Tag «The Hotelier»

DS Photo Gallery: Riot Fest Chicago – Day One (Nine Inch Nails, X, Buzzcocks and more)

The weekend of September 15-17 saw the annual return of Riot Fest. Riot Fest 2017 was held for the 12th consecutive year in Chicago and for the third consecutive year in Douglas Park. Riot Fest saw an eclectic crowd turn out, including multiple generations of families. There were too many young punk fans, some just a few months old with mohawks and iconic band tees, to count. 

Day 1, held on September 15th, saw, per usual, a wide variety of acts. As with every previous year, legends and veterans gained the headlining spots and the most attention. In this case, the top billed act for Day 1 of Riot Fest, was Nine Inch Nails

NIN also remains relevant for the prolific film and television scoring work that lead singer Trent Reznor and his collaborator Atticus Ross outside of the group. The duo won the 2011 Oscar for the Score for the film The Social Network. Their work for the currently being broadcast and critically acclaimed 10 part PBS documentary by Ken Burns/Lynn Novick “The Vietnam War” is receiving equal acclaim to the reception of the documentary itself.

The NIN set also demonstrated that the group is as electric as ever. Classics such as “Closer” and “Head Like a Hole” had the large crowd at a fever pitch. However, capping the set; and the night out with  “Hurt” was an emotional gut punch. It has always been a powerful song, but as covered by Johnny Cash, that emotional shot to the heart was upgraded several notches, especially as performed in the video accompanying it. Johnny would lose his beloved June Carter Cash just three months after the filming of the video, and he followed her 4 months later.  It seemed on this night that NIN was not merely playing one of their own best tunes, but rather, they were also singing it in tribute to one of our most beloved, acclaimed and greatest singer-songwriters. Again, an absolute emotional gut punch and shot to the heart. Not something many people would immediately associate with or expect from what started out as a punk rock festival, at least those with little knowledge of this music.

Also, per usual, several veteran acts played one of their albums in full. On day 1, X did the honors with their classic album, “Los Angeles.”  Singer Exene Cervanka wore a black t-shirt emblazoned with her surname on the back and the Los Angeles Dodger log on the front. But a good portion of the crowd (made up of both citizens of the Chicago area, as well as fans who traveled in from other states and other nations) surely appreciated it when she donned a black baseball cap (with a slightly altered color-wise version of) the iconic 4 stars from the City of Chicago flag. X also proved they still have the chops and the songs are still highly adored by their fans. 

One of the most powerful sets was that of Saul Williams. He repeatedly challenged the crowd to face truths about the turbulent times brought on in large part by the current occupiers of the White House and Congressional majority party. He made it known, though perhaps not stated outright, that he was about speaking truth to power; and that words of condemnation are not enough,. His message remains that music is meant to spark change. Williams also repeatedly sent out calls to action with his oft-repeated refrain of “Your punk ain’t punk if you don’t smash Fascists.”

Other day 1 acts demonstrated quite the contrary to Riot Fest’s official and self-deprecating motto “Riot Fest Sucks,”  They included legends such as Buzzcocks and Ministry; and newer groups: The Hotelier, Death From Above; and The Story So Far.

It may be popular to hate on musical fests, including Riot Fest; something as noted above, at which the organizers playful wink. However, perhaps the only thing that truly sucked about day 1 was the blazing heat. It reached into the at least the mid to high 80’s but felt even hotter for those making their ways from stage to stage and the carnival areas. Head below to see our full photo gallery from Day 1 of Riot Fest Chicago, and stay tuned for coverage from Days 2 and 3 soon!

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Album Review: The Hotelier – “Goodness”

Over the past few years, the Hotelier (previously spelled “The Hotel Year”) has morphed from an impressive no-bullshit pop punk band into seemingly the biggest band of the “emo revival.” Home, Like No Place Is There was a record that connected with fans all over the world for its brutal honesty and relatability dealing with heavy subject matters. Records like it come around once or twice every ten years or so. This said, Goodness was one of the most anticipated punk-anything records of 2016, and while it might not break ground sonically or lyrically for fans the way their last record did, it doesn’t mean they weren’t pushing their boundaries or combatting people’s expectations.

Christian Holden, the voice behind The Hotelier, loves to challenge the status quo and people’s’ notions of what are acceptable and unacceptable. The same attitude that went into putting a group of naked elderly people onto the album cover also went into certain musical choices on the album. A good example can be found at the very beginning of the record, where there’s an unexpected spoken word track (“N 43° 59’ 39.927” W 71° 23’ 45.27””).

