Off Beat Music Guide

Concert Review: Fleet Foxes May 16, 2011

Filed under: Concerting,Music — bethstephenson84 @ 9:12 pm
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Where: The Tabernacle- Atlanta, GA

When: May 14, 2011

This was the first concert I’ve been to where the band received a standing ovation before playing a single note—and that was the first of six (!) standing ovations that would be given to them over the course of the night. I wanted to start by telling you this so you won’t think I am over-glorifying this show or this band. They deserved the standing ovation before the show, during the show and after. They were stunning, and there are a couple thousand people who can testify to that.

This 6 member, Portland-based band is led by singer Robin Pecknold, and their sound is somewhere between the Beach Boys and Simon and Garfunkle.  That will seem ridiculous until you’ve heard them. They have released 2 LPs: Fleet Foxes (2008) and Helplessness Blues (2011) and their sound is a careful construction of contrasting starkness and bold energy. Harmonies and reverberation could be the seventh and eighth members of this band because they are utilized in nearly every song.  And they are powerful tools.

Here is an intro video to Fleet Foxes for those unfamiliar with the group. I’m including it on here because a) it’s one of my favorite videos of all time, ever b) it’s my favorite of their songs and c) it perfectly showcases their use of harmonies and reverberation in shaping their sound.

Back to the show. I was nervous about hearing the band live because I so closely associate their music with the North Carolina landscape. I was afraid it would feel gimmicky having this pastoral band play on a big stage in the 9th largest city in the US. Thinking back now, I don’t know what I was worried about because the next best thing to hearing them in the Carolina Mountains is hearing them in a cathedral-turned-music hall.  And The Tabernacle did not disappoint. It accommodated the band’s vocals with nearly perfect acoustics. And leaving the former church’s giant pipe organ as the backdrop was a stroke of genius.

The band played for nearly two hours and covered the majority of both of their albums. I may or may not have shed a couple of tears during “Blue Ridge Mountains”,“ The Shrine/An Argument”, and “Helplessness Blues.” Hearing their perfectly formed harmonies live was a mighty powerful experience. And unfortunately you will have to take my word for it, because the sound quality of the videos really doesn’t do the band justice.

This was one of those shows where I made a conscious effort to soak up every moment. From the way the crowd poured out praises, to the way the harmonies on “White Winter Hymnal” gave me chill bumps, I wanted to remember it all.

Here’s how it went down:

  1. The Cascade/Grown Ocean
  2. Drops in the River
  3. Battery Kinzie
  4. Bedouin Dress
  5. Sim Sala Bim
  6. Mykonos
  7. Your Protector
  8. Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
  9. White Winter Hymnal/ Ragged Wood
  10. Lorelai
  11. Montezuma/He Doesn’t Know Why
  12. The Shrine/ An Argument/ Blue Spotted Tail
  13. Blue Ridge Mountains
    14. Oliver James
    15. Helplessness Blues

I was able to video the majority of the show. The only songs I missed were “Your Protector,” “Drops in the River” and “Mykonos”. To see all the videos from the show including three songs from opening act The Cave Singers, check out my YouTube page at:               

White Winter Hymnal/Ragged Wood Medley

Sim Sala Bim

The Cascades/Grown Ocean


Update on Concert Review: Sufjan Stevens November 16, 2010

Filed under: Concerting,Music — bethstephenson84 @ 12:25 pm
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Because I talked a big game about this show and couldn’t really back it up with any decent photos or videos, I wanted to share a link from Sufjan’s recent NYC concert that really does justice to the visuals in the show. This wasn’t a concert, it was a spectacle of performance art. Enjoy!


Concert Review: Mumford & Sons November 10, 2010

Filed under: Concerting,Music,Now Hear This — bethstephenson84 @ 12:54 pm
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Where: Buckhead Theatre-  Atlanta, GA

When: November 7, 2010

It’s no secret that Mumford & Sons’ Sigh No More is one of my favorite albums of the year. It’s been in regular rotation on my iPod since its release in February, and I’ve considered it my personal mission to be a one woman marketing machine for this band.

On the surface, the album is chocked full of lovely harmonies, knee slapping banjos and great can’t-get-it-out-of-your-head choruses. But then, after a few listens, you find wonderful complexities within the music and extremely pensive and sometimes dark lyrics that really make for a thoughtful album. It’s already secured a spot in my top 5 albums of the year, easily.

