Category: Festivals

Jonathan Demme on directing 'Neil Young Journeys' concert film

Jonathan Demme directs new 'Neil Young Journeys' concert film
Filmmaker Jonathan Demme sounded downright giddy when I chatted with him recently about his latest collaboration with one of rock’s great iconoclasts in the new documentary film “Neil Young Journeys.” 

It’s the third concert film from Young and Demme in just six years, starting with 2006’s “Heart of Gold” and then 2010’s “Neil Young Trunk Show.”

“The privilege of teaming with Neil three times — it’s like, 'I got to do that in my life?’ Demme said from his home in Rockland County in upstate New York during an interview for the Neil Young story running in Sunday's Arts & Books section. “He’s been a gigantic character in my heart and brain since I was a hippie like him back in the ‘60s. His music was my companion for decades before I even met him.”

I asked about the distinctly different tone of each of their three films, each using pointedly different approaches to avoid any sense of repetition from one to the other.

“When we did the first one, ‘Heart of Gold,’” he said, “everything about that was conceived for that film: the choice of venue, we made the costumes, we made the backdrops, everything. The angles we wanted to shoot we rehearsed with the band for 10 days before the performance. It was lit exactly for the movie. We just knew everything we wanted to create.

Neil Young is captured in Toronto on his new 'Neil Young Journeys' concert film directed by Jonathan Demme “There was an extra bit of excitement with ‘Heart of Gold,’ in that the audience never would have heard any of these songs before, because it was going to be the debut of the ‘Prairie Wind’ album. ‘Heart of Gold’ turned out to be stylistically exactly what it was envisioned as.”

Four years later, they went almost 180 degrees the opposite direction for "Trunk Show," which was shot during his "Chrome Dreams II" tour.

“As a reaction to the grace and elegance of ‘Heart of Gold,’ we decided it would be a punk shoot—we didn’t plan anything. We went with the lighting of the stage show, shot in the moment, very much like that," Demme said.

For “Neil Young Journeys,” yet another angle emerged organically.

“I just had this thought in my head of this grand maestro putting on a show all by himself, creating a huge orchestral sound all by himself,” Demme said, referring to the solo performance documented in the film -- from Young’s 2010-11 tour focusing on the music of “Le Noise,” the Daniel Lanois-produced album on which Young accompanied himself on prepared acoustic and electric guitars.

“We were liberated from one of the great things about the other two films, which was Neil and his screen interaction with other musicians,” he said. “We really capitalized on that in ‘Heart of Gold’ and ‘Neil Young Trunk Show,’ so this time, we’re losing a great value we had in the others, but what we gain now is total access to Neil only. Now it’s about Neil and the audience, Neil and the camera, and we just had a blast with that.

“Because it’s just Neil alone, stylistically it wouldn’t be like either [previous] one," Demme said, "but we also thought about: ‘What else can we do here to make this film absolutely different from the other two?’

"Neil was open to the idea of doing a little road trip," Demme said. "Gosh, got so close to that little town in Ontario where he grew up [Omemee]. I felt it would be fun and interesting to give us some suspense of filming him driving to the concert [at Massey Hall in Toronto]. I really loved that part of the film -- especially as a Neil Young admirer, to put it mildly.”

“Neil Young Journeys” opens a limited theatrical engagement on June 29 at the Nuart Theatre in West Los Angeles and also will screen June 18 and 19 as part of the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival.

Does this mean Demme and Young have finally exhausted all the creative possibilities?

"It would be so greedy for me to go, 'I hope to get to do it again,' he said. "But if they want to do something again, I’m all over it."


Movie review: 'Neil Young Trunk Show'

Movie review: 'Heart' is his musical dream

Neil Young, Jonathan Demme chat on 'Journeys' doc at Slamdance

--Randy Lewis

Photos, from top: Director Jonathan Demme on stage at Toronto's Massey Hall during the filming of the 'Neil Young Journeys' concert documentary; Young on stage at Massey Hall. Credit: Sony Pictures Classics.

