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Khruangbin and Vieux Farka Toure Light Up Brooklyn’s Prospect Park as Thunderstorms Loom: Concert Review

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As New York discovered in no uncertain terms last summer when the star-studded “We Love NYC” concert in Central Park was abruptly canceled less than halfway before it was over, the threat of lightning is no joke when it comes to outdoor events. And although thunderclouds and some serious lightning flashes were a backdrop for Khruangbin and Vieux Farka Touré concert at a BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn concert in the New York borough’s Prospect Park, they passed to the south without a drop of rain, and the completely sold-out concert went on without incident from Mother Nature — except for some characteristically brutal NYC summer humidity.

Khruangbin, a trio from Houston that plays mostly instrumental music, is a band as unusual as their name, and what was perhaps most remarkable about the concert was the size of the densely packed crowd — there aren’t many bands like them who are popular enough to sell out New York’s 6,000-seat Radio City Music Hall, which they did earlier this year. While they were originally (broadly) categorized as an alternative act and quickly embraced by the Pitchfork contingent, the easy groove of their music — highlighted by Mark Speer’s effortlessly stunning guitar playing — and a series of high-profile festival appearances soon brought them a big following with the jam-band crowd. Both audiences were out in force at this concert and grooving joyfully to the group’s headlining set, which drew heavily from their two most recent albums, 2018’s “Con Todo el Mundo” and 2020’s “Mordechai” (leaving off selections from their two most recent releases, a pair of EPs with Leon Bridges on vocals).

 

Unlike most instrumental-based rock bands, Khruangbin don’t traffic in intensity: In fact, they’re downright laid-back. Speer, indisputably one of the best guitarists to emerge in the past decade, plays astonishing melodic licks almost offhandedly, often fingerpicking a lead and arpeggiated chords at the same time, while bassist Laura Lee and Donald “DJ” Johnson hold down the unhurried rhythms smoothly. It’s not that they couldn’t play more heavily or hit harder; they just don’t. Speer and Lee also know how to fill a stage, striding from one side to the other, occasionally striking poses like the one above while a pair of big disco balls and some vibrant lighting provide an appropriately moody backdrop.

The group stretched out their 90-minute-plus-long set with some winking nods to New York’s musical legacy, with instrumental snippets of Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love,” the oft-sampled Shadows song “Apache” and even Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message.” They also sprinkled some less on-message covers into the set, including a segment of Spandau Ballet’s 1985 hit “True” (huh?) and Kool & the Gang’s “Summer Madness” (although the heat could have been the inspiration for that one).

Yet the truly special moment came during the encore, when the audience even got a preview of the group’s forthcoming collaborative album with Vieux, “Ali.” The album is an homage to Vieux’s father Ali Farka Touré, who played a huge role in forging the guitar-driven Malian sound that has borne fruit with such acts as Tinariwen, Mdou Moctar and of course Vieux himself. He and his three fellow musicians (bass, drums and percussion) played a rousing opening set, and then Vieux joined Khruangbin for the encore, a song from the album titled “Mahine Me.” He and Speer traded guitar licks, both peeling off lightning-fast leads in tribute to a man whose music was a colossal influence on both, bringing thunder to the stage while the lightning, thankfully, stayed well south of the venue.

 

 



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Fans Choose Nicki Minaj’s ‘Super Freaky Girl’ as This Week’s Favorite New Music

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Nicki Minaj‘s latest single, “Super Freaky Girl,” has topped this week’s new music poll.

Music fans voted in a poll published Friday (Aug. 12) on Billboard, choosing the Queen of Rap’s Rick James-sampling track as their favorite new music release of the past week.

“Super Freaky Girl” beat out new music by Megan Thee Stallion (Traumazine), Anitta and Maluma (“El Que Espera”), NIKI (Nicole), Rod Wave (Beautiful Mind), and others.