I had been anticipating this concert for about 2 months, but I was sure that even if they just came on stage, played a recording of their album and walked off, I would have a blast. They, of course, did much more than that and a blast was definitely had.

The show opened with the eccentric King Charles followed by the very energetic Cadillac Sky. Both were great choices for opening acts as they incorporated their British roots with King Charles while paying homage to their bluegrass roots with Cadillac Sky.

The concert was held in the newly renovated Buckhead Theatre and I couldn’t image a more perfect sized venue for this type of show. The Theatre holds about 2,100 people during standing room performances, and because this show was sold out and tickets were going for something ridiculous like $250 apiece, the place was most certainly at capacity.

This only made the experience more exciting for me, though. The crowd was so high energy through the entire set, even during performances of the band’s new material (which is right on par with Sign No More’s tracklist) that it created a sort of fan camaraderie where we were instant friends because of our mutual love of the band.

The band played the entire album, sprinkling some new material throughout the set. The sound quality was great and they have such an infectious energy that it was nearly impossible to sit still. The vocals were great and the harmonies mirrored the album perfectly.

They opened with the natural choice, “Sigh No More”, and closed with “Dustbowl Dance” but not before Cadillac Sky joined them onstage for “Awake My Soul”. The encore featured an amazing cover of The Avett Brother’s “Go To Sleep”.

Here’s the setlist:

  1. Sigh No More
  2. Roll Away Your Stone
  3. Winter Winds
  4. White Blank Page
  5. Below My Feet
  6. Timshel
  7. Gave You All
  8. Little Lion Man
  9. Lover of the Light
  10. Thistle & Weeds
  11. Broken Crown
  12. After the Storm
  13. Awake My Soul (with Cadillac Sky
  14. Dust Bowl Dance


  1. Lady of the River (with Cadillac Sky)
  2. Go To Sleep (The Avett Brothers cover) (with Cadillac Sky)
  3. The Cave

In thinking about concerts I’ve attending in the past, I can’t help but draw comparisons to The Avett Brothers and one of my newest favorites, Local Natives. They all three focus on the energy of the show more say than set design or even song selection. It’s almost a little showy, like we know we’re amazing musicians so we are going to show you how athletic we can be simultaneously. They all three do a wonderful job at performing harmonies live. In fact the harmonies in the Mumford & Sons concert might be my favorite thing about the show. It’s just such an art and they’ve clearly worked hard to make it perfect, so bravo for that Mumford & Sons.

Overall, great show and if you get a chance to see them while they’re still playing smaller venues, go, because you won’t be disappointed!

I was able to get quite a bit of video from the show, and if you’d like to see more than what’s listed below, then you can visit my YouTube page at:

Sigh No More


Awake My Soul


Concert Review- Sufjan Stevens

Filed under: Album Review,Concerting,Music,Now Hear This — bethstephenson84 @ 12:18 pm
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Where: The Tabernacle-  Atlanta, GA

When: November 6, 2010

Let me first say, in the very likely case that you only read this first sentence, that this was my favorite concert experience to date. I have been accused in the past of maybe overselling music and artists, but let me assure you, there’s no amount of selling I could do that would even marginally describe this concert.

Being a fan of Mr. Stevens, I blindly enjoyed The Age of Adz because I thought it was interesting and different. And the fact that we got the bonus EP All Delighted People not a month earlier made this a more or less Sufjan Stevens-themed Fall for me.

But it wasn’t until I saw Sufjan’s live show that I truly understood either album. I accepted long ago that there will be aspects of Sufjan Stevens’ music that I would just never get and that was okay because what I did understand was so wonderful.

Before seeing the show, I hadn’t made a very conscious effort to even try and understand The Age of Adz because it’s definitely one of his more difficult albums, which says a lot.  Instead, I opted to enjoy his melodies, which he seems to be a master of.

But hearing his explanations for songs and seeing the AMAZING visual elements he incorporated into the show really provided that (as Oprah would say) A-Ha moment for me.


