20 Watts


The Silent League, The Growlers and Dr. Dog @ Westcott Theater (Photos, Review, Interview) by Isabel Alcantara

Justin Russo (foreground) and Shannon Fields of The Silent League supporting The Growlers and Dr. Dog. MORE photos below the cut!

PREVIEW: VISIT The Silent League, The Growlers and Dr. Dog on MySpace
EXCLUSIVE: READ an interview with The Silent League

A night of psychedelic indie rock drenched the Westcott last night with space-y chamber pop from The Silent League, floral blues-punk with a Southern drawl from The Growlers and straightforward, hook-heavy hard rock  from Dr. Dog. Idiosyncrasy and quirk came to mind throughout the show, whether the crowd was dancing to the groove-based rhythm from The Growlers, peering into the massive sunglasses of Dr. Dog’s guitarist or watching The Silent League members play multiple instruments at the same time.

Dr. Dog, the headlining act, played the simplest and tightest show, entertaining the crowd consistently and impressing the audience with nary a pause in between songs except to joke about their day off the next day. “What is there to do in this town? You guys got a zoo or something?” bassist Toby Leaman joked before commenting on  the weather. The band interspersed their set with newer songs — likely to appear on their upcoming album Shame, Shame (due out April 6, 2010) — and fan favorites. Continue reading

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Juice Jam 2009, featuring Girl Talk, Jack’s Mannequin and the Cool Kids, Only on 20 Watts by 20watts

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Juice Jam 2009: ‘Cuse Psychs Up and Gets Down to Girl Talk, Jack’s Mannequin and the Cool Kids by 20watts
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Not even the rain could stop the insanity on South Campus

Not even the threat of impending rain could keep Syracuse University music-lovers away from South Campus on Sunday.  Muggy, overcast and miserable as it was, several thousand students converged on Skytop for Juice Jam 2009, and no amount of drizzle or line-up cynicism could stop them from psyching up and getting down.

Although the show got off to an admittedly slow start — a problem that has plagued the annual concert in the past — Juice Jam succeeded on the strength of its headliner, Girl Talk, who stirred up over an hour of neon, confetti-filled mayhem on Sunday afternoon.

Chicago based hip-hop group The Cool Kids were the first to take the stage, though a great number of concert attendees seemed not to have noticed.  The crowd gathered in front of the stage was a relatively small group of loyal fans, which unfortunately can’t even be attributed to their early set time, as the line for a lame airbrushed hat was still a mile long.

Mikey Rocks and Chuck Inglish were still the ultimate flirts, emphasizing the number of pretty girls in the audience more than once before transitioning into “Bassment Party,” instructing, “if you ugly keep your hands by your side.”  This attitude stayed true after the performance, when Mikey and Chuck embraced adoring female fans.

Cool as they might have been, however, the hip-hop duo failed to attract the enthusiasm that greeted piano pop mainstay Jack’s Mannequin.  Seeing Jack’s perform was like a trip down memory lane — and judging by the crowd that gravitated towards the stage, others felt that way, too. Friends likely reminisced about high school as they danced in groups to Andrew McMahon’s piano melodies during “Holiday from Real.” The band played much of Everything in Transit, including  “The Mixed Tape,” “Dark Blue” and “La La Lie.”  Bassist Jonathan Sullivan helped to keep the high school theme alive with his arm warmers and emo-licious haircut.

After closing with Tom Petty’s “American Girl,” Andrew McMahon climbed atop his piano and stomped on the keys.  Although this move was relatively badass at the time, in comparison to the imminent mayhem, McMahon’s momentary awesomeness was as P.G. as it gets.

The transformation to said mayhem started gradually enough. Sorority girls clad in neon, eager to be Gregg Gillis’ one true love/grinding partner, searched for a way to get on stage. The masses followed suit.  Hints of marijuana filled the air. Antsy people anticipating the ultimate dance party muttered their frustration as Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger” blasting through the speakers to pass the time.

But the sunshine finally started to peek through the hazy sky and our host, Gregg “I’m Not a DJ” Gillis, stormed the stage to start the party.  Cue toilet paper.  Balloons.  Balls.  Confetti.  Gillis plays pop music for people with short attention spans and long memories: in his sets, pop music from the last 30 years resurfaces as a hook, a line or a beat, mixed into something entirely new.

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Photos from Desolation Wilderness’ Performance at Spark Art Space by Irina Dvalidze
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Washington dream-poppers Desolation Wilderness played Spark on Wednesday

If you’ve found yourself complaining that Syracuse has no music scene, one little venue is out to prove you wrong.  Just a few blocks down from University Hill — past a few of the sketchiest alleys you’ll ever have the pleasure of avoiding — sits Spark Contemporary Art Space, an art gallery and performance space for both VPA students and touring acts.

Last Wednesday, Sept. 9, Spark welcomed three amazing indie up-and-comers to its dimly lit back room.  Two locals repped the Syracuse scene: The Human, a funky, hippy quartet that know how to rock a pair of tree hugger sandals, and Mandate of Heaven, a foursome that sound like Sonic Youth jamming with Cheap Trick.  20 Watts’ personal favorite, however, was Desolation Wilderness, a barely legal trio from Olympia, Washington.  With their chiming, eerie, introspective vocals and quirky stage presence, these guys looked like they just walked off a Sophia Coppola movie set.  And despite the small “stage” space and minor acoustic glitches, it was a musical evening to remember.

Desolation Wilderness are playing a string of East Coast shows with the likes of Real Estate and The Intelligence; they’ll also be embarking on a European tour in late October.  We reccomend following their highly entertaining and endearingly earnest blog.  Their fourth full-length, New Universe, dropped on K Records early last month.

For more favorites from the Syracuse scene, download Mandate of Heaven’s full discography FREE on Jamendo and check out 20 Watts’ phenomenal photos from the show under the jump!

– Photos by Max Nepstad, copy by Irina Dvalidze and Caitlin Dewey

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20 Watts Reviews Wilco (with Yo La Tengo) at Keyspan Park in Brooklyn, 7/13/09 by JohnCassillo
July 16, 2009, 2:46 am
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Wilco confirmed their reputation as America's best live band in Brooklyn

Wilco confirmed their reputation as America's best live band

At what was probably one of the best shows I’ve ever been to, Wilco and Yo La Tengo both tore up Brooklyn’s Keyspan Park throughout a fun and lengthy set that went from 7 p.m to almost 11 p.m. Wilco played 18 songs (19 if you count the crowd’s rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”), then played another eight combined in the first and second encore, for a grand total of 27.

Among the encore guests were Feist, Grizzly Bear‘s Ed Droste and Yo La Tengo in its entirety. As ridiculous as it may seem, I was actually holding out for a Wilco rendition of “Two Weeks” for a couple minutes, but it never came to be. Continue reading



Photos from Matt and Kim’s Pier 54 Performance by 20watts

Clawing your way to the front of the crowd at Matt and Kim’s Pier 54 concert was rather like braving a rave, a stampede, or a weird combination of the two.  Much to the adorable duo’s astonishment, well over 2,000 people turned out to sing, dance and thrash along to their exuberant dance-pop anthems.

But maybe they shouldn’t have been so surprised.  As Matt shook his head disbelieving and Kim took the mic — yet again — to offer her sincere “fucking thanks” to the screaming crowd, it was impossible not to wonder how these down-to-earth Brooklynites could not know just how big they have become.  From Bacardi commercials to Disney World performances, they certainly appear to be on some sort of commercial trajectory, jetting toward mainstream popularity with blinding speed.

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