Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Best of Bonnaroo '10 Part 4: The Black Keys. 14 weeks to go...

In this weekly feature, I will be counting down the weeks to Bonnaroo 2010 by exploring a group or artist that I am psyched to see. Check back on Tuesdays for new updates, and be sure to check out past features you've already missed. Oh, and BUY YOUR F-ING TICKETS NOW!

This week's artist is The Black Keys. The Black Keys are a blues rock duo who, along with fellow Great Lakes band The White Stripes, are almost solely responsible for the revival of blues music in the new millennium. Forming in 2001, The Black Keys' low-fi blues rock n' roll pushes the boundaries backward on recording technology, but in the most absolutely right way. Rather than recording in the most expensive studios, with top-of-the-line equipment, pouring over every meticulously mastered track after track, composing and compressing and auto-tuning until every note is just "oh-so perfect for radio," The Black Keys have recorded most of their albums either in low-tech independent studios, in drummer Patrick Carney's basement on 8-track, or in an abandoned warehouse.

The Black Keys play with a musical depth that some bands three times the size can't achieve. Carney, along with guitarist and vocalist Dan Auerbach combine into a bombastic exhibition, with the perfect balance of precision and stank. The guitar is hot fuzz, but every note makes you sway. The skins are loose, but they keep you bouncing. Many of the tracks consist of Auerbach ripping a basic riff repeatedly while Carney backs it up with a swaggering, sexy rhythm, then roaring into a just plain nasty chorus of overdriven mid-range licks. The track "Elevator," begins with a slow build as Auerbach croons, but then the chorus punches you in the heart and laughs while Carney kicks up the beats and Auerbach mocks your pain as you crumble: "going doooooooowwwnnnn."

In addition to the considerable commercial success and much more than considerable respect and critical acclaim The Black Keys have gained through their own albums, both Auerbach and Carney have worked on successful side projects; Auerbach's solo album Keep It Hid and Carney's band and self-titled album Drummer. And if that weren't enough, The Black Keys collaborated with a number of R&B and hip-hop stars such as the RZA, Raekwon, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Mos Def, and Ludacris last year to record the independent album Blakroc. The album, which was recorded in only eleven days, featured tracks of The Black Keys laying down some of their sickest jams to the lyrics of many of the most respected talent in hip-hop. And Ludacris.

Having seen The Black Keys in concert before, I can safely say that they are one of the best live acts in rock n' roll. There may only be two white boys from Akron, Ohio up there on stage, but they put on a show that's sure to rock you to your cockles.

Check out these tracks: "Grown So Ugly," "Have Love, Will Travel," and "Strange Times."

Bonnaroo will be June 10-13 in Manchester, TN and is one of the biggest music festivals in the country. For a complete line-up and to order your tickets, go to

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