Stagecoach 2012: The wrap-up, stats, random moments

Stagecoach 2012 crowd shot during Luke Bryan performance
Final stats, thoughts and impressions from the 2012 Stagecoach Country Music Festival that took place Friday through Sunday at the Empire Polo Club in Indio:

• Indio Police spokesman Ben Guitron said his department and other city emergency teams overall were "very pleased" with new measures taken to alleviate traffic problems going in and out of Stagecoach. Shuttles to and from area hotels helped considerably, he said, even though far fewer attendees used shuttle buses than those who attended Coachella two weekends earlier. Close to 25,000 people used the shuttles during Coachalla, only around 3,000-4,000 did so at Stagecoach. But more Stagecoach-goers camp in adjoining campgrounds than at Coachella.

Guitron reported a total of 139 arrests as of 6:30 p.m. Sunday, the vast majority for alcohol-related offenses. That compared to 134 arrests on the first weekend of Coachella, and 102 on its second weekend, mostly for a combination of alcohol and drug issues. The most serious incident was a sexual assault on a 17-year-old girl, who was attacked by three men on her way into Stagecoach on Friday night. The girl was taken to a local hospital and treated. The three men fled, and Indio Police are investigating, asking anyone with information on the incident to call (760) 391-4057.

PHOTOS: The scene at Stagecoach 2012

• One key logistical change this year was the cordoning off of several “standing room only” sections of lawn near the stage but behind the reserved/VIP seating area immediately in front of the Mane Stage where all the big guns played, including Brad Paisley, Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Sheryl Crow and Alabama. It allowed more fans closer access to the festival’s headliners. In years past, die-hard Stagecoach goers would arrive early, much like the homesteaders of yore, and plant blankets and lawn chairs, occupying in all areas close to the main stage. The new standing room sections allowed more mobile festival goers to check out performances on the Mustang and Palomino stages and still be able to get relatively close to the main stage acts after sundown. Split Lip Rayfield bassist Jeff Eaton and his gas tank bass at Stagecoach 2012Goldenvoice capped the ticket sales this year at 55,000.

• Favorite instrument of the weekend: the gas-tank bass cobbled together and employed Sunday by Split Lip Rayfield member Jeff Eaton, a single string variation on the old-school washtub bass, the version used a day earlier by San Fernando Valley’s Old Man Markley.

• Favorite T-shirt slogan of the weekend: “Rehab Is for Quitters.”

• Festivals such as Stagecoach and Coachella often serve as weekend soundtracks for those who aren’t totally immersed in the music. One woman sat near the back of the lawn Friday night during Aldean’s closing performance, far enough that the audio from the stage and the video on the bank of screens near her were a couple of seconds out of sync, and happily read a book on her Kindle.

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Stagecoach 2012: Brad Paisley talks Tupac image, new album


Brad Paisley, the headliner for Sunday’s closing night of the 2012 edition of the Stagecoach Country Music Festival in Indio, Calif., has always been an unrepentant techno-geek, so he followed with fascination the worldwide media generated the previous two weekends by the "appearance" of Tupac Shakur during Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s reunion performance at this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

The thing is, Paisley beat them to the punch by two years, having pulled off a duet with a virtual partner at the 2010 Stagecoach Festival, where he surprised and confounded audiences with the materialization onstage of Alison Krauss, his collaborator on 2004’s “Whiskey Lullaby,” which generated multiple Academy of Country Music and Country Music Assn. awards.

“We did that Alison thing for a while, and it was as good as we could get it at the time,” Paisley said aboard his tour bus parked near Stagecoach’s Mane Stage, where a capacity crowd of 55,000 was waiting for him to go on after Sheryl Crow finished her penultimate set. “We’ve since then come up with some more tricks. It was interesting when I heard about the Tupac thing. The thing that was so interesting about that, the thing that was so shocking, of course, is that it was someone who was deceased. It’s insane. You go, ‘Whoa!’ But wait till you see what we’re doing tonight.”

PHOTOS: The scene at Stagecoach 2012

He was teasing the recurring presence of Carrie Underwood on his current Virtual Reality Tour. After Paisley launched into the opening of their hit duet “Remind Me,” audience members gasped and then cheered when a spotlight went on and there appeared the “American Idol” grad, harmonizing her lines and seeming to trade glances with her singing partner.

