Thursday, May 31, 2007

Slugger Packs a Deep, Slow Wallop

Boxer – The National

Transfixed on the moment and sluggish in anticipation of something worthwhile I knew a knockout was due, I just never saw it coming like it did. Slumped on the mat, fading in and out of consciousness, trying to take hold of something to bring me back, grasp falling short. Steady, baritone and melodious it was drawing me in. The warm flow from nose increased as breathing thinned and slowed. Head throbbing as I went limp, I knew I had been delivered a knock out blow…it’s the best I’ve felt all year.

Boxer comes out intent and focused, determined to prove its worth and in so doing ignoring the glitz and glamour of the many who fall short of the Title. This was my first bout with The National and I was fast learning about the pure nature of the sport and its better students. From its opening stanza Boxer envelops in a comforting bleakness, closing from both sides until there’s no escape. That’s when you know the fight is on, and they’ve already won.

Not looking for the early round knockout Boxer ducks and jabs, sizing you up as you search desperately for a flaw, weakness, anything. Toying with you, it keeps you in the hunt. Green Gloves landing jab after jab, round after round until you're bloodied, bruised and at its mercy.

Mercy never comes though for this thoroughbred takes to life in later rounds with lethal combinations and jaw dropping hooks. When you think you’ve had all you can handle, gloves dropped to side, feet staggered the final blow comes.

Leather slaps your face and brings with it crippling force. Bulbs flash, the room spins, knees buckle…you’ve drawn fell to the knock. As the mat races upward you realize it’s been one of the best brawls you’ve entered, and you never threw a punch.

Others will challenge for supremacy in this ring and many will be worthy of a shot at the Title, most will fall. For now Boxer reins 2007 LTME Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Rating: 9.1

This is important, But I know you’re not listening

Sky Blue Sky - Wilco
My initial response to this album was no response at all. Was I missing something? Where was the Wilco I expected? How could the most complete and experimental lineup the band has ever had create such a simplistic sound?

Frustrated with the effort I disregarded it for a few days before giving it another spin. I began to come across reviews for the album and it was obvious two camps were forming.

Some side with the Leaves:
Many applaud the group for heading in a more approachable direction, trimming back on the reverb, heavy instrumentation and drug infused meandering lyrics laced with metaphors. The Tweedy on Sky sings about mowing the lawn and learning to work the washing machine. Gone are the Chrome Devils, Cherry Ghosts, Hummingbirds and the Listen to my Eyes of a troubled and washed mind. Tweedy sounds in control of his voice, but his message is mixed and troubling. Sober and somber he talks to us in an elementary way. The lyrics are still dark and seeking approval, almost expectant of the listeners mixed reactions and for many, that works.

Some side with the Seeds:
I am of the other camp however. After several solo tours from Tweedy, Nels Cline and a stellar Kicking Television, it seemed the band was poised to blow us away again. Instead, they choose to shock us by doing nothing shocking at all. Why would a band being heralded as the ‘most important band in American rock’ and ‘America’s answer to Radiohead’ revert back to the sounds of their first two efforts? The obvious answer is: Because they can. The deeper explanation may reside in a creative struggle to duplicate or evolve on what Wilco was fast becoming.

Tweedy and Co. owe no explanation or apologies for Sky and I’m not asking for it. When all is said and done, this is still a fine album and it’s growing on me…it’s just not what I wanted it to be. Wilco is still Wilco, and that’s better than most can say.
If you feel like singing a song
And you want other people to sing along
Just sing what you feel
Don’t let anyone say it’s wrong

Rating: 7.4

Monday, May 28, 2007

Running to Stay Above the Water, How I Spent My Memorial Day Wknd

There’s a bustling calmness to the blacktops of Charlotte where commerce and commotion are abound yet leveled, giving breathe to the city. As the sky grows closer in reach and cluttered in sight, the Queen welcomes the burgeoning of a new era, but forgets not her roots. The waters of a past steeped in southern heritage and simpler times slowly recede giving way to the wave of tomorrow. Where these waters meet floats an uncertain present. The sport of stockcar racing is, in many regards, like the crowning city of the Carolina’s. Both yearn to break a mold and overcome a stigma no longer wanted or even representative. NASCAR and Charlotte find solace in one another. Both see and know a need for change. Both appear to have a map to where the waters flow outward and onward, reaching all corners of the land of opportunity and freedom.

