amazing icon

Riot Fest Lineup Announced

Chicago’s Riot Fest has become one of the must-attend alternative music festivals of the year. 2013 will be no different, and dare I say it may even be the best year yet.

Breaking around 11pm (EST) last night, May 15, Riot Fest’s initial lineup announcement includes headline performances by Blink-182 and Fall Out Boy. An additional headliner will be revealed in the weeks ahead, but as far as additional confirmed acts go, you can count on seeing The Violent Femmes, Motorhead, Sublime With Rome, Rancid, AFI, Blondie, Public Enemy, Brand New, Flag, Taking Back Sunday, Rocket From The Crypt, Bad Religion, Atmosphere, The Dismemberment Plan, Dinosaur Jr, X, Devotchka, Yellowcard, Screeching Weasel, Pennywise, The Broadways, Against Me!, Bob Mould, Gwar, The Lillingtons, Best Coast, The Lawrence Arms, Say Anything, Bad Brains, Quicksand, The Selecter, Bad Books, Mission Of Burma, The Devil Wears Prada, Saves The Day, Glassjaw, Bayside, Stars, Toots and the Maytals, Peter Hook (performing a Joy Division set!), Smoking Popes, Reggie and the Full Effect, Attack Attack!, The Dear Hunter, Maps and Atlases, Surfer Blood, Chuck Ragan, Dessa, Saul Williams, Empires, Memphiskapheles, Kitten, Peelander-Z, Touche Amore, Masked Intruder, Deal’s Gone Bad, Twin Peaks, Flatfoot 56, and White Mystery.

Pretty awesome, right? Tickets start at $23 a day; the festival is being held September 13 through 15 in Chicago. Buy tickets or see the official website here. (more…)

Going Out On Your Own: When Affiliates Break Away From The Posse

The group is a celebrated convention of hip-hop music culture. N.W.A. Wu-Tang Clan. Public Enemy. De La Soul. Need we say more? Greater than then sum of their parts, these are groups with famous individual members whose collective efforts are generally more celebrated than their solo material.

Cut to the modern day. The tradition of the hip-hop group is still alive and well. Black Hippy, for example, is a supergroup of sorts though they don’t have a release to their collective name. Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q both enjoyed well-received releases this year, with Control System and Habits and Contradictions respectively. Yet neither release made the same splash as Kendrick Lamar, the most visible member of Black Hippy, and his major label debut good kid, m.A.A.d. city. But little else did. Even Jay Rock, the fourth and most slept on member of Black Hippy, has seen his profile rise considerably as of late, if only by proxy.

Black Hippy’s success is exceptional in a number of ways. No one release or member can be pointed to as the genesis for the success of the rest. Lamar is flying high right now, but Black Hippy was never entirely his show. It’s also rare for a group to have all of their members do as well as all four in Black Hippy have. In a hip-hop group dynamic, it’s not unusual for a member or two to become prominent. The rest will experience varying levels of popularity but the likelihood that each member fully breaks through is low.

But egos clash. Friendships fray. Artistic visions deviate. So, what happens to rappers who try to make it on their own?

(more…)

Rage Against The Machine Celebrate 20 Year Anniversary Of Debut Album With Limited Edition Box Set

Can you believe it’s been twenty years since Rage Against The Machine released their debut self-titled album? In 1992, the politically charged rap/rock hybrid group came right out of the gate with one of the most disturbing and controversial photographs of the 20th century as their album cover, a bold statement that showed the world just how serious they were about making an impact. Since then, Rage has been one of the most influential bands in the world, aiding not only in the world of music, but in the world of political activism as well.

Now, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of their momentous first album, they will be re-issuing the record in multiple limited edition box set formats entitled Rage Against The Machine – XX.  According to NME.com, the release will “contain a remastered version of the album, demos and previously unseen live footage as well as a film of their 2010 gig in Finsbury Park and new liner notes written by Public Enemy‘s Chuck D. The deluxe box set will include “two CDs, two DVDs, one 180g vinyl LP, one 40-page booklet and two-sided poster, or as a Special Edition with two CDs and a bonus DVD featuring six tracks.” There will also be a 180g vinyl edition and a single CD edition with three bonus tracks. Rage Against The Machine – XX is set to be released on November 26th. For more details and track-listings, click here.

