The National, Courtney Barnett Deliver Memorable First Performances at Ann Arbor’s Hill Auditorium

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The National knows how to make an indelible first impression in Tree Town.

The indie rock quintet enthralled a crowd of nearly 3,500 fans during their first headlining show June 25 at Ann Arbor’s Hill Auditorium with Courtney Barnett.

It was their first appearance in Tree Town while supporting their latest and eighth studio release, “I Am Easy to Find,” which features memorable collaborations with notable female artists and musicians.

Bathed in brightly colored lights and flanked by two large screens displaying Impressionist-inspired artwork, The National opened their nearly two-hour set with “You Had Your Soul with You” and featured Dianne Berkun Menaker, founder and director of the Brooklyn Youth Choir, as a brilliant guest vocalist.

Lead vocalist Matt Berninger sipped a beverage from a red plastic Solo cup and joked with the audience throughout their set as twin brothers Aaron Dessner (guitar, bass piano) and Bryce Dessner (guitar, piano) cued up the band before each song.

The band performed several introspective masterpieces from their latest album, including “Quiet Light,” “The Pull of You,” “Hey Rosey,” “Oblivions,” “Light Years,” “I Am Easy to Find” and “Rylan,” while Berkun Menaker provided lush harmonies and background vocals that meshed beautifully with Berninger’s.

About halfway through their set, Berninger and drummer Bryan Devendorf engaged in friendly onstage banter. The introverted Devendorf spoke fondly about spending time in Ann Arbor before the band’s show. In response, Berninger joked with his quiet bandmate about finally speaking to the crowd.

“Are you going to say something, Bryan?” Berninger asked laughingly. “Let me give you my microphone … Bryan barely speaks, you guys.”

Devendorf proudly responded, “I visited a pool today called the Fuller Park Pool, it was fantastic, and right across the street is U-M hospital, am I correct? I was born there in 1975, so I’ve come full circle.”

The National also came full circle musically while performing past fan favorites ranging from “Bloodbuzz Ohio” to “Graceless” to “Fake Empire.” No National live show is complete without at least one or two timeless tracks from “High Violet” and “Boxer.”

The band closed the show with a four-song encore and featured Berninger jumping into the crowd and interacting with fans during “Mr. November.” It’s a highly anticipated moment from any longtime fan of The National.

A fan also presented Berninger with his own U-M baseball cap to wear toward the end of the night.

“Thank you for making this for me. I will wear this forever,” Berninger said. “You want me to sign it? I’m not giving this back to you.”

Hopefully, Berninger’s new cap will make it easy for fans to find The National in Ann Arbor again soon.

Continue reading “The National, Courtney Barnett Deliver Memorable First Performances at Ann Arbor’s Hill Auditorium”

The National, Courtney Barnett to Play First Ann Arbor Show Tuesday Night at U-M’s Hill Auditorium

The National will perform Tuesday night at Ann Arbor’s Hill Auditorium in support of  their latest album, “I Am Easy to Find.” Photo by Graham MacIndoe

The National will be easy to find Tuesday night at Ann Arbor’s Hill Auditorium.

The indie rock quintet will perform their first headlining show at the University of Michigan’s 106-year-old, 3,500-seat auditorium in support of their latest and eighth studio release, “I Am Easy to Find.”

Presented by AEG and The Ark, it’s the latest stop on The National’s current 20-date North American tour with special guest Australian indie rock singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Courtney Barnett. The band last performed in Michigan at Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival in July 2018.

The National’s Matt Berninger (vocals) along with twin brothers Aaron Dessner (guitar, bass, piano) and Bryce Dessner (guitar, piano) and brothers Scott Devendorf (bass) and Bryan Devendorf (drums) will showcase new introspective songs tinged with dark, melancholy lyrics from their critically-acclaimed 16-track album, which dropped May 17 on 4AD.

The follow-up to 2017’s GRAMMY-award winning release, “Sleep Well Beast,” “I Am Easy to Find” features The National’s latest singles, “You Had Your Soul with You,” “Light Years” and “Hairpin Turns,” and harnesses their signature indie rock sound filled with driving guitars, eloquent pianos and pulsating bass and drum lines.

Interestingly, the album includes a short companion film with the same name and music by The National. Inspired by “I Am Easy to Find,” the film was directed by Academy Award-nominated director Mike Mills (“20th Century Women,” “Beginners”) and stars Academy Award Winner Alicia Vikander, who’s also featured on the album’s cover.

Along with the band, Mills co-produced “I Am Easy to Find,” which was mostly recorded at Long Pond, Aaron Dessner’s residential studio in upstate New York along with additional sessions in Paris, Berlin, Cincinnati, Austin, Dublin, Brooklyn and other far-flung locations.

