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DIY TILL YOU DIE: Vancouver Mini Maker Faire

24 Jun

I love performance and technology, particularly when they intersect with fashion and design.

Luckily, I’m not alone…

Because Vancouver’s first Mini Maker Faire is happening this weekend!

From 10 am to 5 pm on June 25 and 26, Great Northern Way Campus will be turned into a veritable feast for the eyes, ears and hands of novelty-hungry Vancouverites. For the first time ever in our fair city, we will be able to interact with a community of local crafters, builders, tinkerers, engineers and hobbyists who will gather to show off their skills and enthusiasm under the umbrella term of “Maker.”

Vancouver Mini Maker Faire (VMMF) is a two-day celebration of making and creating. It’s an all-ages family festival promoting the ethos of DIY on a large scale. Some of the features include pyrotechnics, kinetic sculptures, interactive musical installations, and 3d printers that can print themselves.

Interactive booths stationed throughout will both educate and entertain: teaching people how to complete a circuit, spin wool, or even smoke bacon!

Awesome.

Something really cute and creative that’s been garnering a lot of attention in on blogs and such these past few weeks is yarnbombing (aka yarnstorming or yarngraffiting), whereby a group of knit-savvy crafters gather together to shroud a public space in cozy, knitted coverings.

One such group, led by VMMF organizer Emily Smith, yarnbombed the Dunsmuir bike lanes the weekend of June 11 to promote the faire, and the results couldn’t have been more charming.

I love it!

Check out the VMMF blog for more info.

Something else I plan to take in is a talk by Vincent van Haaff, who will be discussing what music, video/installation art, hackspaces, and the maker movement all have in common. Van Haaff will explore the parallels between connecting software libraries and hardware, and connecting people and communities, taking into account how these points can benefit and accelerate every piece involved.

Originally from Southern California, van Haaff went from a record label co-founder and audio hacker in Los Angeles, to a rock climbing/chard-growing hippie in Santa Barbara, before moving to Vancouver to become a video game software developer and media artist. His expertise spans from data and music visualization to computer vision and user-centred design.

Definitely someone I want to learn more about.

Read more about Vancouver Mini Maker Faire in the Vancouver Courier and the Georgia Straight, and listen in on CBC Radio.

To pique your interest even more, I’ll leave you with one of my favourite music vids by Bjork, which I think really captures the Maker mindset:

See you all at the Faire!

First photo courtesy of xyberlog.com. Yarnbombing photos courtesy the VMMF blog.

COACHELLA 2011: Best New Discoveries – Foals, Sleigh Bells, Trentemoller

11 May

Here are my favourite newly discovered bands from the festival:

Foals


Sleigh Bells

Trentemoller

To conclude my Coachella 2011 coverage, I’ll leave you with this remix of Ellie Goulding’s Under the Sheets that serves as the opening track on a Coachella mixtape I picked up by Las Vegas DJ Silent John.

Thanks SJ! Also, thanks to all the hard-working Coachella organizers! Hope to see you next year.

DON’T GET IT: Empire of the Sun

11 May

Some blogs have suggested that Australia’s Empire of the Sun should have appeared on the main stage at Coachella before Arcade Fire. This would have had them replacing psychedelic prog-rock outfit Animal Collective. The Animal Collective show was visually creative, but the music hit only two notes: monotone and emotionless, and because of this, it made everyone restless. I was surprised by how bored I felt, cus I love Merriweather Post Pavilion. Anyway, though I was glad to have caught those guys, their performance was ultimately a fail. And given I’d already nominated our very dear Robyn for their honoured set-time, upon my return home I thought I’d check out Empire of the Sun to see what all the fuss was about.

So I did:

Ya…

I don’t get it.

All the visual artifice, make up and bug-eyed space camp-y-ness was really distracting. Sure, their show was interesting to watch with all the effort put into their DIY costume esthetic, and the far-too-numerous nods to David Bowie, but as I watched I found myself forming a look of horror on my face.

It just seems so vapid.

And in the music video below, the dudes look like they’re on a pill cocktail.

