Music festivals continue to expand in number and size in the US. That’s a great deal for music fans. The opportunity to choose from over 100 artists on multiple stages in the larger festivals is a bargain and unique opportunity to explore performances you might not choose on your own. There are certainly many more worthwhile festivals to attend than simply these 10, but these will get you started with some of the biggest and best for pop music fans.
The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is now a 3-day annual music festival held in Indio, California. The festival first took place in 1999, was shut down for 2000, and was given a new lease on life in 2001. Since that point the event has grown in both size and acclaim currently reigning as the king of US music festivals. If a style could be identified it would be rock with an alternative edge. However, the dance tents also present cutting edge dance music artists. For the past 2 years, the Coachella Festival has taken place the last weekend in April.
2. Warped Tour
Warped Tour is a touring festival setting up shop often in parking lots or fields to entertain crowds ranging from 10,000 to 30,000. Sponsored by skateboard shoe manufacturer Vans, the Warped Tour has given national exposure for a wide range of rising pop punk, emo, and hardcore bands. The tour has operated each year since 1994 and most concerts take place in June, July, and August. A sister tour, A Taste of Chaos, was launched in 2004 and operates in the winter. Among the Warped Tour alumni are Fall Out Boy, Good Charlotte, and My Chemical Romance.
Lollapalooza began as a touring festival, much like Warped Tour. Organized in 1991 by Perry Farrell, lead singer for Jane’s Addiction, the first incarnation of Lollapalooza leaned to alternative music but deliberately included a wide range of musical styles. The festival tour folded in 1997, but it was revived in 2003 with only moderate success. It rose a 3rd time in 2005 as a 2 day event on the Chicago lakefront. The festival was successful enough it expanded to 3 days in 2006 and signed a 5-year contract with the City of Chicago beginning in 2007.
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is a 4 day event held 60 miles outside of Nashville, Tennessee. It began in 2002 and has quickly grown to be one of the country’s premier festivals. Traditionally the focus has been jam bands with a fair sprinkling of bluegrass, folk, alternative rock and pop. However, 2007′s Bonnaroo festival, held June 14-17 will feature the reunited Police as headlining act.
Ozzfest began in 1996 as the result of Lollapalooza organizers refusing to allow Ozzy Osbourne to join the tour. Ozzfest, operated by Ozzy’s wife Sharon Osbourne, quickly became the most respected festival tour for heavy metal and hard rock. The tour has been criticized at times for being too heavily focused on corporate profits. In a move that has generated controversy in the music establishment, Sharon Osbourne announced that the 2007 tour would be a free event. This decision is intended to make the festival accessible to all audiences.
6. Austin City Limits
An outgrowth of the venerated PBS television program Austin City Limits, the Austin City Limits Festival first began in 2002, and, in a very short period of time, has become one of the country’s top annual music events. Like its namesake show, the festival embraces a wide range of musical styles with the primary focus being rock. The 2007 event will take place over 3 days from September 14-16. The primary complaints about the Austin City Limits Festival have been that Austin can be hot, really hot, in September.
Summerfest is also known by the nickname “The Big Gig.” The event runs for 11 days along the Milwaukee, Wisconsin lakefront and attracts approximately 1,000,000 people. The Guinness Book of World Records lists Summerfest as the world’s biggest music festival. The event had its beginnings in 1968 and has been held in the same location each year since 1970. Performances take place on 13 different stages. Summerfest takes place every year in late June and early July always covering the 4th of July weekend.
8. South By Southwest
South By Southwest is both a film and music festival held in Austin, Texas for a week in March of each year. The event has taken place each year since 1987 and has grown to become the premiere annual festival for new and rising recording acts. Members of the music industry looking for the next big thing crowd the streets and clubs of Austin. The sheer number of performers is phenomenal. 2007 will boast over 500 musical acts.
9. Virgin Festival
The Virgin Festival is an outgrowth of the UK’s V Festival, one of the top UK musical events of the year. The inaugural Virgin Festival concerts took place in Toronto and Baltimore in 2006.
The HFStival is the East Coast’s largest annual music event and is hosted by radio station WHFS. The festival has been held each year since 1990 and for the past several years has taken place in May. Originally the event was held at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC, but HFStival moved to the Baltimore area along with the radio station in 2005. A wide range of musical styles are presented onstage ranging from mainstream rock to hardcore and rap.