Once a year these waters flow over across the blacktops of Charlotte, soaking us to the bone while wetting our appetite for more. The ship that braves these waters is the mighty F.L. Speedster, or as you landlubbers may have it, Food Lion’s Speed Street. Nothing could be more indicative of the dynamic of a sport and a city on the rise. Where the towers of productivity bend and the wheel’s of change burn there abides a population like none other. For three days I dove headfirst into the changing tide, drinking up the culture and the spectacle. At first quenching a thirst I knew not how to seize. Soon, dire for air, I emerged taking in a deep breathe of the leveling. For three days I beat the blacktops and parted the waters. For three days I feared not where I was headed, but knew the waters that were get me there are uncertain and troubled. For three days I saw why, despite the better efforts of the few, the South ain’t never gonna change.

ThursdayThe wetting of the feet

If nothing else, Speed Street serves as a perfect reminder of why birth control is given out in public schools. Astounded by the mere state many live within and display whilst in public, I found a certain comfort in my own skin and used this comfort, as well as a high school education, to serve as a balance for the weekend, keeping the level from tilting in their favor. They, of course being the masses that descend upon the streets in hope not of better themselves with broadening experiences or exposure to a more enlightened life. No my friend, these groundlings seek nothing more than to have their tote bags stuffed beyond the brim, bulging to the point of exhaustion, only to remain in tact by the wavering support of yet another tote bag to keep seams from exploding onto the muddled blacktop that now runs a mess with tank top wearing, Jr. loving, air off the spoiler knowing, Blue Collar Comedy Tour DVD owning, bona fide Necks of the Red Genus. From Tostino’s Pizza Rolls and Mighty Meat Dog Treats to Coca-Cola MBNA credit cards for a FREE! Elliot Saddler tee, these folks did not just want the freebies, they needed them. I dare to say for many, their sole existence in life is dependent upon the receiving of a DeWalt Tools bumper sticker and a Miller Lite foam koozie. Thinking to myself, what hath Charlotte wroth? I checked my schedule to see what lay ahead for the day, and in so doing found no console.

I chugged down my 6th bottle of Dasani, the official water of NASCAR and proud sponsor of the Coca-Cola family of racing, as I stood between loading vans on the backside of the Coca-Cola stage. Its important to stay hydrated when the heat begins to rise and the mind begins to numb. For these three days I was what they call in the business a ‘runner.’ I ran to the airport to pick up the entertainers. I ran to the Marriott on WT Harris Blvd to drop off and pick up the bus drivers and ‘rock stars.’ I ran to the ABC store on Morehead to buy large amounts of Grey Goose. I ran all over the blacktops from Trade and Tryon to Martin Luther King Jr. and back over to Pine and Church. In description the job sounds mundane and borderline subservient, but in practice it’s a lot like being a pledge again. Only this time instead of worrying about the brothers getting drunk and hazing me, I was worrying if I had purchased the correct brand of incense for Tony! Toni! Tone!

As the sun slowly hid itself behind the Bank of America towers from what it had been forced to watch all day, I jerked my 15 passenger van into a terribly executed parallel park, grabbed the two bottles of $65 Goose and made my way over to where one of the Toni(e,i)’s awaited my return. Pleased to have me back, he offered me a drink for my efforts. I honestly could not have imagined anything more refreshing at the time, but sadly, I settled for another of Ward Burton’s favorite filtered with minerals added bottled waters. Being the apt to converse and verbose fellow I am, I took advantage of my chance to be with a true R&B star of the ’90 to early ‘91 era and as we struck up a conversation, I pocketed the change from the liquor run and readied myself for the ensuing conversation. For the next hour or so little to nothing I spoke had ever even heard of something the Boy Scouts refer to as Truth and Honesty. But what I did manage to spout out not only entertained this Ton(X), it also warranted the ‘oh shit yeah’s’ of the infamous T!T!T! beat maker, DJ FUBU ain’t out of style, its just taking a break.

By the time the steam had risen away from the asphalt at the intersection of Trade and Tryon and I had swallowed the final drop of my 11th bottle of Atlanta tap water, I found myself on stage with T!T!T!, HD camcorder in hand. As the day had grown darker, so too had the crowd and they loved every second of these “Sounds of the old time, when music was real.” I’ve always wanted to be that white dude up on stage under the colored lights in the middle of a R&B concert, and now with a few thousand fans waving their arms side to side like they just didn’t care, another one of my dreams had come true. As the sounds of their hit song faded away, I took my exit and set beneath a tree and listened to an up tempo rendition of ‘Wade in the Water,’ breathed in deep, chugged my Dasani and felt at ease with the world.

FridayIf you swim out too far, that current’ll take you away

It feels good to stick it to the man. Rarely do I get a chance to do so, but with a bottle of FIJI water in hand, I redefined what risk taking is, stage right under the Coca-Cola banner that Friday morn. Critics may claim this daring feat is far overrated, but to them I say, “It’s not my fault that no one saw me staring fate in the eye at 7am before an empty street.”

