Music Features

Rainbow Kitten Surprise Will Shake You Out of Your Pretension

Let RKS remind you what live music is supposed to be.

Rainbow Kitten Surprise - It's Called: Freefall [Official Video]

One day you're listening to your usual assortment of experimental synth music and whale noises, maybe a little Kero Kero Bonito if it's sunny out.

In a good mood, you decide to branch out, and a song comes on your discover weekly that you don't recognize. You bob your head along to the beat, and wonder who the band is, thinking they must be deliciously obscure. You reach for your phone to save the track, and recoil at the glitter-sprinkled name: Rainbow Kitten Surprise. The name sounds distinctly like the name of your seven-year-old niece's Guitar Hero band, but you find that in reality it refers to a group of serious musicians from Boone, North Carolina who play an amalgamation of indie and folk rock. Even worse than their name, they have millions of plays. They're popular and kitschy and unacceptable for someone like you who only shops at organic co-ops in your vintage Doc Martens. You move on to the next song.

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The Uncanny Inevitability of Whitney Houston's Musical Hologram Tour

Whitney Houston's hologram will tour this January through April.

A hologram of Whitney Houston is seen during the dress rehearsal of 'An Evening with Whitney Houston'

Photo by Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

This fall, Whitney Houston will go on tour.

Or at least, a holographic version of her will. The late singer's image—recreated via laser beam shot through a prism—will be transmitted out on stages across the world, allowing millions of fans to experience the star's legendary presence in not-quite real life. The tour will kick off in Mexico on January 23 and will end in Belarus on April 3rd.

Entitled "An Evening With Whitney," the tour will be "a celebration of her best work," according to Brian Becker, the chairman and CEO of BASE Hologram, the company responsible for this. Previously, BASE sent simulations of Roy Orbison and opera singer Maria Callas around the world.

Unless there's an afterlife and Whitney Houston is looking down from above, the real Whitney will have no say in where and how her image will be projected. Many fans aren't happy about that. "Capitalism will recreate your likeness and project it in front of millions, so it may posthumously profit off you for eternity," wrote one disparaging Twitter user. "There are truly no limits to its ethical depravity. Nothing is sacred."

Another wrote, "Utterly disrespectful and disgusting. Let the greats Rest In Power. Shameful they're using her name and likeness for this. An evening with Whitney? "That" is NOT Whitney Houston. I'm sorry Nippy, you deserved better."

It's true that Whitney Houston will have have no say in where her image is going to be sent and what she's going to sing on this tour. This raises a lot of questions about the dead and what it means to respect a person's posthumous legacy and autonomy.

Namely, what do we owe the dead? Is a hologram tour that different from a posthumous biographical film that pieces together a person's narrative? And if so, why?

Whitney Houston seems like an inevitable choice for a hologram tour, but in some ways she's also a particularly terrible selection because of how widely and deeply beloved she was and is. Fans are so tenaciously invested in her legacy that it seems like this concert has a good chance of being canceled, in both the real world and the digital one (the lines between these worlds, of course, are feeling blurrier by the day).

Still, is a hologram tour so different from what record companies have always done to artists, creating images and projections of who they are and selling them at thousands of dollars a seat? Regardless, there's something so profoundly uncanny about the concept of buying tickets to see a 3D representation of a deceased person that it's hard to imagine one of these tours ever sitting right.

In the end, hologram tours seem like the logical result of late capitalism's desire to drag every last penny out of each product and consumer, humanity's desire to transcend death, and the emergence of the technology that theoretically makes this transcendence possible. The problem is that Whitney Houston herself never signed off on her own rebirth—but if she had signed a waiver allowing her hologram to be projected after she dies, would that make a hologram tour more okay? What if a living artist started sending out holograms instead of (or even while) actually touring, and would it make a difference if the holograms were broadcast live? Or is there something irreplaceable and sacred about seeing your favorite artist in the flesh?

Music Features

Vince Staples Honors Mac Miller in "Smile, You're On Camera" Tour

Vince Staples, JPEGMAFIA, and Katori Walker Rock an Historical Theatre in Ithaca, New York.