If you enjoy Rage Against The Machine, then you might also like Ourstage’s own Game Rebellion.

More Like This:

Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Nominees Announced

It’s that time again! Time to review the candidates, do your research, and start voting!

We’re not talking politics here, this is straight up rock and roll, and for the first time in their history the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is giving fans a say in which of the newly announced 2013 nominees will be inducted.

Among this year’s first time nominees are Rush, N.W.A and Public Enemy, while returning nominees include Donna Summer, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and The Meters. Artists must have released their first recording no later than 1987 in order to be eligible. It’s a tight race people, but someone has to decide on these artist’s hall of fame fate!

Now through Dec. 5, you can vote at Rockhall.com and CNN.com and give your favorite artists a shot at becoming inducted. Winners will be revealed the same month, with the 28th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony taking place April 18 in Los Angeles, and broadcast on HBO at a later date.

View the full list here and get voting!

More like this:

Friday, August 10, 2012

Riffs, Rants and Rumors: Jesse Frohman Catches Kurt Cobain's Final Act

Veteran photographer Jesse Frohman isn’t easily fazed. He may have become adept at photographing the “beautiful people” in celebdom, but he first began making a name for himself in the late ’80s by capturing colorful moments on the fly with hip-hop provocateurs. So, when a drugged-up, freakishly attired Kurt Cobain strolled into his shoot three hours late in November of 1993, Frohman didn’t flinch. After all, Jesse Frohman is the man who invited a militant-era Chuck D. into his house and insisted on putting a gun in the Public Enemy mastermind’s hand. Fortunately it was all in the service of an iconic photo.

“That was a funny shoot,” recalls Frohman, “because I told whoever was doing the props at the time, ‘You’ve gotta get a gun,’ because I wanted to do that [Black Panthers founder] Huey Newton-style picture, and he comes back with this grandpa gun, and Chuck D. was like ‘Where’s the Uzi?'” Frohman had some strange but memorable shoots with LL Cool J in those days too. “LL Cool J would say the funniest things, he would just call me randomly and say ‘Okay, I want to get my Pathfinder up in the woods and we’ll put a deer on the hood, and I’ll get camouflage clothes’ [laughs]. Just one thing after another, it was just a real crackup.”

But even Public Enemy’s intimidating image didn’t rattle Frohman. “People really thought these guys were very much that way,” he explains, “and it made me realize they’re putting on a show” they were natural entertainers. When you’d meet them in person they’d drop their guard a little bit. I really didn’t have any problems with anybody, I had more problems with people like Dee Dee Ramone out at my house; he picked up the brass knuckles that he gave me as a gift and tried to use them on me. He was having a bad reaction to some drugs he took.”

Frohman doesn’t even betray an ounce of chagrin when he recalls getting kicked out of a shoot by the artists themselves. “Green Day was a great band to shoot,” he begins. “they get the attitude, they’re zany, they don’t care what they look like, they just want to have fun in the pictures, and they put on a show a little bit.” Then he drops the other shoe, continuing, “The funny thing about Green Day is, a magazine said, ‘They’re on tour,’ would I mind going to the show and doing a few pictures there? I went to the show and Billie [Joe Armstrong] says after the first couple of songs, ‘How about we kick the goddamn photographer out of here?’ I’m trying to say, ‘No, it’s me Billie! We just had this four-hour shoot!’ He either didn’t see me or he didn’t care, and I was kicked out, so I didn’t get concert pictures.” But Frohman wasn’t just fattening his portfolio by banging around with all these enfants terrible, he was gaining combat experience. “They were colorful,” he says of the aforementioned artists, “they were interesting, they were great subjects, and it really set me up for a shoot like Nirvana and Kurt Cobain.”