The sun has barely pulled it together long enough to call it day and I am already bored. This was to be a long day. That is of course before Mega Star Joe Nichols and his assortment of star studded country rockers rolled up for load in. That’s roadie lingo for park truck, take shit out, put on stage. The next 20hours of my life were about to consist of runs to and from the Marriott by UNCC. This is all part of my Rock ‘N Roll Fantasy!!!

Conversations with Rock Stars can be categorized in two ways. One way is to engage in dialogue so bold and true that one feels empowered and free upon completion, rendering you forever a fan and advocate of both musician and band. The other is to be so let down that you have to restrain yourself from punching the jerk in the face, repeatedly. Lucky for me the later proved to be the case, thankfully I was almost two weeks sober at this point.

After my 3rd run to the hotel in which I had to drive for 20+ minutes until we found the right Burger King, I decided I would enjoy some ‘me’ time, get the ‘ol blood flowing and brave the waters of Tryon over to the Miller and Budweiser stages. No sooner had I a chance to breathe in the fresh air and lap up some of what the other end of Downtown had to offer when a distress signal came over the bat phone. I was needed back at the Coke stage and I was needed ASAP. Had I missed Moses parting the sea and freeing the Israelites just over at Trade St.? What could be so urgent? I spared no time making hast in the hot sun and overwhelming sea of people from Kannapolis and other such cities from the 49 other sates of the Union. Churning up the blacktop as I steered my ship full sail I made record time. Flashing my Shuttle Driver All Access badge I leapt over a restraining wall and found my contact behind the Coke stage, who directed me to the man in need. I was all but prepared to drive this man to his hometown of Nashville so that he could be by his mother’s side in her final hours.

At first I misunderstood what he said to me and asked him to repeat it. To my dismay the same words came out the second time around. “You like the runner, cause I am gonna need a ride for me and my girl in like, I don’t know 30min or so. That cool man?” No, it was most certainly not ‘cool.’ Who the F does the bass player for Joe Nichols think he is having me sprint from 4th ward to 2nd in a 1:13? “Yep, I can do that and thanks for checking.” “No sweat man, I just didn’t want to catch you off guard when we were ready to leave.”

Later that evening I did have the honor of taking another one of the bus drivers out to the hotel. It just so happened this was no ordinary bus driver however. This fella had been a roadie for Hank Jr., Willie and Waylon. Dumbfounded, I nearly drove the van into oncoming traffic. Finally, a real bit of true Americana rock legend, right here riding shotgun with me barreling up 85N. Like a school boy at juice time, I began to squirm around, sputtering out sentence fragments and drooling. The wealth of stories this man must have! My excitement did not match reality however. But it was not lack of this man trying, its just that he truly had been a roadie for these acts as well as groups like the Eagles, ZZ Topp etc. and in his defense he’d partied so hard he just couldn’t remember a damn thing worth sharing. After his fourth story about ‘this one gig’ trailed off into the ether I tuned him out and focused on the road, deeply disappointed.

Upon return to the stage I got a call to deliver pizza to the Sammies and Better Than Ezra. Again, full sprint I streaked through the night air and burst through the door of Picasso’s, told them I need some damn pizzas for the bands while flashing my Shuttle Driver All Access credentials and slammed an ice water at the bar. A mere 27minutes later pizza was in hand and I was backstage with the Sammies.

For a moment there was a pleasant reunion as I reintroduced myself to them and mentioned seeing them open for the Walkmen as well as having a few beers with them at a Whigs show. They seemed to recognize me and we chatted for a bit. They were extremely attentive and openly friendly, a refreshing break from my day of Pop Country stars stupidity. It took me some time to realize that despite the level of equality in conversation that was occurring, that perhaps the balance leaned in their favor. This of course was the reality check that hit when one of them politely stated, “so, are those like our pizzas?” Dejected, I confirmed his inquiry, delivered the goods and stood like a chump as they immediately forgot who I was and delved into slices of veggie pizza. I stood around for a minute or so, stared at the lead singer’s girlfriends ass and then made my way onto the back of the stage to catch the tail end of the Better Than Ezra set, vowing to never talk to a band I like while delivering them pizza again.

As the 2am hour passed I dropped off my final load of ‘like super worn out’ Pop Country stars and retired to my bed for a brisk 5hours of sleep.

SaturdayI hear tell that a man can tread water in the open sea for days, even weeks if he can find a source of fresh water, that and them damn sharks don’t get to him first.

They say good things will come to those that wait. Well Saturday I did a lot of waiting and man I’ll tell ya, ain’t a whole heck of a lot came my way. It was 9am and I had just heard the fifth request for help come over my radio down at the Miller and Bud stages. Diamond Rio needs someone to take them to go play golf, Puddle of Mudd needs reflective blankets to keep the sun off their gear, Mandy Moore needs a new boyfriend…I was missing everything.