Vince Staples

Brandon Nagy/Shutterstock

A Night of Powerful Hip Hop Transforms Ithaca's State Theatre.

The State Theatre in Ithaca, New York is far from the sort of venue in which one might expect to see an act like Vince Staples perform. The stage, framed with intricate baroque sculptures, carvings, and medieval shields, gives the impression that this theatre has seen significantly more Shakespeare than bass-heavy, bone-rattling hip-hop. But, then again, Vince Staples is not your run-of-the-mill emcee. Staples is unique, which has always shone through in his music. That shine, as it turns out, is just as bright in his live show.

The March 1st concert marked the beginning of the second half of his 37-city "Smile, You're on Camera" tour, but the raw energy of all three acts could have fooled you into thinking that the tour was just getting started.

Katori Walker — a rapper from Pasadena, California — kicked the show off with heavy tracks about gang violence interweaved with calls for peace and unity. The crowd seemed relatively unfamiliar with Walker but gradually warmed up to his music over the course of his set. It's safe to say that he made more than a few new fans that night.

Once Walker finished, Baltimore rapper JPEGMAFIA took the stage and did nothing to prepare besides setting up his laptop. The rapper, who sometimes goes by Peggy, acted as his own DJ, playing his songs on Spotify and rapping over them. Well, to put it more accurately, what he did was closer to screaming rhymes over glitchy, experimental beats. The energy was crazy, and the whole thing was very punk rock.

But the contrast to Staples' characteristically buttery flow and lyrical precision was jarring, and the set came across as sloppy and abrasive. But the crowd appeared to disagree, rising to meet Peggy's chaotic energy. The audience seemed to know every lyric, and they screamed them along with Peggy as he flailed and moshed about the stage, providing almost as much energy as a young Black Flag.

At around 10:30, with the crowd now sufficiently amped up, Vince Staples finally took to the stage. In stark contrast to JPEGMAFIA's stripped down, hardcore set, Staples took a more theatrical approach, employing an elaborate light show, enough smoke machines to keep him almost perpetually cloaked in a dense and eerie fog, and projections of cracked TV screens alternately broadcasting flashes of porn and live views of the audience and the emcee himself.

Through the cinematic and interactive experience, Staples drove home the theme of the tour: Smile, You're on Camera.

He opened his set with "Feels Like Summer," the first track off his latest album, FM! During this number, Staples opted to keep the screen mostly black, minimizing distractions and allowing him to captivate the audience with his confident stage presence and bars.

Not only was the set design and overall concept of the show creative and engaging, but Staples' performance was masterful. His flow and delivery were spot-on and controlled, never missing a beat. He paced himself well, demonstrated expert breath control, and kept up with even the most complex, rapid-fire, and tongue-twisting schemes in his catalog.

Seldom have I seen an emcee spit his bars live with such precision and care that they sound as if they could have been the original studio recordings. This is just one more piece of evidence added to an already sprawling list as to why Vince Staples is one of the best in the game right now.

After performing the majority of FM! (a remarkably short album, even in full) and plenty of classics off both the critically acclaimed record, Big Fish Theory and a fan favorite, Summertime '06, Staples shifted the attention off himself and dedicated the last fifteen minutes of his set to late rapper, Mac Miller, who passed away last September of an accidental overdose. The two emcees were contemporaries and longtime collaborators and friends, so it was touching to see Staples pay his respects to Miller.

Staples ended his set with "Yeah Right," and then thanked the audience for coming. As he exited the stage, the lights did not come up. Instead, the entirety of Mac Miller's NPR Tiny Desk concert played on the screen from start to finish. Mac Miller was transported beyond the grave to be on tour with Staples so the two could rock the same stage one last time.

Seeing Miller perform stripped down versions of his songs was a powerful moment for many in the crowd. More than a few audience members were brought to tears.

It's rare that we are blessed with an emcee like Vince Staples — someone who is just as raw, real, and complex as his music. If you have the chance to go see him for the second leg of this tour, you definitely should. And if you aren't already familiar with Vince Staples' music, there's a good chance you will be in the years to come. At just 25 years old, he's only going up from here.