The album also features beautiful collaborations with several notable female vocalists, including Sharon Van Etten, Lisa Hannigan, Gail Ann Dorsey, Mina Tindle and Kate Stables.

Both individually and collectively, The National’s members have been involved in countless artistic, charitable and socio-political pursuits. The group released “A Lot of Sorrow” documenting their collaboration with installation artists Ragnar Kjartansson that took place at MOMA’s PS1 and saw the band play their song “Sorrow” for six hours in front of a live audience.

The National are also behind the Red Hot benefit albums, “Dark Was The Night” and “Day Of The Dead,” and the compilation boxed set titled “7-Inches for Planned Parenthood.”

In 2013, the band saw the theatrical release of their documentary, “Mistaken for Strangers,” set to the backdrop of their 2010 release, “High Violet.” During their 16-year career, The National has sold more than 2 million albums in the U.S. alone.

Courtney Barnett

Australian indie rock singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett will open for The National at Ann Arbor’s Hill Auditorium Tuesday night. Photo by Pooneh Ghana

As for The National’s special guest, Barnett will make her first Ann Arbor appearance in support of her second album, 2018’s “Tell Me How You Really Feel,” which “takes your vulnerabilities and everything that scares you and twists them until they fit into someone else’s hands.”

For her latest album and follow-up to 2015’s “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit,” Barnett’s writing is focused on the internal. She’s turned her gaze inward to study how the world and people in it are affecting her.

Listening to “Tell Me How You Really Feel,” it’s easy to imagine Barnett figuring out, song by song, how to orient herself and remain steady in a place that’s rapidly shifting around her.

Last month, Barnett released a new single and video for “Everybody Here Hates You.” Recorded in late 2018 during a break in her “Tell Me How You Really Feel” world tour, “Everybody Here Hates You” is the closest Barnett has ever come to capturing the extraordinary weight and swagger of her live performance on a recording. The track is a blues-tinged behemoth with squalling guitars, organs and tambourines.

Following the release of her latest album, Barnett went on to play sold-out rooms and packed festivals worldwide. Over the course of just a few years, Barnett has become internationally renowned for her witty, ironic and distinctive song lyrics.

She’s won the Australian Music Prize, J Award for Album of the Year, APRA’s Songwriter of the Year and four ARIA Awards. Barnett has worked on music with Jack White, The Breeders and Jen Cloher as well as releasing the 2017 masterful collaboration, “Lotta Sea Lice,” with indie rock singer-songwriter Kurt Vile.

Show details:

The National with special guest Courtney Barnett

8 p.m. Tuesday

University of Michigan’s Hill Auditorium, 825 N. University Ave. in Ann Arbor

Tickets: $59.99 for main floor and mezzanine, $45 for balcony

‘Just Like the Sun’ – Indy’s From Elsewhere Make First Detroit Appearance Sunday Night, Release Brilliant Debut EP

Indy’s From Elsewhere released their debut EP, “Just Like the Sun,” on Friday.

 

Indianapolis’ From Elsewhere will bring their vibrant indie rock to the Motor City Sunday night.

The burgeoning trio will make their live Detroit debut at Nice Place, 70 Glynn Ct., starting at 6 p.m. with Merga, Anomaly and Carter Erickson. The show also will feature artwork from local visual artists.

“It’s going to be a mixed genre show with some hip hop,” said Nikhil Ramani, From Elsewhere’s vocalist and guitarist who originally hails from Chennai, India. “I’m really excited for Sunday because it’s going to be a good community of artists.”

Along with bandmates Travis Lee (bass) and Luke Duckworth (drums), Ramani will share tracks from their sparkling debut EP, “Just Like the Sun,” which dropped Friday.

The shimmering six-song EP features an eclectic mix of shoegaze and alternative rock – think Death Cab for Cutie, Smashing Pumpkins, Slowdive and Snail Mail rolled into one. The band recorded the EP over three days in late August, early September at Russian Recording in Bloomington, Ind., with Ben Lumsdaine.

With shiny guitar tones, solid bass lines and pulsating drumbeats, “Just Like the Sun” illuminates the dreariest Midwestern winter morning and creates a vivid, laid-back summer afternoon in the mind’s eye. From Elsewhere’s first two brilliant singles, “The Color Yellow” and “Collective Thoughts,” dropped earlier this fall.

“A lot of the EP is about finding yourself, your self-identity and a little bit of loneliness and sadness, just all human emotion basically,” said Ramani, who formed From Elsewhere with Lee and Duckworth in June. “Each song on the EP isn’t about strictly one particular theme or thing, it’s kind of a mix.”