Completely over Dasani, I began stealing Snapple’s from Cheap Trick’s cooler and tried to find another security guard that I had yet to have the opportunity of sharing my gift of gab with. Aside from a conversation with some guy that managed a spin-off group for Slipknot told me how the shock rock group’s guitar player, secretly plays Buffett covers in bars along the Carolina coast my day was pretty dry and so were the streets. Perhaps the previous two days had taken it out of the crowd or perhaps it was the Navy cover band playing top 40 rock songs while wearing their Navy white’s, but nobody was at my stage. I faked a call to Miller and abandoned my station, certain I would miss nothing of importance. Meandering in the shadows of the towers that hosted countless $100K+ employees and MBA’s checking updates on their Trios and Blackberry’s I walked amongst the folks that really make the world go round. I have no idea how most of these people were ever offered a job, let alone have the ability to keep it, but I do know that they love $6 beer in the hot sun and XXL t-shirts.

I spent my afternoon listening to hard rock bands and even found one chick punk band that kicked ass, Nicki Barr. The enthusiasm and angst of the band was contagious and although I don’t normally rock this style of music something about it just hit me and I had a strong urge to marry this chick and spend the rest of my life as her guitar player. When she ripped into a fantastic cover of GNR’s Paradise City, I nearly met her mid stage on one knee. After her set we spoke briefly and then I watched her load her bands equipment into their trailer by herself, I realized this girl could kick my ass. I decided I’d be better off finding someone not so hard-core, although watching her load speakers onto a trailer did somehow turn me on a bit. I found my perfect match when I met the lead singer for the band that was just on before Niki, The Luchagors, featuring WWE’s Lita on lead screams. Fearing Puddle of Mudd’s arrival and nearing the time to pick Cheap Trick up from the hotel I once again made my way across the streets of Charlotte, this time however the numbers had grown and to avoid spilt beer and nachos from getting on me I did a lap on the outside of the city…where I fast learned the truly drunk fans were.

After 45 minutes of random rock, Cheap Trick played ‘I want you to want me’ and then they played 45 minutes of random rock. Although I didn’t know any of their stuff and the members could easily have gone to high school with Keith Richards, these guys did rock and it was fun to be on stage with real legends. At closure of their set, Puddle of Mudd needed pizza, so I volunteered leaving the Trick behind. Not having to show my badge this time I found my regular waitress at Picasso’s, put in the order and kicked back two waters, really drinking that stuff up this time.

I dumped the pizzas off in the band’s bus and went on stage to witness what looked like 3 thousand teenagers crowd surfing in a haze of smoke. The band was wailing and they did perform an on point rendition of Nirvana’s Breed, but the rest just wasn’t my cup of tea. When the lights went off, my work was done.

I cranked up the 15 passenger for the last time, took off on the barren asphalt of South Tryon and left the towers behind me. Back at the office I turned my keys over and plopped down on the couch. Another worker asked if I wanted a water or something. As I looked over in the break room the fluorescent light of the GE fridge illuminated something that at first couldn’t place. Captivated I studied it more. So familiar, yet so alien. What was it? I took one in hand, popped the cap and drank it down. The sweet sweetness of the Yuengling filled my soul with pride. Breathing the office air in and taking another swig I thought to myself, “I can get used to this.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Giant Day for Humans, Kings Have their Night and the Bird Takes Flight

Human Giant day on MTV was a success!...I guess, I was at work and missed it and 24hrs of DVR'd material is not worth watching to find the good stuff.

Lucky for us those crazy kids at MTV put the best on the web. Here is some footage of Tapes 'N Tapes, The National, Mastodon and others gettin' Giant.

The comedic stuff is here.

Speaking of The National, Boxer was released yesterday and I must say its one of the best albums I have heard all year. I have a few reviews I'll crank out this week to catch up; for now here is the video for Mistaken for Strangers:

Despite a lackluster third album, the Kings still rock.

Concert streaming from Hammersmith Apollo in London (April 18th show) tonight at 9pm.

Catch these Tennessee wildones streaming here.

This bird takes to streams as well. Looping, whistling, plucking, bowing and singing his way through an NPR broadcast of Washington D.C.'s 9:30 Club performance...which usually end up on emusic.

Catch the show without getting out of your Armchair.

HOOD INTERNET: Awesome website that does mash ups of Hip-Hop and Indie Rock

The hilarious first episode is available on their MySpace page.'re so hot you could be a part time waitress, but you should probably keep your day job.

We'll talk soon....