Dustin DiPaulo is a writer and musician from Rochester, New York. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from Florida Atlantic University and can most likely be found at a local concert, dive bar, or comedy club if he's not getting lost somewhere in the woods.

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Top Stories

Bastian Baker Hits Up Le Poisson Rouge, NYC

#ShaniaNOW is over, so what's next for the Swiss Army Musician?

Bastian Baker had a great 2018

He released a staggering self-titled album, opened for Shania Twain all over the world, and (most importantly) got a good write-up on PopDust. This now begs the question… what next? Barely stopping to catch his breath, Baker has an answer for the world: he's getting right back on the road. For his first show, he returned to New York City to hit up Le Poisson Rouge. Naturally, he did not disappoint.

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Interview | The Huntertones

Members of the band talk about their latest album.

"At the end of the day, good music resonates with people regardless of the instrumentation."

The Huntertones — a seven-piece instrumentalist band based in Brooklyn — have made a splash with their viral tribute video to Michael Jackson. But the group isn't just about covers, they offer fans original music, too. Their recently released studio album, Passport, features a selection of songs that draws on inspiration from their travels all over the globe. The band is taking their show on the road soon, touring North America with shows in the US and Canada.

Members of the band spoke with Popdust about their upcoming projects, the album-producing process, and more.

Your band made a big splash on the scene last year when you filmed a tribute video to Michael Jackson. How did that decision come to pass? What other artists have impacted your music?

Jon Lampley: We'd already been experimenting with covering different types of songs in that trio format. The songs we decide to play are based on artists that have influenced us as musicians and created music that we love. Michael is one of our favorites and he has so much timeless music from every era of his career, so we tried to fit as much as we could into the arrangement and make it feel smooth. We were all surprised with how well the video did!

The list of artists that inspire us is a ridiculously long one. Here are a few that have influenced us as a band as well as individuals: Louis Armstrong, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock, Frank Zappa, Led Zeppelin, Weather Report, Stevie Wonder, Dave Matthews Band, D'Angelo, A Tribe Called Quest, Snarky Puppy

What do you think about the current instrumental music scene? Why don't you think the genre is more popular?

Dan White: I think there are a lot of people who dig music without vocals. It's an uphill battle in the US though. The way we think about it is, if you take away something from the music like the lyrics and a vocalist, then you have to make up for it in another creative way. As instrumentalists, we think of music differently and love to collaborate with vocalists. At the end of the day, good music resonates with people regardless of the instrumentation.

Tell us a little bit about the writing and recording process for the new album, Passport? I read it was inspired by your travels in South America, Europe and Africa.

DW: Each track is inspired by a different place we experienced as a band. We had the opportunity to travel and collaborate with local musicians from Togo, Egypt, Peru, Georgia (the country), Zimbabwe, and many others. The music we wrote varies widely, but what ties it all together is the band and how we play together no matter what the style or groove is. Many of the compositions start with a very simple idea that gets spun out and layered upon.

Diversity is one theme of the album. Why was that important to you?

DW: We collaborated with more people on this album than we ever have before. While working together, our differences were a very positive thing musically. If we all were the same, touring and playing shows night after night would get very boring. For Huntertones, our differences make the band stronger.

Do any of you have favorite tracks off the album?

JL: My favorite songs on the album are Hondo, Change, and Togo. I'm really proud of how the entire project came out, but these are my personal favorites.

What's next for you?

JL: So we're celebrating the release with a show in New York City on Friday, October 12th, which we're very excited about, followed by a show in Connecticut on the 13th. We also have some shows coming up later in the year where we're supporting other bands on tour. We were out on the road for about four months of 2018 and in 2019 we will be on the road quite a bit so we are looking forward to spending some time at home this fall. We're always working on new content so keep an eye out on all of our social media pages and website!

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iHeartRadio Just Announced the Lineup for Jingle Ball

The annual pop concert will also air as a television special nationwide on December 16.

Cardi B

Photo by David Fisher (Shutterstock)

Headliners include Cardi B, Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello, Khalid, Alessia Cara, The Chainsmokers, Calvin Harris, and more.

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