I will say the Empire of the Sun show at Coachella presented something different than all the other acts. They really went above and beyond in terms of creating a set onstage. And I like the lights on the guitars. But this band reminds me too much of Flight of the Conchords — both musically and aesthetically — only sincere (wait, is this sincere?). Anyway, the music isn’t that great. And, it’s been done.

Another negative is that the band appears to have influenced a buncha guys to sport feather headdresses… and makeup… at the festival. Is this a bad thing? Debatable, but I thought so. I know guys wore eyeliner in the 90s a la Billy Corgan, but the sheer arrogance they gave off this time around seemed like too much.

Perhaps the thing that really horrifies me is that this music is for a new crop of kids that are of a different generation than myself. Maybe marketers will start showcasing young men wearing coloured makeup and headdresses to sell things, and one day I will assimilate and it will become normal for me to see these makeup/headdress men on Coke bottles, cupcake wrappers and the like.

Or maybe I’m just not that cool anymore.

But I’m really not very old…

Download music by Empire of the Sun here. And you really should check out Animal Collective’s vast musical archives here.

Photo courtesy of lastfm.com.

WORST OF COACHELLA 2011: Cee Lo Green is the Slow Machine

11 May

Cee Lo Green was more than half an hour late for his set. And leaving a mass of hipsters cooking in the desert sun with nothing to listen to at the main stage is not a good thing.

Everyone around me was grumbling, “Where’s Cee Lo? He was supposed to start 15/20/25/30 minutes ago.” My friends and I contemplated leaving several times. “Let’s just wait five more minutes,” we said — three times.

By now the grumbling had switched to outspoken rage. “What the fuck Cee Lo?!” shouted a dude behind me.

Then people started pointing at a helicopter hovering overhead… Cee Lo?

It was Cee Lo.

He rushed onstage, sweat already glistening on his brow, and launched into Iron Man (a Black Sabbath cover).

“I’m angry too!” Cee Lo said at the beginning of his short set. “I’ve only got 20 minutes left!” He played a few Gnarls Barkley hits and his famed Fuck You, where audience members got a chance to finger the stage and stick it to Cee Lo a lil’ bit.

Supposedly he was not satisfied with his daytime spot so he made up for it by showing up late and trying to cut into Lauryn Hill’s set. He even threw down the start of a cover of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing, but the Coachella organizers cut off his power. So Cee Lo was left shouting at the crowd for a few more minutes while people started to disperse with shaking heads.

You’re angry, Cee Lo?

Well maybe you should have gotten in your personal helicopter a little earlier.

If you’re not angry, you can download Cee Lo’s music here.

Photo courtesy of hollywoodgo.com.

COACHELLA 2011: Rock or Die of Envy – Death from Above 1979

25 Apr

When DFA fans read the announcement of the Coachella 2011 lineup, the first words out of our mouths likely were: ”Holy shit, Death from Above 1979 have reunited. Who’s coming to Coachella??!”

The Toronto dance-punk duo consists of Jesse F. Keeler (of MSTRKRFT fame) and Sebastien Grainger (of sexiness fame). DFA broke up in ‘06, but announced a reunion in 2011 (!!!). The most significant thing you need to know about this band is that dudes play just bass, synth and drums – no guitar.

And they rock so hard.

During Going Steady, Cold War and Black History Month, my friends and I were thrashing around with the best of them, and were clearly enjoying ourselves. So much so that a guy cutting back through the crowd took one look at us and said, “Go up there.”

So we moved forward, pushing our way through the crowd towards… well, we didn’t know.

But we found a kickass punk-rock pit going on!

Due to my recent musical tastes veering more towards the indie rock, shoegaze, chillwave and electronic genres, I don’t see mosh pits very often anymore. But this brought me back to my punk-adoring days of the ‘90s. Everyone was standing around in a circle giving the pit a wide berth, and those inside were shoving and thrashing with giant grins and reckless energy. The pit doesn’t discriminate — both guys and girls were in there (including our badass friend with a BROKEN ARM!) showing us how the pit spreads love, not hate. Everyone had an amazing time.