Monday, May 21, 2007

Save Net Radio

Discovering new music has become an essential to my life as much as finding food to eat and shelter for which to sleep. I stay in constant connection with others who share a passion for the new and inspiring. Constantly swapping names, venues and means to obtain I do all I can to find the next sound, hence this Blog. Despite the few treasures that one can stumble upon in record stores or in a live performance, the most prolific means to feed the beast is the Internet. Be it band sites, fan sites, music swapping forums, blogs etc., the Internet has become the new King of the jungle in the music world and the old Lion fears the evolution.

A few years back I came across the Music Genome Project. Ever sense this discovery I have not only become an avid fan of the project itself I have also been introduced to numerous bands that are now among my most listened. I have been an advocate of Pandora and Internet radio ever sense.

With new legislation in the works, Internet Radio is about to change forever, and do so for the worse. Forced reallocation of funds to rights owners, music labels etc., the hourly rate Internet radio was once charged will soon become a per song expense, literally pricing all but the deep pocket stations off the web.

This occurred a few years back on your FM radio and the result was Clear Channel, a monster that legalized a black form of payola to manipulate what you are to hear on the radio not based on listenership, fans, critics but rather the almighty dollar.

You may be OK with hearing the same 10 songs on loop when you turn on your radio and it may not bother you that corporate America is censoring radio talk show hosts one after another, but I and a growing number of others are not only outraged we fear the direction of governmental control over what we are allowed to hear and who is allowed to present it to us.

Internet Radio listener or not, this has potential to impact us all. Do your part or in the years to come the Internet will grow closer and closer to parent company owned media such as cable TV and FM radio…which means we lose.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Lips Take Over OK Zoo, MMJ to reissue, Man Man on the Tube and Beastie's Compute

The Flaming Lips are getting set for their July 10th release of U.F.O.s at the Zoo: The Legendary Concert in Oklahoma City which appears to be a kick ass show. Clips have begun to leak out so I thought I'd get hold of one and share the Fearless Freaks in action.

Here's a little ditty called She Don't Use Jelly...

I tell ya, that drummer is still just incendiary.

Here's a solid clip of Man Man doing that thing they do:

My Morning Jacket frontman, Jim James, is set to release material from his original project Mont du Sundua after years of sitting on the shelf. Haven't found any reviews yet but I'm sure it will have plenty of James' signature epochal and crushing vocals. Click the creepy face for more details.
Take a hard listen here.

Here's the Jacket with the Boston Pops on Letterman...

New single from Interpol 'The Heinrich Maneuver'

New Single from Beastie Boys The Rat Cage

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

These Humans Are Gettin' Giant

What do you get when you let three of the hottest comics on the tube take over your network for a day? I've no idea, but I can't wait to find out.

Human Giant, the once underground Internet comedic sensation has hit it big with it's MTV sketch comedy show and things are getting even bigger for the cult trio. How big you ask? Big enough for MTV execs to step aside and let them dominate the music channel that doesn't have anything to do with music for a day, as well as its gingerkid MTV2.

Normally I couldn't care less what MTV has to offer me, but this has DVR written all over it. A day full of programming of their liking including their show, any MTV show past and present, live performances in Times Square from bands like Tapes 'n Tapes and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and guaranteed overall hilarity is worth checking out.
Read More about the complete control of the least for the 15yr. olds who watch.


Come get ya some more.

Monday, May 14, 2007

New Bern Blues

After a wild weekend of arguing with renta-cops, eating crawfish in a parking lot while the bride and groom's parents do keg stands, struggling through a never ending wedding ceremony and discussing the lighter points of Ohioian leg joints* and mother's milk my thought process is at an all time low. It's been a few days since my last post and until this fog in my head lifts new material is going to be sparse. Here's a collection of audio and video clips to fill the void as I try to figure out my bar tab from The Great Escape.

This is the only song that did not give me a headache as I collapsed on my bed last night.
While You Were Sleeping - Elvis Perkins, from Ashe Wednesday

My favorite video I've seen this year: Ankle Injuries*, Fujiya and Miyagi

Mexician duo, Rodrigo y Gabriela with a simmering performance of Tamacun:

The Only band with more with more hair than My Morning Jacket;
VietNam with Priest, Poet and the Pig

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

With Love in the Air, Man Man & Modest Mouse Make Magically Magnificent Music


It’s a satisfying feeling when the unexpected gives you an experience that reaffirms why you do what you do. Hours prior to this conclusion that same unexpectedness filled me with a great deal of apprehension and a certain expectancy of disappointment. I set content and chock-full as I downed my last hush puppy. To be honest I had been flirting with about as much anticipation for the meal I had just swallowed as I had for the concert I was about attend.

As we stood in the will call line negotiating the transfer of tickets I feared for the worst. We were surrounded by a sea of MTV2 watching, I borrowed my mom’s car, Noxema using teens, and most of them had had far more to drink than I. It was a sobering feeling.