After five years, two full length albums and countless high profile tours and festival gigs, including The Leeds Festival, Reading and Lollapalooza, Juliette Lewis is ready to unveil her new album Terra Incognita, scheduled for release this Spring. With an exciting new sound and a significantly diverse collection of songs, Lewis decided to form a different band to capture her whole new groove and launch this next musical project under a different name: The New Romantiques. Instrumental in creating the sound for this new record is the album’s producer Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, leader of Mars Volta.
“Because this album is so sonically different than anything I’ve done before and captures many flavors of my emotional life and voice, it needed an entirely new name,’ declares Lewis. “Terra Incognita means unknown territory– and that’s where I wanted to go musically. The guitars are more wild and atmospheric. The groove is dark and deep and allow for a lot of sonic contrasts. It took me five years to really cut my teeth both as a performer and as a songwriter and I wanted to break all the habits I’d gotten used to and let songs develop out of a groove or simple piano notes and melody. In Omar I found a producer who understood all these facets and who could really unearth and interpret this musical identity. He blows my mind on many levels. It’s been a truly liberating and radical experience.”
“Everything she’s feeling, it’s just right there for you,” said Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of the recording. “It’s just honest. It’s her. All the music encapsulates her and it’s driven by her, and it’s made for her.”
Juliette and Omar met while both on tour at the Fugi Rock Festival in Japan in 2007 and soon bonded over their love of Fellini movies and the relationship between drama, visual images and songwriting. Together they have translated her ideas into an emotionally guttural and ultimately melodic and unpredictable, new sound. There is a deep undercurrent on the entire record of contrasting themes; romance and tragedy, dreams and disillusionment. Her vocal performances showcase a remarkably dynamic range going from haunting to soulful and roaring.
Lewis wrote most of the 11 tracks with long time friend and musician Chris Watson over the past year and at home on piano using a tape recorder. She then recorded the album in between both of her and Omar’s tours at the end of 2008 at Rodriguez-Lopez’s studio in Brooklyn NY and Guadalajara Mexico. The record was mixed by the legendary Rich Cosey (NIN, Muse, Foo Fighters).
Juliette & The New Romantiques will be announcing additional album details and tour news in the coming weeks. Tour stops will include SXSW, club shows and festival dates, which follow on the heels of her storied live history that has taken her music all across the world from Europe to Japan to Turkey, Australia, North America and Canada,. For more information please go to www.myspace.com/juliettelewis
‘My Life Would Suck Without You’ shoots straight to first place this week, while Lily’s single ‘The Fear’ is knocked to a lowly No.5.
Country-influenced songstress Taylor Swift takes the No.2 spot with her debut UK single ‘Love Story’, while Lady GaGa makes it a triple for US ladies, scoring a No.3 hit with her latest effort, ‘Poker Face’.
American rapper T.I. goes straight in at No.4 with ‘Dead And Gone’, featuring a turn from the ever-popular Justin Timberlake.
Brits bring it home in the album chart, however, as rave veterans The Prodigy enter at No.1 with their fifth album, Invaders Must Die.
When Lady GaGa was a little girl, she would sing along on her mini plastic tape recorder to Michael Jackson and Cyndi Lauper hits and get twirled in the air in daddy’s arms to the sounds of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. The precocious child would dance around the table at fancy Upper West Side restaurants using the breadsticks as a baton. And, she would innocently greet a new babysitter in nothing but her birthday suit.
It’s no wonder that little girl from a good Italian New York family, turned into the exhibitionist, multi-talented singer-songwriter with a flair for theatrics that she is today: Lady GaGa.
“I was always an entertainer. I was a ham as a little girl and I’m a ham today,” says Lady GaGa, 22, who made a name for herself on the Lower East Side club scene with the infectious dance-pop party song “Beautiful Dirty Rich,” and wild, theatrical, and often tongue-in-cheek “shock art” performances where GaGa – who designs and makes many of her stage outfits — would strip down to her hand-crafted hot pants and bikini top, light cans of hairspray on fire, and strike a pose as a disco ball lowered from the ceiling to the orchestral sounds of A Clockwork Orange.