Frohman sets the scene for his short but momentous Cobain encounter, “I think it was November 15, 1993,” he remembers. “The London Observer magazine asked if I would do a cover story on [Nirvana]. They set up a shoot that we all agreed would be five hours. They were in New York performing at Roseland that night, so we had the late morning/afternoon to do the shoot. When I arrived at the hotel, I met the manager at the lobby and he said, ‘The plans have changed, and we don’t have anything close to five hours now, and we have to shoot in the hotel.’ He had reserved a conference room for us. We were planning on shooting in Central Park and on the street, that’s what I was set up for, and he nixed all that. So that was the beginning of the experience.”

If you’re thinking it got worse after that, you’re right. Nirvana rhythm section Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic showed up for the shoot only to find their fearless leader MIA, so they departed. When they returned some time later, the singer had still not turned up. Finally, a chemically-enhanced Cobain wandered in with only twenty minutes left in Frohman’s alotted time. He arrived with an absurd, garish ensemble including a leopard jacket that looked like it belonged to someone’s grandmother, an earflap-adorned aviator hat of the sort pilots sported in WWII, and a pair of huge plastic sunglasses that would have been better suited to Jackie Onassis. To make matters more difficult, Frohman recalls, “Once he put those glasses on he wouldn’t take them off, so I didn’t get any pictures with his glasses off except when I went to Roseland and shot him on stage.”

Fortunately, Frohman’s luck soon turned around, and he found himself getting some great, soon-to-be-iconic images of the bedraggled rock star. “Maybe not the most flattering pictures,” he allows, “but he was very expressive. He was nice, and he was fine to shoot. It was definitely a partnership in making a picture, but he wasn’t demanding, he wasn’t difficult. He was really very easy to photograph, and that was really my saving grace, because I didn’t have enough time to work with somebody that wanted to change outfits or wanted to take a break”he just walked in and stood up against the wall and he was a happy camper.”

Following the band along to their Roseland gig for some stage shots, he marveled at Cobain’s ability to operate in his impaired state, even though Frohman had no way of knowing how dire the situation really was at that point. “There’s a lot of people out there that have problems or have moments where they’re in that state,” Frohman says, “and he was a rock star, so you just accepted it, and I was really just concerned with my shoot. And then I traveled with him to Roseland and there was no problem, he was fully functioning. He got up and he conducted rehearsal and he performed that night. To me it was remarkable that he was able to do that with such ease. I don’t know how he was able to do it.”

Of course, he wouldn’t be able to do it for much longer. on April 5, 1994, Cobain made the jump from superstar to rock & roll martyr. To memorialize the eighteenth anniversary of that tragic event, Frohman decided to partner with the renowned Morrison Hotel Gallery in New York City, famed for featuring rock-oriented photo shows, to present his complete collection of images from that fateful day in ’93. “It was interesting to look at a shoot from that long a period ago,” says Frohman of putting the exhibition together. “There’s lots of memories about the shoot, about the day and what I expected and what I finally got out of it, and I think that some shoots take on a life of their own. It’s really because of him, not me, to a large extent, but it definitely was a partnership. Had I done some snapshots of him at Roseland, or on the street, I wouldn’t have had the shoot that I had, so I’m fortunate that I had to shoot in a conference room and I made the best out of it. It was a twenty-minute shoot, you don’t know that it can become something.”

Even so, the decision to do the show was not an automatic one for Frohman. “I went back and forth,” he explains, “‘Do I want to do this or not,’ then I said ‘I really do.’ I think it’s the time that there’s enough interest in Kurt and it makes sense photographically. I think it makes sense in this time and place to do something like this.” Allowing all of his rare, raw images of the rocker’s endgame to be seen together like this for the first time (the show will be up throughout the month of April) Frohman not only makes a major photographic statement, but marks a strange, sad, stirring juncture in rock history.

End of the Revolution: Has Pop Lost Its Social Conscience?