Pete Townsend had it wrong, The Kids Aren’t Alright.

Upon entering the complex I was washed over by a wave of sad realization. Bleak concrete slab floor painfully echoing the searing guitars of Love as they ricocheted off the gymnasium bleachers filled with teens anxious to hear Float On for the nth time. It appeared the ghosts of my Modest Mouse trip to Raleigh of two summers ago were back to haunt. I despise all age shows, and its got nothing to do with old folks. One upside to going to a concert with people who can’t vote is the beer line. With an $8 Budweiser in hand I journeyed stage left and took in the remaining few songs of the first opening act.

Something about the sound of this band is both familiar and simplistic while still being exploratory. A novice with this group I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I heard was more than satisfactory and with about $5 worth of Bud in me, my spirits were starting to rise.

Love is an interesting mix of fuzzed wailing guitars layered over and over, rolling percussions sneaking in and out of these layers and a topping of vocals composed of stolen bits from numerous late grunge acts. All together resembling an easily listenable yet harrowing mantra of garage rock. In a lot of ways, Love is like Explosions in the Sky drunk on pop songs and Lou Reed. But, as we all know Love is confusing and often difficult to get your hands around. When we try too hard to understand it people can get hurt. Less the sting of bad Love, it’s the thrill of the chase that keeps you coming back.

Sam Jayne (lead man and former Beck accomplice) nailed the feeling in the room for their set when he sneered, “I feel like I’m at a High School battle of the bands. But I guess you don’t find that funny, seeing as you are all in High School.”

I was drinking down what he was pouring out and in full support of the band I laughed aloud belittling the teens with my five o’clock shadow and over a quarter of a century of life experiences. All in all a solid opening for the opener set. I am certainly going to illegally download some more of their stuff.

A quick $8 and I was ready for the overwhelming surprise of the night.

Tribal face paint, bleached white short shorts and a jet-black mullet formed as a warrior Indian headdress; quirky and bizarre? Yes and yes. Unsuited for the music? Not a chance.

Electricity shot out from the stage and shocked the crowd into a fever of the unnatural and unparalleled as the Mucho Machismo of Man Man swaggered their way into a whirlwind set.

Crowded on top of one another the drunken soirée of multi instrumentalists moved steadfast into a rumbling boil smorgasbord of Eastern European, Zydeco, ska, sultry cabaret with a hint of original Nintendo and little Frank Zappa to boot. The raw energy and bouncing freak show brought the instantly engrossed crowd into a world of stretched musical limits and wonderment. As soon as the vivaciousness of the opening track trailed off this collection of primates and pirates ripped right into an even more up-tempo composition. Murmurs and smiles broke out amongst the witnesses. “Who are these guys?” The answer: the best opening band ever.
Eye to bloodshot eye, the keyboards seemed to balance atop the drum set as it shook the Xylophones, which kept the bass from tumbling into the horns as their blasts managed to keep the teetering pile of blocks, guitars and myriad of percussion on the edge of insanity. Belting hard onto the skins of a drum drenched in water the subsequent splashes rained down on the wild haired, leg kicking, deep singing, white dressed ensemble. Their aggressively tipsy sound swayed back and forth certain to come crashing down at any moment, yet clawing its way right back up. It was going to take one Hell of a show from Issac, Marr & Co. to tackle this beast.

As I darted off to blow another $8 I realized plowing my way through pimple faced punks was well worth the show that was unfolding before me.

'They're shakin hands, they're shakin in their shoes Oh Lord, don't shake me down'

When the realization of Paper Thin Walls from 3 albums ago as the opening song hit me I knew this night was the gift that keeps on giving.

The exuberance, growl and perfected imperfections of the sound on the studio albums came to full fruition on stage. Perhaps its that Issac Brock (lead vocals, rhythm guitar and mandolin) is no longer addicted to drugs or maybe it was the new found energy and hope brought by legendary ax man Johnny Marr (The Smiths, Talking Heads, The The etc.), either way this band has grown into itself, and the fit is tailor-made. Two years previous the band seemed disjointed, unfocused and perhaps exhausted from the newfound success of Good News. This time around the hit singles and chart-topping album were old fiddle and the interest was back to the basics of the live performance.

'Does anybody know a way that a body could get away? Does anybody know a way?'

Marr was impressive, yet like his work on We Were Dead, his presence is subtle but crucial. To have embodied much of what was at a time one of England’s most prolific bands had (The Smiths), then to walk away from Morrissey to find his own calling, it seemed odd that he would have found his way to Modest Mouse. That is until you see them together.
Marr had no qualms playing second man, filling in on backup vocals and letting his guitar do its own leading. With some help from Marr, Peloso and lead strummer from Love, Mouse didn’t skip a beat without bass man Judy. The band looked well practiced and tight but they still sounded loose enough to keep you guessing when a new twist may come. Marr belted out two scorching solos and Brock followed suit in the jam session feel during Tiny Cities Made of Ashes as he brought the guitar to his mouth and like fellow Seattle legend Hendrix, spoke into the chords and plucked away with his teeth filling the room with a crunching feedback and robot like vocals.