“I always loved rock and pop and theater. When I discovered Queen and David Bowie is when it really came together for me and I realized I could do all three,” says GaGa, who nicked her name from Queen’s song “Radio Gaga” and who cites rock star girlfriends, Peggy Bundy, and Donatella Versace as her fashion icons. “I look at those artists as icons in art. It’s not just about the music. It’s about the performance, the attitude, the look; it’s everything. And, that is where I live as an artist and that is what I want to accomplish.”
That goal might seem lofty, but consider the artist: GaGa is the girl who at age 4 learned piano by ear. By age 13, she had written her first piano ballad. At 14, she played open mike nights at clubs such as New York’s the Bitter End by night and was teased for her quirky, eccentric style by her Convent of the Sacred Heart School (the Manhattan private school Nicky and Paris Hilton attended) classmates by day. At age 17, she became was one of 20 kids in the world to get early admission to Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. Signed by her 20th birthday and writing songs for other artists (such as the Pussycat Dolls, and has been asked to write for a series of Interscope artists) before her debut album was even released, Lady GaGa has earned the right to reach for the sky.
“My goal as an artist is to funnel a pop record to a world in a very interesting way,” says GaGa, who wrote all of her lyrics, all of her melodies, and played most of the synth work on her album, The Fame (Streamline/Interscope/KonLive). “I almost want to trick people into hanging with something that is really cool with a pop song. It’s almost like the spoonful of sugar and I’m the medicine.”
On The Fame, it’s as if GaGa took two parts dance-pop, one part electro-pop, and one part rock with a splash of disco and burlesque and generously poured it into the figurative martini glasses of the world in an effort to get everyone drunk with her Fame. “The Fame is about how anyone can feel famous,” she explains. “Pop culture is art. It doesn’t make you cool to hate pop culture, so I embraced it and you hear it all over The Fame. But, it’s a sharable fame. I want to invite you all to the party. I want people to feel a part of this lifestyle.”
The CD’s opener and first single, “Just Dance,” gets the dance floor rocking with it’s “fun, L.A., celebratory vibe.” As for the equally catchy, “Boys Boys Boys,” Gaga doesn’t mind wearing her influences on her sleeve. “I wanted to write the female version of Motley Crue’s ‘Girls Girls Girls,’ but with my own twist. I wanted to write a pop song that rockers would like.”
“Beautiful Dirty Rich” sums up her time of self-discovery, living in the Lower East Side and dabbling in drugs and the party scene. “That time, and that song, was just me trying to figure things out,” says GaGa. “Once I grabbed the reigns of my artistry, I fell in love with that more than I did with the party life.” On first listen, “Paparazzi” might come off as a love song to cameras, and in all honestly, GaGa jokes “on one level it IS about wooing the paparazzi and wanting fame. But, it’s not to be taken completely seriously. It’s about everyone’s obsession with that idea. But, it’s also about wanting a guy to love you and the struggle of whether you can have success or love or both.”
GaGa shows her passion for love songs on such softer tracks as the Queen-influenced “Brown Eyes” and the sweet kiss-off break-up song “Nothing I can Say (eh eh).” “‘Brown Eyes’ is the most vulnerable song on the album,” she explains. “‘Eh Eh’ is my simple pop song about finding someone new and breaking up with the old boyfriend.”
For the new tour for this album, fans will be treated to a more polished version of what they saw (and loved) at her critically acclaimed Lollapalooza show in August 2007 and Winter Music Conference performance in March 2008. “This new show is the couture version of my handmade downtown performance of the past few years. It’s more fine-tuned, but some of my favorite elements to my past shows – the disco balls, hot pants, sequin, and stilettos – will still be there. Just more fierce and more of a conceptual show with a vision for pop performance art.”
It’s been a while since a new pop artist has made her way in the music industry the old-fashioned/grass roots way by paying her dues with seedy club gigs and self-promotion. This is one rising pop star who hasn’t been plucked from a model casting call, born into a famous family, won a reality TV singing contest, or emerged from a teen cable TV sitcom. “I did this the way you are supposed to. I played every club in New York City and I bombed in every club and then killed it in every club and I found myself as an artist. I learned how to survive as an artist, get real, and how to fail and then figure out who I was as singer and performer. And, I worked hard.”
GaGa adds with a wink in her eye, “And, now, I’m just trying to change the world one sequin at a time.”
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