Friday Groove: #CancelEverything

Coronavirus has upended SXSW, Coachella, and a slew of other live music events. Source: Rolling Stone

Last week, I wrote about the upcoming D.C. Jam, a one-day music festival planned for July 4. While no announcement has been made yet concerning the cancellation of the festival, this event may be in jeopardy of being postponed or cancelled, like so many other events that are swiftly being modified to meet the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has affected various communities worldwide. While more cancellations are likely to come, COVID-19 has already drastically impacted a number of annual festivals, tours and concerts. 

On March 6, the city of Austin, TX announced that South by Southwest, the celebrated tech and music festival would be cancelled, and potentially rescheduled sometime later this year. Austin Public Health said, “there’s no evidence that closing SXSW or any other gatherings will make the community safer.” Despite their statement, many are taking such precautions out of an abundance of caution. 

On Tuesday, Coachella also announced plans to postpone the annual music festival six months, until October 2020. Coachella organizers apologized for the inconvenience but asked people to “follow the guidelines and protocols put forth by public health officials.”

Dr. Daniel Griffin, an infectious disease physician specialist at Columbia University, says that music fans everywhere should expect cancellations and postponements. “The concern we’re seeing now is that, as we have an increased capacity to do testing, we’re seeing that this virus is already widespread in the country. You go to a concert, there’s that many people and that level of transmission that occurs at a concert. Unfortunately, those will be big spreading events.”

Concert promoters like Live Nation have taken measures themselves to be proactive about fighting the virus. Yesterday, Live Nation announced that they would halt all large-scale tours, in addition to requesting that artists return home. This comes as many local and state governments begin to institute bans on large gatherings (generally 500+ people).

Local venues like the 9:30 Club and The Anthem in Washington, D.C. are seeing a dramatic impact from the virus as they halted all performances through the end of the month. “The health of our employees, patrons, community and artists is paramount,” said I.M.P., the promoter for the 9:30 Club, “We look forward to seeing everyone in April and beyond.”

Tony Sheaffer is a staff writer at the UB Post who writes a weekly music column, Friday Groove.

Friday Groove: Dave Grohl Announces D.C. Jam Festival for July 4

Poster for the upcoming D.C. Jam. Photo: Washington Redskins

Earlier this week, Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl announced plans for D.C. Jam, a new one-day music festival to be held at FedEx Field in Landover, MD on the Fourth of July.

In 2017, Grohl revived Cal Jam, a short lived music festival from the mid-1970’s. The revival was a major success, and it had been long-speculated that Grohl, a DC native, might bring a similar festival to the east coast. The inaugural festival included acts like Queens of the Stone Age, Cage the Elephant and Liam Gallagher of Oasis fame. The second festival in 2018 included Iggy Pop, Tenacious D and a Nirvana reunion, including surviving Nirvana members Grohl and Krist Novoselic, as well as touring guitarist Pat Smear, who later became a guitarist with Foo Fighters.

Chris Stapleton (Left), Dave Grohl (Center) and Pharrell (Right) are all set to play at D.C. Jam. Photo: Rolling Stone

The festival is set to include a number of acts, including Foo Fighters, Chris Stapleton, Pharrell and Band of Horses. In addition to the many music performances, there will be a world-class barbecue competition, rides, games and tailgating.

July 4, 2020 is also a special anniversary for Grohl and Foo Fighters: it is the 25th anniversary of their debut self-titled album. That first record started as a one-man (Grohl) solo project in the wake of Kurt Cobain’s suicide and the breakup of Nirvana, where Grohl was a drummer. 25 years later, Foo Fighters have turned into one of the most popular rock bands in the world.

Pre-sale tickets went on sale earlier this week, with public sale beginning today. Ticket prices seem affordable, starting at only $50, which is cheap compared to most other concerts and music festivals these days.

Tony Sheaffer is a staff writer at the UB Post who writes a weekly music column, Friday Groove.

KahnJunction: Billie Eilish and Her Timeless Style

Billie Eilish attends the Oscar after party with her brother
Billie Eilish continues to amass fans and top performance charts while cultivating a unique style and persona.
Credit: David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Some styles are captivating yet alien capturing an unusual spirit of, simply put, oddity. The beloved Billie Eilish possesses one of these styles. 

 At 18, Eilish has rested comfortably at the top of most charts since her first release in 2016, an achievement known to few performers, even those who are more seasoned.  

At the most recent Grammy Awards, she took home five awards:  Best Album, Best Song, Best New Artist, Best Record, and Best Pop Vocal Album. Not only is Eilish talented, but she is stunningly original in almost everything that she does: her performances, fashion, and persona. This newfound success makes a deep dive into her fashion more timely than ever. 