“You say you want a revolution,” The Beatles taunted in 1968. Seventeen years later, the Cult declared, “There’s a revolution.” When Tracy Chapman started “talkin’ ’bout a revolution” in 1988, she left the battlefield with multi-platinum spoils and two GRAMMYs. Pop music may be entertainment first and foremost, but at its most powerful, it’s also been an agent of change, social change, political change, inner change.
“A change is gonna come,” Sam Cooke sang on his 1964 classic. Surely he didn’t envision it eventually going down quite like this. I think the turnaround began in the ’90s, when U2, one of the most popular and influential political groups of all time, discovered girls and disco balls. Nearly two decades later, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Stevie Wonder and George Michael are off the singles charts, John Lennon and Marvin Gaye are still dead, and musical activism is mostly the domain of artists on the sidelines of the mainstream.
Meanwhile, in the middle of the road… Billboard’s Top 10 for the week of January 15” led by “Firework,” an anthem for doomed youth with none of the eloquence of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” from 2002”perfectly reflected the shallow mindset of 2011 pop. With its “boom boom boom, even brighter than the moon moon moon” refrain, “Firework” is more tiring than inspiring and ultimately comes across as a clunky excuse for Katy Perry to look gorgeous and set off explosives with her breasts in the video.
Further down the hit list, Bruno Mars is a fool in love”twice. Pink is getting another party started. Enrique Iglesias is flirting again. And the Black Eyed Peas”well, I gotta feeling that ripping off the Dirty Dancing theme was just a way to make more quick bucks. When it’s up to Ke$ha to bring the social commentary (with “We R What We R”), you know we’ve got a problem. Where’s the revolution, the signs of the time? There’s a grenade, yes, but it’s in the name of love, not war.
Every so often there’s a disaster”September 11th, Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti”that springs pop stars into action. For the most part, though, they’re all about gold diggers, teenage dreams and bad romance. There are still some iconoclastic talents out there, though they don’t frequent the Top 10. I’m still not sure how a call to action as powerful as Muse’s “Uprising” stalled at No. 37 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 2009. Maybe the band’s Twilight-obsessed fans prefer when Matthew Bellamy is singing love songs for vampires.
M.I.A. made an unlikely trip to the Top 5 in 2008 with “Paper Planes,” but when she tried to fight the system with last year’s brutal, honest and brutally honest “Born Free,” her video was banned almost everywhere, including on YouTube, for containing violent images that actually were no more disturbing than anything James Franco does in 127 Hours, or that crazed gunman did in last season’s Grey’s Anatomy finale. The same thing happened to Madonna in 2003, when she challenged George Bush with her “American Life” clip. She was strong-armed into filming a new version of the video, the single and CD flopped, and she retreated to the dancefloor for her next two albums.
Perhaps it’s the censors who are intimidating pop’s would-be revolutionaries into inaction. If you dare to clash with rigid, arbitrary standards of decency, as 30 Seconds to Mars’ “Hurricane” video recently did (the MPAA probably would have slapped frontman Jared Leto’s antics with a PG rating at worst), you can forget about airplay. Years ago, pioneering rap acts like Grandmaster Flash and Furious Five and Run-D.M.C. documented life on the mean streets without courting controversy. When Public Enemy came along, they raised the stakes and pissed people off, probably limiting their commercial potential. I can’t imagine any of today’s swag-obsessed rap acts offering oratory as scathing as Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” or Fear of a Black Planet.
These days, rap’s primary focus, mentally and musically, is boosting egos and making money. Wiz Khalifa’s Top 10 “Black and Yellow,” in particular, represents everything that’s gone wrong with the genre. Eminem occasionally shows flashes of a social conscience” dig deeper into the lyrics of “Love the Way You Lie,” and you’ll realize that it’s an indictment of domestic violence, not a celebration of it” but in hitmaking mode, he’s mostly looking inward, not outward.
Who’ll bring social and political awareness back to the mainstream? Dixie Chicks tried their last time out, and won the 2007 Record of the Year GRAMMY for “Not Ready to Make Nice.” Since then, Record of the Year GRAMMY contenders mostly have been about sex, love and rehab. Rhythm and romance, like sex and candy, will always have a place in pop music, but who wants to party all the time? May the state of nations (wars, terrorism, collapsing economies, earthquakes, public shootings) inspire more of our stars to dim the party lights, turn some of the lust to anger, and get pop’s revolution back on track.

