Soundset 2015

Another year, another Soundset, and this year was nothing short of outstanding! I am a huge hip-hop fan so naturally I look forward to this festival every year. The line-up this year was pretty special and included new up-and-comers along with established hip-hop veterans.

Last year was our first time at Soundset and we had a blast. Great artists, great people, and an awesome venue. The festival was at Canterbury Downs again this year (for the last time...) which proved to be awesome yet again. I did notice a definite increase in attendance this year (or perhaps it was just an increase in the number of tickets sold) which is probably why they decided to move to a larger venue in 2016.

As I mentioned earlier, the line-up this year was extremely diverse with artists from many eras of hip-hop. Everyone from the hot young up and comers like Logic, J. Cole, and Big Sean to seasoned vets like Ice Cube and Ludacris. Beyond just the headliners was a huge mix of excellent talent from Minnesota artists such as deM atlaS and Dessa along with talent from outside the midwest like Hopsin, SonReal, and Vince Staples.

Personally I was most excited to see Atmosphere, Logic, Big Sean, Ice Cube, and SonReal. Unfortunately due to a timing issue I wasn't able to get over to see SonReal but the rest of the acts I went to see were absolutely outstanding. If I had to pick a top 3 of all the performances I saw yesterday it would be (in order) - Logic, Big Sean, Ice Cube. Logic grabs the #1 spot because I rarely see an artist so excited to be performing, his energy was infectious!

Anyone who attended (or who lives in Minnesota) knows that yesterday was really wet. While it didn't straight up pour at any point it rained consistently throughout the day so everything was quite soaked. There were a good number of people camped out in the VIP tent (which had really nice HD displays of the stages) but the vast majority of us "manned up" and got wet. We spent most of our time in the VIP bleacher section so mud wasn't an issue but the venue did a great job of spreading hay around the grounds to avoid any major mud pits. Of course good weather is always better (last year was amazing!) but the rain didn't put a damper (put intended) on our fun what-so-ever.

After spending last year in GA and this year in VIP I can safely say that (at least for the current venue) VIP is a no brainer. We had access to great bathrooms, better food, cocktails, (only beer for GA) and great seating. As I mentioned above, Soundset will be at the State Fair Grounds in 2016 but I am still going to opt for VIP in hopes of an even better experience next year.

That's all for this year but I look forward to an even bigger and better Soundset in 2016!

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Music Year In Review (2013)

A lot of great music came out in 2013 in a variety of genres. I discovered a lot of new bands in the electronic space, Hip-Hop / R&B and alternative rock. More than any of the new stuff, I found myself going back to a lot of my old favorites including Nine Inch Nails, Crystal Castles, Frank Ocean, Aphex Twin, etc. One of the bands I just discovered this year, "Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin" has quickly risen up my top charts and made 7th on the 2013 list. I reached some fun milestones on Last.fm this year including blowing past the 150k mark for songs played and going well over the 10k mark for Nine Inch Nails tracks played.

So without further ado here are my top 15 artists for 2013 followed by my top 15 tracks for 2013.

2013 - Top Artists

2013 - Top Tracks

That's all for 2013, but I look forward to the musical experiences that 2014 will provide. Keep on listening!

Lollapalooza 2013

Lollapalooza - Tickets This was our first year attending Lollapalooza so we really didn't know what to expect other than a lot of people and a lot of really great music. For those who aren't familiar with the event it was conceived in 1991 by Perry Farrell (lead singer of Janes Addiction) as a farewell tour for his band. In 2005 the festival platform was re-worked a bit and since then it has happened annually in Grant Park, Chicago. This year there were roughly 100 acts over the course of 3 days and 100,000 attendees each day. Considering the number of people attending and the general nature of festivals I was expecting complete chaos but fortunately it was organized chaos and somehow things worked very well.

