. So not only does every act on the bill feel like a "scoop", they're able to tempt you with the promise of music in the oh-so-toasty desert while you're shoveling your car out from under three feet of snow.