View from the nosebleed section

He did a lot of dancing and a lot of talking during the almost 2 hour show. He and his back-up singers/dancers did several costume changes in full view of the audience, which provided some really funny moments. And the costumes were in keeping with the Intergalactic theme of the night. Think shoulder pads and glow sticks…

The sound and sound mixing for this show was simply breathtaking. And while it was loud and blanketed the entire building, it never felt abrasive. Sufjan’s mic was set a little louder than all the other instruments so his voice was crystal clear over all of the beats and unusual sounds that characterize most of The Age of Adz.

He opened the show with the very soft “Seven Swan” and closed with the crowd favorite “Chicago,” but everything in between was new material. Even the 24+ minute masterpiece “Impossible Soul” was played, much to my delight.  S.S. used the encore to play old familiars like “Jacksonville” and “Casimir Pulaski Day,” and the crowd wasn’t angry about that.

Here’s the setlist:

  1. Seven Swans
  2. Age of Adz
  3. Too Much
  4. Heirloom
  5. I Walked
  6. Futile Devices
  7. Vesuvius
  8. Now That I’m Older
  9. Get Real Get Right
  10. Enchanting Ghost
  11. Impossible Soul
  12. Chicago


  1. Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois
  2. Casimir Pulaski Day
  3. Jacksonville

The feeling I walked away with, a feeling of pure what-the-heck-just-happened, was what makes this my favorite concert to date. The crowd sat in silence most of the show, in what I can only describe as pure awe.

Sufjan Stevens is an incredibly odd man with an incredibly brilliant and weird and funny mind. During those couple of hours, we got a sneak peek into that mind and his world and it was like nothing I’ve ever seen or experienced before.

I was in the nosebleed section because the show was sold out, but I managed to get some video footage. Here are a couple of songs from the show. To see the rest of the video, check out my YouTube page at



Get Real Get Right



Concert Review: The Middle East April 26, 2010

Filed under: Concerting,Music,Uncategorized — bethstephenson84 @ 12:03 pm
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Where: The Masquerade- Atlanta, GA

When: April 24, 2010

Although The Middle East was technically the opening band on Saturday night, I didn’t have the heart to just lump them into my review of Frightened Rabbit. I figured it just wouldn’t be right, especially considering I was a tinge more excited about seeing them than FR. That’s not to say FR isn’t good, but I’ve had a major music crush on The Middle East since I first heard their album last October (so much so that they secured the #18 spot on my Best of 2009 list).

Here’s the delightfully off-beat video for “Blood”.

This was my first concert at Atlanta’s creepiest music scene, The Masquerade, and I hate to say it, but I was underwhelmed by the venue. (And it wasn’t just because I didn’t get to see any ghosts or vampires in the reportedly haunted old mill.) My disappointment mainly lies in my old age. This club, which is open to all ages, must be a social hangout for teenagers in the city who are hoping to guilt an old 25-year old like myself into buying them a beer or something. And because I don’t want to add any more angst to those already raging teenage hormones by supply them alcohol, I generally avoid this kind of scene altogether. In short, the crowd was just annoyingly loud and disrespectful to the bands; and I gather from their endless prattle throughout all three sets, they were not there to hear music.

This was most evident during The Middle East’s far too short set. The band played about 6 songs with little to no dialogue in between. In truth, it probably took them longer to set their equipment up than it did to play all of their songs.

I have no complaints other than the length of their set, though. The 7 (!) member band from Oz, whose beautifully melancholy album The Recordings of the Middle East won me over last year, surprised us all by playing several robust numbers complete with energetic percussion, a bustling trumpet and the often overlooked accordion. But then I guess they would need all of those instruments to keep all 7 band members busy!

I would like to say that you could hear a pin drop when they played “The Darkest Side,” but sadly, as I mentioned before, the crowd seemed less than interested in hearing the music. What I could hear of the song was simply beautiful, with Jordan Ireland and Rohin Jones’ perfect harmonies blending softly with the strumming of the acoustic guitar.

My personal favorite “Blood” started softly and eased its way into the catchy bells and whistles of the latter half of the song. Even with the bleakest of lyrics you couldn’t help but whistle along to the cheery music of the melody.

As for their appearance, this band looked like a rag tag band of misfits, but I loved every minute of their eclecticness.  For those of you who know me, I have a fond appreciation for a fully grown beard, and I was not left disappointed by the male members of this band.   Bravo gentlemen, bravo.

Here are a couple of videos from the show.

The Darkest Side