The Realness

Jahi Music

Accolades come in many shapes and sizes, but in the world of hip-hop, they don’t get much better than an endorsement by Chuck D. So all you rappers out there, pay attention to Jahi Music. According to Public Enemy’s iconic emcee, Jahi is what’s needed in hip-hop. And when you listen to his music, you’ll know why. The Cleveland-turned-Oakland rapper doesn’t squander his energy in flashy production “ he keeps it simple, allowing his message to become the variable. Soft, symphonic beats, padded scratches and muted jazz textures that nip at the fray set the stage for the real instrument ” Jahi’s voice. Call this my mellow flow, bask in my inner glow, he raps on The Realness. Form follows function; delivering Vibes that make you dance but wisdom you can use. And that wisdom includes anything from social commentary on our joyless 9-5 grind (Cycles of Life) to celebrations of faith (Thank God.) Maybe you’ll dance when the beat rears up, and that’s cool. But what Jahi really wants you to do is listen. So far, we’re all ears.

METAL MONDAY: TWENTY YEARS OF METAL

Twenty years is a long time. Two whole decades. Many things can change in that amount of time, but few styles of music went through as many changes as metal.

"The flute is a very heavy, metal instrument." - Ian Anderson

"The flute is a very heavy, metal instrument." - Ian Anderson

1989 was the tipping point that steered metal into the state we know it now. The thankful decline of the hair metal plague was in full-effect, death metal was on the rise and thrash metal was still going strong. This was the year of the infamous Jethro Tull upset over Metallica for the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental in the first ever Heavy Metal Grammy (much to the dismay of the metal community and rightfully so”Jethro Tull is not even close to metal). Tipper Gore and her PMRC was bringing the hammer down on metal with their censorship threats, and Guns N’ Roses had taken over the mainstream metal territory. Metal was under fire from all angles. For the greater good of metal, however, all of these things were ultimately great. The core die hard metal community decided they had enough, and were going to take a stand by pushing metal styles to the extreme.

Prog-metal greats, Dream Theater

Prog-metal greats, Dream Theater

Dream Theater, Stratovarius and Obituary are the most notable bands who released debut albums in 1989, all of which saw moderate success, and who later came to shape their genres for the next two decades. 1989 also saw the formation of many new bands, such as Dark Tranquillity and Cannibal Corpse, who helped shape the metal world over the last twenty years. Even with the huge successes these bands saw in the 90’s, they were still not able to overcome the hip hop and grunge onslaught throughout the decade and break into the mainstream ” unless you were Anthrax and did a collaboration with Public Enemy (which ultimately led to the rap metal fiasco of the late 90’s). I’m not talking about the popular bastardized offshoots of metal (e.g. Limp Bizkit, Nine Inch Nails, Korn, Disturbed, Deftones, etc.) that developed in the 90’s. I’m talking the real metal of the 90’s”Blind Guardian, At The Gates, In Flames, Symphony X, Suffocation”none of these bands got as much mainstream exposure in the 90’s as they deserved. Instead, the less abrasive grunge style took over. The mainstream was tired of the aggression-fueled style that metal brought and grunge stepped up to the plate, switching the anger for angst which hit home for the flannel-clad teenagers of the 90s.

George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher, of Cannibal Corpse

George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher, of Cannibal Corpse

Ultimately, metal being a subterranean music style throughout the 90’s was for the betterment of all metal genres. Everyone saw what happened in the 80’s when metal broke into the mainstream (yes, hair metal). The same thing happens to most genres of music”evolution happens when the genre is not in the spotlight (which means grunge is directly responsible for the black sheep that is Nickleback). Without the 90’s era of metal, we could still have things like the horrid pop-punk and boy bands of the early 2000’s (we can actually thank hip hop for helping to rid of that nuisance). Slowly but surely, metal is making its way back into the mainstream. There are 14 metal albums in the Billboard Top 200 as I write this, one of which debuted at #6” Black Clouds & Silver Linings by our progressive pals Dream Theater. Metal is stronger than ever, and looks as though it is still on the rise. Lookout, mainstream media, we are storming your beaches, and about to take over your cities. Yes, those ones that were built on rock and roll.