Goodness is a quality record in the fact that each song seems to be thoughtfully written and catchy. “Goodness Pt. 2”, the song’s second track, opens the record by layering instrument after instrument one by one thus creating anticipation in the listener until everything crashes in toward the middle. “Piano Player”, one of the more uptempo songs on the record, holds its own for five and a half minutes, something unheard of for a more punk rock sounding song. “Soft Animal”, possibly the best song on the record, appears at a time when the record needs a kick in energy. On top of it all, it can’t be stated how much feeling Holden obviously put into the lyrics and subject matter on this album.

When listeners hear “I’m freezing” repeated through the chorus of “Fear of Good”, they will actually see the singer shivering, coatless in a snowy town. “Opening Mail for My Grandmother” which begins with “your grip on my forearm/insert the wrong name” paints a sad picture of one’s grandparent slipping away to the end of their life and observing them as their body and brain deteriorate over time. In “Soft Animal,” when the words “Make me feel alive/make me feel like I don’t have to die/make me believe that there’s a God sometimes,” there’s no doubt that Holden actually has felt that sense of longing for purpose. However, while Holden has stated in interviews that Goodness is more or less a positive record (“Taoist love record” they say), the way the lyrics were written in conjunction with the actual instrumentals make that hard to pick up on.

Here’s the thing: each song on this record is good. But the great thing about this band’s previous records were that they were journeys in themselves. The first songs left listeners feeling different than the last songs did. Goodness on the other hand has the problem of keeping listeners in one place or frame of mind. The last song feels like the first. Unfortunately, this makes for kind of an overly melancholy record. It’s not one of those things where they made the same album twice, because this album is definitely different and a departure from their previous work, but no song in this collection particularly sticks out from the rest, whereas with Home, or even with INGO, almost every song was uniquely individual in the emotions they evoked or the way they evoked them.

Goodness gets a 3.5/5. That said, The Hotelier are still one of the best bands in the game right now and I hope they’re around for years and years to come. This record was simply where they’re at now – I’m excited to see where they go in the future.

3.5/5 Stars

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Album Review: The Hotelier – “It Never Goes Out” (Reissue)

Massachusetts’s The Hotelier made quite the splash in our scene with the release of their 2014 album, Home, Like No Place is There. It’s been a long time since a band has seemingly come out of nowhere and written an album that resonates with so many people across the board of punk, emo, and indie music. There’s a history to the band a lot of people don’t know however: Before the release of HLNPIT, they spelled their name like you would think they would (“The Hotel Year”) and released a fantastic debut album called It Never Goes Out, earning for themselves a cult following and setting the stage for word-of-mouth and online shares which helped to make HLNPIT such a success, which I’m sure surprised the band’s fans as much as them. Tiny Engines recently announced the physical re-release of It Never Goes Out, marking the first time the record has ever been released in any sort of physical format.

It Never Goes Out has a lot of the same elements as HLNPIT – you can definitely tell that the same band wrote them both. Conversely, not every song is quite as much of a tearjerker. The opening track, “Our Lives Would Make A Sad, Boring Movie,” is an upbeat, pedal-to-the-floor pop punk song that perfectly shows the listener who the band is and what they’re about. Similar to that is the song “Holiday,” an idealistic, explosive punk rock tune that clocks in barely over a minute, and a definite highlight of the record. There are still many extremely personal songs too, albeit most of them not quite as heavy as what the band went on to make. Possibly the most powerful on this release is “An Ode To The Nite Ratz Club”, which recalls an experience in which an old friend of the song’s narrator shared some personal struggles with him, leaving a permanent imprint in the narrator’s life. The album ends with the tongue-in-cheek-ishly named “Title Track”, which is a great mix between the more idealistic, upbeat tracks on the album and the heavy, personal stuff that The Hotelier does so well.

There’s a lot of great things to be said about It Never Goes Out. While not the first release most people have heard from the band at this point in time, it was a great introduction to them before the release of HLNPIT. While technically the same band, it may be fair to say that The Hotel Year was a lot more Piebald, and after the name (er… spelling) change, they became a lot more like the Weakerthans. Most bands, especially in pop punk and emo, have that period of time where they’re young and they want to play as loudly as possible (angst, man). As they mature as songwriters, get older, and life hands out an exceptional new list of struggles, they take everything they’ve mastered on previous releases and craft it into something new and different. It’s not a bad thing, and it served this band really well. Both records are fantastic.

Really the only negative thing I have to say is that at points, the album is just too repetitive. I could say this about the newer record too, however. This band seems to take the same few chords they use in a song and beat them into the ground until they just can’t do it anymore. Which, weirdly, they do really well. But it’s still a bit too much sometimes.

While my biases as a fan are definitely showing through, I’m also going to recommend that everyone who’s a fan of the band’s newer album, as well as mid-2000’s pop punk go pick up this re-release in a physical format. It’s a fantastic record and it’s good to finally see it get more recognition.

4.5 / 5

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