The food this year was surprisingly good thanks to Chef Graham Elliot who had a part in selecting all of the vendors and menus. We were quite surprised that the best food we ate while in Chicago was in the park and not at nearby restaurants. The drink selection was fairly limited and only featured Bud Light products, Thorny Rose wines and a variety of juices / teas. People were encouraged to bring Camelbak's to the park which had a number of free refill stations that offered very good filtered water. We were very glad to have had one with us because we stayed well hydrated and didn't have to carry water bottles around with us. Another cool benefit to the Camelbak refill stations is the fact that just this year alone enough water was dispensed to save almost 320,000 water bottles. Since 2010 (when they added the refill stations) over 1,000,000 water bottles have been saved which in and of itself is pretty amazing.

Lollapalooza - Crystal Castles      Lollapalooza - Nine Inch Nails

We managed to see 15 bands in 3 days which for us was perfect. Certainly enough to justify the time/money spent but not so many that we were completely burnt out and miserable by day three. I am going to do a quick run down of the bands that we saw along with some brief thoughts about each one.

Day One (Friday): Emeli Sande: Solid vocals and good crowd interaction. Icona Pop: Fun and upbeat but the music/vocals were a little disjointed at times and I couldn't tell if they were having technical difficulties or not. Crystal Castles: Incredibly intense performance both in terms of the music and the on-stage antics, hugely entertaining. Imagine Dragons: A little too low-key and slightly difficult to hear. Modestep: Very high energy, huge bass and a lot of fun. Nine Inch Nails: As always a spectacular show, both from a visual and auditory standpoint. Trent Reznor never disappoints.

Day Two (Saturday): 360: Honestly this was one of the big surprise hits of the show. He was a lot of fun to watch and the music was great. Ellie Goulding: As expected she put on a great performance and sounded amazing. The Lumineers: They put on a solid show but I wasn't blown away. Mumford & Sons: They were definitely headline worthy and really sounded spectacular. Kendrick Lamar (After party): This was supposed to start at 10PM but Kendrick didn't get on stage until 1AM. The majority of the performance involved him holding the mic out in front of him and having the crowd sing most of the songs, I was less than impressed.

Day Three (Sunday): Tegan and Sara: We didn't catch all of their performance but what we did see was very good and a lot of fun. Alt-J: I didn't really know what to expect but Alt-J was decent. Not a band I would have seen outside of the festival but they were still entertaining. Vampire Weekend: I really enjoyed this show, they were excellent live and definitely a band I would like to see again. The Cure: This was by far the best show of the weekend. They put on an amazing show and the crowd was so engaged that it was nothing short of magical.

Lollapalooza - Katie & I

Since this was our first year at Lolla and our first big festival we learned a lot about how to best take advantage of the experience. Here are a few tips on how to make the most out of your time at Lollapalooza:

  • Bring a backpack. Keep it small but make sure it has enough room to hold any swag that you might pick up and/or a blanket / sweater.
  • Don't over do it. Prioritize which bands you want to see and don't try to see everything. You will get burnt out and by the time the headliner rolls around it will be hard to enjoy it.
  • Get to headliners early. If there is a particular headliner you really want to see get to the stage at least 1 hour before their performance. We did this for The Cure on the last night and ended up getting very close and by the time the show started there were so many people behind us we couldn't even see where the sea of people ended.
  • Hydrate. I can't stress this one enough, keeping the fluids going (sorry but beer doesn't count) is absolutely essential to being able to stay for long periods and enjoy yourself. We averaged about 150-200 ounces of water between the two of us each day and it proved to be invaluable. There is nothing worse than being at the festival with 100,000 other people and having a headache or feeling like crap because you haven't had enough water.
  • Sit. For bands that you are okay with seeing from a distance, consider sitting down. The hardest thing on my body was standing in one place for long periods so being able to break things up by sitting for an hour here or there was huge for me.

I hope this info comes in handy for any future first timers at Lollapalooza, it is an amazing festival and we are definitely planning to go again. I'd love to hear about others experiences at the festival and any tips/tricks you may have so please don't hesitate to leave comments!