Continue reading “‘Just Like the Sun’ – Indy’s From Elsewhere Make First Detroit Appearance Sunday Night, Release Brilliant Debut EP”

‘The Color Yellow’ – New Indy Trio Drops Sparkling Debut Single from Forthcoming ‘Just Like the Sun’ EP

With their vibrant debut single, “The Color Yellow,” From Elsewhere is illuminating the Indianapolis indie rock scene.

The newly formed indie rock trio dropped the first track from their forthcoming EP, “Just Like the Sun,” last week, and it’s an eclectic mix of shoegaze and alternative rock – think remnants of Smashing Pumpkins, Slowdive, Snail Mail and Death Cab for Cutie rolled into one.

With its shimmering guitars, solid bass lines and pulsating drumbeats, “The Color Yellow” provides a gorgeous splatter of upbeat rhythms, but includes a dark lyrical layer hidden below.

“It’s about Vincent Van Gogh, and the whole idea of the troubled artist. He tried to eat yellow paint because he was ready to do anything to make himself happy,” said Nikhil Ramani, the From Elsewhere frontman and guitarist who originally hails from Chennai, India. “We see mental health awareness becoming a big thing now, but we still see so many suicides. The song is also about how we can bring that number down.”

As a senior studying psychology at the University of Indianapolis, Ramani wrote the band’s debut single after trying to understand the correlation between successful artists and their depression. “The Color Yellow” serves as a budding piece of musical research to further address and explore the issue.

“Is art just an escape, or is the gene the same?” asked Ramani, who learned how to play guitar at age eight and counts Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pink Floyd and Death Cab among his major influences. “Yellow is such a happy color, but it has a bit of melancholy feel to it in this song.”

Despite the delicate subject matter, Ramani and his bandmates, Travis Lee (bass) and Luke Duckworth (drums), are eager to see where their new musical journey is headed. Together, the trio formed From Elsewhere in June after meeting up with Ramani.

“Back in the summer, I was just working at the front desk at school, and there were a lot of hours where I didn’t have much to do, so I would go on Craigslist, and I made this ad for an indie rock band,” Ramani said. “I had these songs, so I wanted to see if anyone was out there.”

After forming the band, Ramani, Lee and Duckworth recorded six songs, including “The Color Yellow,” at Russian Recording in Bloomington, Ind., for “Just Like the Sun,” which will drop in December. They also plan to release a follow-up single to “The Color Yellow” soon.

Since August, From Elsewhere has played several Indy shows to growing audiences with Ongoing Story, The Latin for Maple and Dopplepopolis. They’ll play next with Heart Attack Man and Juice Nov. 4 at the Hoosier Dome, 1627 Prospect St., in Indy.

“We really want to go on tour and play out-of-town shows,” Ramani said. “When we do go on tour, it will be cool to say, ‘Hey, we’re From Elsewhere.’”

Audiotree Music Festival Brings Emerging Indie Rock to Kalamazoo Today, Sunday

Local Natives will headline the Audiotree Music Festival in Kalamazoo today.

Indie music lovers will rejoice today with the start of Kalamazoo’s Audiotree Music Festival.

The two-day music festival kicks off at noon in Arcadia Creek Festival Place and features nearly 30 artists on two stages.

Denver psychedelic pop group Flaural will open the festival on the WIDR Discovery Stage while Los Angeles indie rock quintet Local Natives will perform a headlining set on the Main Stage.

New Jersey indie pop quintet Real Estate and Los Angeles indie folk rocker Father John Misty (aka Josh Tillman) will headline on Sunday.

Founded in 2013 by Kalamazoo natives Michael Johnston and Adam Thurston, the Chicago-based, Michigan-born Audiotree Music Festival celebrates new and emerging artists and is curated by the popular web music series Audiotree Live.

In 2015, Audiotree purchased two Chicago venues, Schubas Tavern and Lincoln Hall, adding a live concert booking, promoting and streaming division to the company. Since 2011, Audiotree’s online following has grown to include more than 350,000 YouTube subscribers. Now, the Audiotree Music Festival is expanding the match the scale of the entire company.

“While this year’s festival is very guitar-driven, we’re really excited about the variety we’ve still been able to cover,” said Patrick Van Wagoner, a talent buyer for the Audiotree Music Festival and Lincoln Hall, in a festival press release. “Attendees will find elements of rock ’n roll, punk, folk, pop, funk and more, while seeing plenty of acts with Audiotree history.”

Continue reading “Audiotree Music Festival Brings Emerging Indie Rock to Kalamazoo Today, Sunday”