“Super Freaky Girl” finds Minaj doing what she does best — remixing old hits and reintroducing them to a new generation of fans. Where her 2014 smash “Anaconda” revisited Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” “Freaky Girl” employs James’ 1981 Billboard Hot 100 hit “Super Freak.” She has a gleeful time reanimating the classic track’s salacious funk with sexual innuendo and a flow that knows when to speed up and when to really land a punchline.

“Super Freaky Girl” is Minaj’s first release since “We Go Up” with Fivio Foreign in March. Prior to that, she dropped “Blick Blick” with Coi Leray, “Bussin” with Lil Baby, and “Do We Have A Problem?” with Lil Baby again — all from this year.

Placing second on the past week’s tally with 8% of the vote was Megan Thee Stallion’s sophomore album, Traumazine. The unflinching and revealing new full-length sees the Houston rapper at her most vicious, as heard on fiery tracks “Plan B” and “Ungrateful.” She then mellows into the soul bearing “Anxiety,” creating a multi-faceted body of work.

See the final results of this week’s new music release poll below.



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One Dead, Dozens Injured After Stage Collapses During Spain’s Medusa Festival

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A stage collapse due to high winds killed one man and injured several others at the Medusa Festival near Valencia, Spain on Saturday.

According to reports by CNN and the Associated Press, the main entrance and the main stage of the festival collapsed at around 4:18 a.m. local time “due to a strong gust of wind.”

At the time of the incident, DJ Miguel Serna was on stage and there were around 50,000 people in attendance. Roughly 40 people had to be taken to the hospital, including three with serious injuries.

“It was a tense few minutes, I’ve never experienced anything like it before,” Serna wrote in an Instagram story on the day of the incident (as reported by Reuters). “The tragedy happened just at the end of my session on the main stage, just below it, which was the most affected (area). It was a few moments of horror, I am still in shock.”

The six-day electronic music festival saw sets from David Guetta, Steve Aoki, Afrojack, Carl Cox and others.

After the incident occurred on Saturday morning, festival organizers shared a statement on Instagram that they had officially canceled the event, stating that the “adverse and unexpected weather conditions that are expected to continue throughout the day oblige us morally and out of responsibility to put an end to our 2022 edition.”

“The Medusa Festival management would like to express our deepest and sincere condolences to the families and friends affected by the fatal consequences last night,” organizers said in a statement posted to Facebook, adding: “Our thoughts are with them at all times.”

Ximo Puig, Valencia’s regional president, also expressed his sadness and offered condolences to the victim’s family and friends in a tweet writing: “A terrible accident that shocks all of us. I want to extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of the young man who died early this morning at the Medusa Festival in Cullera.”



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The Chicks Remember Olivia Newton-John With Cover of ‘Grease’ Classic ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’

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The Chicks paid tribute to late singer/actress Olivia Newton-John during their concert at the Gorge Amphitheater in Washington on Saturday (Aug. 13).

Prior to performing a heartfelt rendition of Newton-John’s Grease classic “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines shared a few words with the audience about the impact the late singer/actress had on her childhood.

“We lost a worldwide sweetheart last week, Olivia Newton-John,” Maines said. “I thought I was Olivia Newton-John from, like, 4 to 12 (years old), and then I only wished I was Olivia Newton-John. So we worked up today at soundcheck a little Olivia Newton-John song.”

Newton-John, best known for her role as Sandy Olsson in 1978’s Grease and for a long string of hits topped by “Physical” in 1981, died on Aug. 8. She was 73.

“Hopelessly Devoted to You” peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the song received an Oscar nomination for best original song. The Grease film soundtrack spent 12 weeks atop the Billboard 200 and wound up with a Grammy nomination for album of the year.

Fellow country music star Kelsea Ballerini also recently honored Newton-John with a beautiful a cappella cover of “Hopelessly Devoted to You” on Instagram. “Olivia Newton-John forever,” the singer captioned the video.

Watch the Chicks’ cover of “Hopelessly Devoted to You” here.



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