But it was an illusion -- like the Shakur "appearance," a realistic-looking video projection, not a true hologram. It's something Paisley touched on before that number, when he told fans: “We call this the ‘Virtual Reality Tour’ because reality is what country music is about. But it can sometimes also take you away from reality. So between the beer and our show, you’re well on your way.”

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Stagecoach 2012: Some highlights -- Miranda Lambert, Dave Alvin

Miranda Lambert during her headlining show at Stagecoach 2012
After a relatively low-key first day of the Stagecoach Country Music Festival on Friday, with just a half-dozen acts on a single stage, the music kicked into high gear Saturday. On the second day, all three stages were up and running with 17 more acts representing country, pop-country, alt-country and every other type of hybrid country music under the desert sun.

That's downright modest compared to the total sensory and schedule overload of the 143 acts that played the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival for the two previous weekends, but still enough to create some hard choices among simultaneously scheduled performers.

For instance, do you catch 85-year-old bluegrass master Ralph Stanley at the expense of a rare chance to hear singer-songwriter J.D. Souther, one of the architects of the Southern California country-rock sound that's been the template for much of what's been coming out of Nashville for the last two decades? And then miss out on rising Texas singer songwriter Sunny Sweeney, who was on the Mane Stage at the same time as Stanley and Souther?

PHOTOS: The scene at Stagecoach 2012

Such are the dilemmas of Stagecoach 2012.

One solution: in a music festival equivalent of culinary grazing, attempt to get a representative, if truncated, sampling of as many bands as possible.

Here are some highlights from the first two days:

-- Miranda Lambert: The sassy Texas singer-songwriter headlined on Saturday with a performance that firmly demonstrated why she’s become a full-blown star. All the elements are clicking for her: fresh and insightful songwriting, commanding stage presence and a wonderfully distinctive voice, all working together in service of celebrating and empowering the predominantly female crowd that makes up country’s core audience.

-- Dave Alvin & the Guilty Ones; You'd be hard-pressed this weekend, or any weekend for that matter, to hear songs that reach deeper or ring truer than Alvin's portraits of people who often struggle without earthly reward for their efforts. Whether on his old Blasters/X classic "Fourth of July" or a more recent song such as "Black Rose of Texas," Alvin unfailingly hits the mark.

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Stagecoach 2012: Backstage with Jason Aldean

Click here for more images from Stagecoach

Jason Aldean vividly remembers playing the first Stagecoach Country Music Festival back in 2007, when the Macon, Ga., singer looked out on a very different scene than the one that greeted him Friday night as the opening-night headliner for the festival’s 2012 edition.

Five years ago Aldean was one of the opening acts, charged with trying to capture the attention of a relatively sparse crowd under less than ideal conditions. That was well before he had the biggest selling country album of the year, a feat he achieved last year with his fourth release, "My Kinda Party," which also was named album of the year by the Country Music Assn. and has generated four No. 1 hits, the fifth single on its way up the charts now.

"Man, it's a tough gig," Aldean, 35, said on his tour bus a couple of hours before he and his band would perform. “You go out in the middle of the day, it's 100-something degrees. A lot of times when you play early on, not everybody’s at the show yet -- they’re hanging out in their campers or whatever they doing. It’s not like later in the night, when the weather starts to cool down and everybody comes out. It’s a tough gig, to go out and let people see what it is you do. It’s tough for an artist who has to go on early in the day, and we did our fair share of that stuff.”

PHOTOS: The scene at Stagecoach 2012

This year, however, those early slots were left to others — on Friday it was the Eli Young Band, Brett Eldredge and Sara Evans who were on stage before the sun went down on the Empire Polo Club in Indio.

By the time Aldean arrived, Alabama had pumped the crowd up with a generous dose of clap-and-stomp-along hits largely drawn from its heyday in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Aldean and the other performers Friday also had the advantage of no competition or distraction from music emanating from other stages. In expanding Stagecoach from the typical two days to three this year, event organizers served up a low-key first-day offering, with just a single stage up and running and half a dozen acts playing from late afternoon into the evening.