Then, everyone around me lost their shit during the screaming climax of Romantic Rights. Sebastien was wailing on the drums with his shirt off, exposing his adorably bad tattoos. I liked how they set up his drum kit to face the audience sideways so we had a better view of his sexy body. Both members of DFA are sexy, actually. Let’s not forget Jesse — hot. Anyway, everyone was  shouting out the words and going nuts with arms and legs akimbo.

It was dirty. It was sweaty. It was loud. It was exhausting. It made me feel like I’d drank 1,000 Red Bulls.

It was just the way a festival set should be.

Click the links to view the full set list here and download music by Death From Above 1979.

First photo courtesy of http://sidewalkhustle.com; all other photos by me. 

COACHELLA 2011: Techno Queens and Kings – Ratatat

25 Apr

Ratatat-tat-tat-tastic!

New York’s Ratatat are an awesome live act. Their instrumental-only style works surprisingly well in a live setting because they play live guitar, bass and drums — all while showcasing their large-scale silhouettes on top of a bright display.

Also, they’ve nailed the delicate art of how to match a multimedia display with the tempo and sentiment of their music.

The visuals were really freaking cool.

Case and point:

The guys, Mike Stroud and Evan Mast, both have long scraggly hair and penchant for over-the-top rockstar antics. Note these look awesome when silhouetted atop their twisted visuals. Ratatat played their video for Mirando during that song, which worked well on the big screen with its brilliantly (and cryptically) edited bits of Predator. At the end of Wildcat, they both wailed on two drums all primitive-like while everyone went nuts in the audience.

Both Mirando and Wildcat also had people dropping some saucy dance moves, reminding us that notwithstanding their great driving/daydreaming music, Ratatat is fucking good at making dance music.

Then, during Drugs, the audience was treated to a phantasmagoria of creepier-than-life stock photography. The images were  were projected onto transparent screens that had bright lights in behind, and were layered with giant shadows of the band members.

Oh, and the characters they’ve created for their videos! You should have seen the lovely smiling black woman hula’ing during the set’s closer Seventeen Years (my personal fave). The live version of that song delivered a thousandfold. Everyone had arms in the air and was jumping with the beat. I don’t think I’ve seen a more amped-up crowd at an instrumental show.

And it made my pre-Kanye wait that much easier.

Download Ratatat’s music here.

Top photo courtesy of http://soundcheck.ocregister.com; all other photos by me.

COACHELLA 2011: Techno Queens and Kings – Yelle

25 Apr

Yelle! Yelle? You mean Yellay? No! YELLE!!

So much energy. So much enthusiasm. So much Yelle. Her high-pitched vocals popped in perfect sync with everyone’s hyperactive neck-shoulder twists. This is club-kid, European synthpop at its finest.

Yelle, the band’s frontwoman and namesake (orig. Julie Budet) was prowling and leaping across the stage in a hot pink cheetah-print hooded onesie. She has that lithe, fairy figure that French women so easily embody. And this paired with her peppy athleticism worked perfectly to create her slinky cat creature.

When the band first took the stage, Yelle was dressed in a ghillie suit, and her bandmates were decked out in safari hats and jackets building on themes from Safari Disco Club (see video below).  Then the guys started wailing on drums in unison, and they had the rigid appearance of Ken dolls displaced from the savannah. They looked like plain-clothes members of the Blue Man Group moving their arms like machines! It was rad.

Yelle busted out all their best stuff: Je Veux Te Voir, Que veux-tu, Safari Disco Club and Comme un Enfant – the latter delivered with such force that the entire crowd, all the way to the back, was jumping as high as they could with their arms in the air while the sunset streamed into the tent.

It was like we were one organism – one dance club pop virus – taking over the polo field, and the sun was giving us her blessing.

“Go see Yelle.”

Download Yelle’s music here.

First photo courtesy of http://www.oh-yelle.com; middle photo courtesy of http://buzzbands.la; last photo by me.