To my delight the catalog covered was diverse and dug deeper than I felt it would. Hits like Ocean Breathes Salty, Float On and Dashboard came early, as if to get them out of the way and get to the business of working the new material out. They did give us a few treats along the way to keep the old dogs happy. Standouts included Florida, Education, Devils Workday, Fly Trapped in a Jar and Bury Me With It. All of which benefited from dual mics used by Brock adding a depth to his vocals and transition from his melody to his snarl.

Although the kids were rowdy, crowd surfing and throwing shoes on stage I must say I was hip to how privy they were to older and more obscure material. It seems time in the limelight has not forced the Mouse to play for the crowd of the moment, but rather the band’s exposure has introduced a new generation of listeners to explore the songs that got them to where they are today. That’s an amazing feat and a true homage to the quality of work this band has put out over the years.

“I’ve been down there before, but I’ve always managed to come away with my shoes,” Brock lectured as he returned footwear to a fan. Simple enough, but taken out of context it can say a lot about Brock himself. The dark, depressing lyrics of later year when he was lost in a sea of booze, drugs and self pity have found new waters and his ship seems to be sailing high, but he won’t soon forget the tide that lead the way.

The closure to the night came as Brock pulled anchor and finished with the drug anthem of Dramamine off 1996’s This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About, truly captaining the ship about face into rougher sea.

When the band walked off stage and all that was left were the swaying nautical lamps that dimly illuminated the unmanned instruments it was clear that nothing about the night had been Modest at all.

‘It was always worth it That's the part I seem to hide And the busy ant empire Put all your clothes inside’

Monday, May 7, 2007

Note Taken...Kinda

Well there ended up being quite a bit of response on the Essential 12 list so I’ll tackle that first.

Aside from one reader noting a spelling error on number 10 and another arguing that Emo and Industrial cannot both be used in reference to NIN, there were some interesting points raised. I have to agree that the true term Emo, does not apply to NIN, as Emo is for bands like the Cure. But just like Indie, the term has grown broad and vague in use.

Points of note included a dislike of Public Enemy making the list, and finding a better Phish song. I stand by both, for the most part. I am not a fan of Public Enemy and I think Fee is a relatively weak song. I do feel both served their purpose. Personally I don’t care for rap, I’m more of a true hip-hop fan and would rather have A Tribe Called Quest on the list. Their exclusion came only due to my difficulty in finding a defining song for them. Fee was an early success for Phish on a double album for a relatively unknown band. Aside from Dead fans and some college kids in New England most had never heard this new generation of Jam and for better or worse, Fee got the same kids buying Dave Matthews and Hootie CD’s to notice the Vermont crew. From there bands like Widespread became more accessible.

There was also a mention for PM Dawn, which interesting in and of itself, doesn’t make my list.

Some that missed the mark and came highly suggested:
LongviewGreen Day
Summer Babe
Push ItTLC
Block Rockin’ BeatsChemical Brothers
Enter Sandman
I Got DrunkUncle Tupelo
Each of these raises an interesting discussion about their respective impact on music.

TLC lead the way for numerous R&B girl groups, but they did roll off the success of Salt ‘N Peppa, so it’s tough to tag them as essential.

Longview, Summer Babe and Loser are amazing songs and launched big careers, but for each of these there was a Rancid, REM and Flaming Lips with a hit that came first to introduce or reintroduce the genre.

I Got Drunk is considered by many to be the defining birth of Alt Country and spawned no end of good bands from Wilco to Ryan Adams. A worthy suggestion.

Block Rockin’ Beats is the first big Techno single in the US and in retrospect should be on the list. Perhaps swap with Public Enemy.

Enter Sandman, although one of the biggest rock songs of all time and certainly a staple of this era certainly was not groundbreaking. Power rock songs and awesome Metallica songs had been around for a while by this point.

Crazy, one of my more hated songs, did have massive implications on the radio for years to come. Not only did Aerosmith subject us to about 12 more songs that sounded just like this, it spawned an influx of crap sappy love songs from once worthwhile rock bands.

I enjoyed the interest this sparked and will continue this side story leading up to modern day music, notably the Indie rock scene.

Keep the feedback coming and don’t be afraid to post a comment for others to see. The comments are always at the end of the post; just click the link and type away.