“To come back here a few years later and go from opener to headliner of the show is pretty cool, especially the first night when you know everybody’s excited to get it going,” he said, stretching out in the back of a tour bus parked next to the Mane Stage.

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Grimes, Cults, Grouplove to headline free Make Music Pasadena

The Make Music Pasadena festival on June 16 is scheduled to include Grimes, Cults and Grouplove
When Grimes last played Los Angeles, the indie electro-pop artist sold out the Echo and tickets on the secondary market were fetching close to $70. Fans won't have to shell out a dime for her next gig in the area, as the Canadian artist will bring her moody, shadow-illuminating synth textures to the free daylong Make Music Pasadena festival on June 16, organizers announced today.

The festival is set to host a mix of local and nationally known indie acts, and promises a final lineup of more than 100 bands performing about 150 concerts throughout the day. Others confirmed for the downtown Pasadena event include the wispy, soulful pop of boy/girl duo Cults, high-energy locals Grouplove and hotly tipped up-and-comers Electric Guest, whose Dangermouse-produced debut, "Mondo," was released this week.

Now in its fifth year, Make Music Pasadena is presented in conjunction with Santa Monica public radio station KCRW-FM (89.9). Running from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Make Music Pasadena boasts more than a dozen pop-up stages in unique locales, including outdoor courtyards, parks and neighborhood churches. Pasadena's ARTS buses will also host live music onboard, and carry riders to Make Music Pasadena's multiple main stages.

Others near the top of the bill for the fest include boogie ace Dam Funk, worldly psychedelic act Dengue Fever, French singer/songwriter Soko and soft pop harmonizers Milo Greene. Rounding out the list of confirmed acts thus far are Happy Hollows, So Many Wizards, Torches, Shadow Shadow Shade, Correatown, the Peach Kings, Ozma, Gustavo Galindo and KCRW DJ Jason Bentley. 

Make Music Pasadena is produced by the Old Pasadena Management District, the Playhouse District Assn., and South Lake. More acts are to be announced in the coming weeks, and maps and further information will be available on the fest's site.

Although the Sunset Junction has gone south, there will be no shortage of outdoor music happenings in the L.A. area in the coming weeks. The Silver Lake Jubilee, which runs two days over Memorial Day weekend and comes with a $20 fee, has already unveiled a lineup that includes punk band FIDLAR and soul artist Aloe Blacc.


Screaming Females talk soft and play loud

The antics of Le Butcherettes make a mom worry

Hard Summer books Skrillex, Miike Snow, Boys Noize, James Murphy

-- Todd Martens

Photo: Grimes at South by Southwest 2012 in Austin, Texas. Credit: Todd Martens

Brad Paisley guest stars on 'South Park' tonight

Brad Paisley-South Park 2
A guest appearance on “South Park” can constitute heaven or hell for a musician, depending on where that musician ranks on the like/dislike meter of show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Remember the show's savage skewerings of Barbra Streisand and Stevie Nicks?

Fortunately for country singer, songwriter and guitarist Brad Paisley, Parker and Stone appear to be fans and they’ve lined him up for an animated drop-in on the episode airing Wednesday.

Paisley, one of the headliners at this weekend's Stagecoach Country Music Festival in Indio, appears as himself singing the national anthem at the start of a Denver Nuggets basketball game, then turns up later in the episode singing a duet with Eric Cartman.

Self-professed techno-geek Paisley has sent out a couple of tweets on the experience: “Spent the day Sunday @SouthPark,” he tweeted on Monday. “You all might want to watch this Wednesday. So seriously.”

On Tuesday, he shared a photo that he described as “Signing my new 8x10 headshot @SouthPark. …if I may say, I make a handsome cartoon. Well, you be the judge of that.” He also included the URL for the referenced image:

“South Park” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m on Comedy Central.


Brad Paisley breaks the pattern

Stagecoach expands to 3 days with Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert

Critic's notebook: Sweet (and sublimely sick) 16 for 'South Park'

--Randy Lewis

Image: Brad Paisley's animated character on "South Park." Courtesy of Comedy Central.

Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, Jack White top Outside Lands SF lineup

Jack White will play the 2012 Outside Lands festival in San Francisco
It can be hard to remember that there are festivals besides the one going on in Indio this week, but a few hundred miles to the north, the Outside Lands festival in San Francisco has just announced that Stevie Wonder, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Metallica and Jack White will top this year’s three-day lineup.

The Foo Fighters, Beck, Skrillex, Justice, Norah Jones, Grandaddy, Big Boi, fun. and Alabama Shakes also are among more than 60 acts confirmed for the fifth Outside Lands fest, which will run Aug. 10-12 in Golden Gate Park.

Others on the bill include Sigur Ros, Bloc Party, Die Antwoord, Fitz and the Tantrums, the Kills, Regina Spektor, Andrew Bird, Mstrkrft, Dr. Dog, Trampled by Turtles, the Be Good Tanyas and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The full lineup is available at

Tickets go on sale April 19 at noon. A portion of ticket proceeds benefit San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department.


How Stevie Wonder sparked Drake's 'Marvin's Room'

Neil Young and Crazy Horse reunite for 'Americana' due June 5

Jack White's single 'Freedom at 21' released by helium balloon

-- Randy Lewis

Photo: Jack White performs in Tulsa, Okla., in March on his solo tour. Credit: Jo McCaughey.

Coldplay, Incubus, Silversun Pickups tapped for Weenie Roast

Those who missed out on tickets to Coldplay's three early May shows at the Hollywood Bowl will now have another chance to catch the British pop band. Coldplay will help anchor the annual day-long radio station festival in Irvine that is KROQ-FM's Weenie Roast y Fiesta. Joining Coldplay at the top of the May 5 bill at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater will be Southern California rock band Incubus, which last year released its first album in five years.

Like most KROQ (106.7) festivals, the Weenie Roast largely honors bands that have long been staples on the station's airwaves, and it does so while sprinkling in a newcomer or two that seem preordained for heavy rotation. Local punk bands Pennywise and Offspring are slated to appear, as are Blink-182 off-shoot Angels & Airwaves and technologically minded alt-rock act Garbage. The latter has a pair of sold-out dates at the El Rey on April 9 and April 10.

Silver Lake's Silversun Pickups will perform in advance of its May 8 album "Neck of the Woods," and peppy, fast-rising locals Grouplove will celebrate the success of debut album "Never Trust a Happy Song." Rounding out the bill will be electro-rockers Awolnation, reggae act the Dirty Heads, dancey power-pop band Walk the Moon and anthemic, Icelandic folk-rockers Of Monsters and Men. 

Those who sign up to be members of KROQ's street team mailing list will have first access to tickets Thursday at noon. Tickets will be available via and Tickets for last year's event ranged in price from $45 to $75, not including service fees. 


Los Angeles, get to know Grouplove

Goldenvoice's purchase of Coachella festival land applauded

Silversun Pickups debut new track 'Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)'

-- Todd Martens

Photo: Coldplay's Chris Martin performs at the MTV European Music Awards 2011 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on  Nov. 6, 2011. Credit: Joel Ryan / Associated Press

Los Lobos' first Cinco de Mayo Festival coming to Greek Theatre

Los Lobos launch their first Cinco De Mayo Festival at the Greek Theatre
Los Lobos’ performances over the years at the Greek Theatre have always generated a familial sense of community, so the announcement this week of the inaugural Los Lobos Cinco de Mayo Festival at the amphitheater seems only to formalize a recurring gig.

Or maybe not.

“I would definitely put ‘formal’ in quotation marks,” Louie Perez, founding guitarist, percussionist and one of the band’s songwriters, told Pop & Hiss with a laugh. “Nothing is very formal when it comes to us.”

The festival, which actually will take place May 5, will find the venerable East L.A. band joined by X, Mariachi El Bronx, Neko Case, Alejandro Escovedo and likely more names for the afternoon and evening affair. Performances are expected to branch out from the Greek’s main stage to a smaller second stage at a location on the grounds that Perez said is still being worked out.

“We’ve been talking about doing something like this for a long time,” Perez said. “But being a working band whose individual members are always doing stuff … there’s very little time to sit down and do it ourselves. We got real close to putting something together for last fall, but like everything else, stuff started falling through the cracks and that didn’t happen.

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