Eilish’s fashion could be described simply as avant-garde athleisure. This athleisure spans from  tracksuits and beanies to plus-size button-ups making her look a subtle nod to the most notable of her inspirations:  90s East Coast Hip-Hop However, Eilish dresses with a purpose explaining to Seventeen, 

Nobody can have an opinion because they haven’t seen what’s underneath. Nobody can be like, ‘she’s slim-thick,’ ‘she’s not slim-thick,’ ‘she’s got a flat ass,’ ‘she’s got a fat ass.’ No one can say any of that because they don’t know.

Much of what Eilish wears is not what can be described as conventionally flattering. As she said in her interview with Seventeen, what she wears is often designed to conceal rather than accentuate her figure; what draws looks is not her figure, but the simple fact that her style is different than what almost anyone else in the public eye is wearing.

Often, attempts by an artist to breach their barriers in favor of more experimentation is received with scoff from fans and foes alike leading many to believe that they are “trying too hard”. At the 2020 GRAMMY awards, Billie Eilish could have walked out wearing just about anything, and we would have all just nodded our heads, and gone, “Yea, looks about right.” When she rolled up in a Gucci, layered black and neon green ensemble featuring a Gucci facemask, nobody familiar with Eilish’s unique style batted an eye. Her attempts at going against fashion norms are expected and generally well received. 

Billie Eilish, however, is uninterested in her look being exclusive, prompting her to launch “Blohsh” (Blōhsh), her latest clothing line (geared towards children and young adults). Items from t Blohsh’s catalog mirrors the Eilish look: baggy, bright, and bold. Her merchandise falls comfortably into t “edgy”, a category for the sacrificial lambs at the cruel altar of Spencer’s or Hot Topic. Nonetheless, it is  a cut above the typical carnage of teenage wastelands. 

What will set Eilish apart from the rest? Her genuine spirit and charisma colors her work and, often, her attire. This, aided by her strong sense of individualism, she will continue to navigate the razor thin line between edge and cringe. 

But, her merch is not for everyone though. Her merch is weird. Everything in her collection is like something out of a low-grade-fever-dream, in that something in the design, right up to the brand’s logo, is always just slightly off. You may not even recognize it at first, but there is always something odd about the various pieces in her collection. Whether it is a design that looks like it was sketched by a child dabbling in hallucinogens, or the neon color that will jump out at people from across the street, the merch appears to be designed to be somewhat uncanny. This unsettling quality permeates through Eilish’s music, videos, album art, performances, and now, her brand. 

As we approach a time when music feels less diverse than ever, an artist breaking against the grain is refreshing. For her critics who claim she has fallen victim to the   “not like other girls” trope, I hope and believe that she proves them wrong and stands the test of time. An entire industry and fans would be eternally grateful. 

Benjamin Kahn is a staff writer for the UB Post. He writes a weekly column, KahnJunction. 

Why the Grammys Are Completely Irrelevant

Billy Eilish (left) and Finneas O’Connell at The Grammys press room on Sunday, January 26th 2020. Photo Credit: Chris Pizzello, AP Photo

The Grammys are irrelevant. 

They tell people what they should listen to, all the while most of the music they celebrate has a basic beat with recycled melodies and lyrics. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed some Grammy winning albums, including 2019’s This Land by Gary Clark Jr, which won best contemporary blues album at this year’s awards, but for the most part, the awards are given to artists who simply didn’t deserve them.

Now you might be thinking I just hate modern music. You might be thinking I’m a snob who doesn’t appreciate quips from Billie Eilish about her Invisalign (which was literally the entire first track on her freshman effort), but to me this isn’t a modern issue. The Grammys have always lacked integrity. They do not recognize enough musical and songwriting talent. They recognize the airplay that puts songs at the top of the charts and sell out to the masses who are resistant to music that doesn’t follow a certain guideline as to what constitutes a single or a hit song.

For reference, The Beatles only won four Grammy awards while the group was together. Yes, you read that right. The infamous songwriting team of Lennon/McCartney coupled with the talent of George Harrison and Ringo Starr won less than five awards while playing music together. Their music is widely considered to be some of the best Pop/Rock music ever written. The Beatles are perhaps the benchmark that any concurrent artists measure their success upon and they won fewer Grammy awards than the Dixie Chicks

The Beatles aren’t alone in a lack of awards for such talented musicians. Led Zeppelin only ever won one award, and that was only for the live album Celebration Day in 2014, which many Zeppelin fans consider to be a subpar performance. Otis Redding, the father of R&B, won two. Nas, Queen and The Who are among those artists who have never won a Grammy.

This isn’t to say you can’t enjoy the music of Lil Nas X, Billie Eilish or Lizzo. After all, tastes in music are purely subjective. However, listeners look beyond tracks that win the awards or top the charts and focus on songs that contain substance and are profound works of art. Notice the similarities in labels and producers among albums and songs you listen to and you might be surprised. You might even find the best band you’ve never heard in your life.

And maybe go throw on a copy of Let It Be, which unbelievably never won a Grammy.

Tony Sheaffer is a senior writer for the UB Post. He writes a weekly music column, Friday Groove.