Friday’s Modest Mouse gig to be reviewed soon.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

We are a generation defined by cable TV and Internet; these are our anthems

I thought I would take this post to jump on the bandwagon of ‘Greatest Ever’ and ‘Top’ lists to bring readers up to speed on the music I cover. But before we can jump into the world of today’s newest music we must fully appreciate that which came before it. With that in mind I give you the 12 Essential songs of our generation: (Era mid 80’s to mid 90’s)

1. Smells Like Teen SpiritNirvana
It may be the most cliché song to discuss, but it’s impossible to deny. Teen Spirit is a defining cry of a generation with a lost identity. Immersed in a world with more immediate access to any and everything all at once than any generation had ever known and our complete and udder complacency towards this spawned the angst of this song. “Here we are now, entertain us.”

Made it safe for: Grunge, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, SUBPOP and the second coming of punk

2. Nuthin’ but a “G” ThangDr. Dre
Until this song white/middle America pictured Hip Hop in terms of RUN-DMC, gold chains and jumpsuits. Dre brought the hardships and the game of the streets to virgin ears and soon the overwhelming success and backlash of the Rap Culture would be headline news. Violence, obscenities, racism, sexism, drugs and poverty had found a new form of expression and the music world is forever changed.

Made it safe for: Gansta Rap, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Kanye, Jay Z etc.

3. Paradise CityGuns ‘n Roses
From Slash’s first lick to Axl’s final yelp it was obvious Rock had been saved. Heard everywhere from nightclubs and biker bars, to rebellious teen’s rooms, late night parties, football stadiums, classic rock stations etc. etc. this song is inescapable.

In one fell swoop, GNR said ‘Fuck You’ to make-up wearing rock bands and at the same time made it OK for heavy metal have real thought.

Made it safe for: Every worthwhile rock band since as well as all the awful ones

4. Hangin’ Tough - New Kids on the Block
To avoid the boy bands would only be dishonest to our generation, embarrassing or not. The onslaught of N’Sync’s and Britney Spears' that would come of this are countless yet unrelenting. NKOTB made record producers realize that bands could be assembled, bought and sold; making millions in the process.

Made it safe for: Kids who can dance, American Idol and some worthwhile performers like JT, Usher and Beyonce

5. Friends in Low Places - Garth Brooks
One drunken sing along and soon every red blooded American had cause to make Country one of the most important and profitable genres in music.

Garth Brooks made country acts into rock stars; packing arenas and selling millions of albums to music listeners across the spectrum, not just folks in cowboy hats.

Made it safe for: Modern Country music, Billy Ray Cyrus, Toby Keith etc.

6. It’s the End of the World as we Know it (and I feel fine)REM
Brought underground college indie rock to the public consciousness and made every garage band in America take their hobby and little more seriously.

Made it safe for: College rock/Indie rock, Pavement, Sonic Youth, Pixies and every indie band that has followed

7. Been Caught Stealin’ - Jane’s Addiction
Funky perverted freaks finally make it big. Song breaks new ground, band pays back success and starts a cultural phenomenon and music launch pad with Lollapalooza.

Made it safe for: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Primus, Beck, Flaming Lips, Smashing Pumpkins, etc.

8. Fight the PowerPublic Enemy
While Dre helped to bring rise to gansta rap, these fearless men brought rise to rap with a cause and some power. This song single handedly brought about the Parental Advisory label and inspired a new nation of black youths to fight for equality.

Made it safe for: NWA, Tupac, Wu-Tang Clan, Cypress Hill, Oynx, Rage Against the Machine etc.

9. Head Like a HoleNine Inch Nails
Now the voiceless angry teens have their Emo dark leader. This song introduced us to Industrial rock and made it cool to wear black and play guitar with techno.

Made it safe for: Hating your parents, Tool, Marylin Manson, Korn, Limp Bizkit etc.

10. Fight For Your Right (To Party)Beastie Boys
America already knew what hip hop was, but they didn’t know white jewish boys could do it, and they certainly didn’t know they could do it with a guitar riff. This college/frat anthem did more than become a party song, it started a hip hop~rock coexistence.

Made it safe for: Rock/Rap stretching boundaries, A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, 311 etc.

11. Fake Plastic Trees - Radiohead
The first single from the bands second album marked the return of the Brits in American rock. The song proved the band was no one hit wonder and forced listeners to try new sounds, arrangements and direction to what rock was classified as.

Made it safe for: Oasis, Travis, Coldplay, Arcade Fire, bands that take a risk etc.

12. FeePhish
After Garcia passed the jam band world found new life in Phish and the American music scene would discover cult fans once again. Considered the ‘gateway’ song for many, this opened the doors to a whole new generation.

Made it safe for: String Cheese Incident, moe., American Festivals and every band that has been tagged as a Jam band