Friday, September 29, 2006

Upcoming Rounder Relases: Robert Plant, Cowboy Junkies, Nancy Griffith

Rounder Records/Zoë Vision is set to release the first-ever music DVD from Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant on October 24th. The set includes Led Zeppelin classics and tunes from Plant's solo career, including "Freedom Fries," which has a political twist. "The spirit of rock'n'roll is live performance," says Plant. "Studio recordings can be captivating, and live albums can capture some of the synergy in a concert, but there is really nothing like being in the moment when the music is connecting you to the people-it's truly a communion."

The Cowboy Junkies have also announced a slate of new offerings. The same day as Plant's release, Rounder will also release the Cowboy Junkies Long Jouney Home CD/DVD collection recorded live from Liverpool. The band has new tour dates and there is an Art book coming out based on Michael Timmins' lyrics with a special performance on October 7 in Santa Monica. The Junkies also announced that they will celebrate their 20th anniversary next year with a new studio CD along with a new DVD performance at the church where the amazing Trinity Session record was recorded.

In November, Rounder is releasing new material from Grammy winner and songwriter extraordinaire Nancy Griffith. Her Ruby's Torch will include new originals and some cover songs, including Tom Waits' "Grapefruit Moon," "Ruby's Arms," and "Please Call Me, Baby."

Jet Forced to Cancel Philly and Tornto Shows

JetJet, through their record label, announced they have to cancel two upcoming shows as lead singer Nic Cester has acute laryngitis. Atlantic Records says doctors have ordered Cester to rest for four to five days.

The cancelled dates are in Philadelphia tomorrow, September 29th, as well as Toronto on Sunday, October 1st. The hope is to reschedule the shows for sometime in November. Jet's tour is planned to resume Tuesday, October 3rd in Los Angeles, where the band is scheduled to perform on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

The label also released a statement from the band:

"In Australia, we say, 'I am absolutely gutted', when the gravity of the situation is overwhelming. After all the work we've done on Shine On and on making this tour something special, all of us are very disappointed with the news of Nic's laryngitis. Canceling shows is not something we take lightly at all. We had to make the tough decision this afternoon to cancel shows in both Philadelphia and Toronto-two cities we have played and loved playing in on numerous occasions. We promise to make these shows up as soon as Nic is recovered and we're back on the East Coast. Once again, our sincerest apologies to all of our fans. When we return, it will of course be with a vengeance."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Pirate Looks At New York City: Jimmy Buffett At Madison Square Garden

maybe it is her fault after allBy: David Schultz

Whether through song or in print, Jimmy Buffett has been entertaining audiences for years with his picaresque adventures of sailing, drinking and general joie de vivre. Although Buffett hit his commercial peak in the late seventies, his effect on the collective psyche of the fun-loving, beachcombing set who find portions of Herman Wouk's Don't Stop The Carnival to be inspired career advice has endured to the point where Parrotheads exist in nearly every corner of the world. Buffett rarely leaves his devoted followers wanting: for the last couple decades, Buffett has taken his Coral Reefer Band on regular tours of the country's amphitheaters. He's released a steady stream of new material but his appeal remains in the party scene that has developed around his concerts; though immensely popular, it's been years since Buffett was relevant. In light of the fact that Buffett hasn't had anything remotely close to a hit song or album in years, his decision to play New York City's Madison Square Garden seemed questionable. Once the show sold out in a matter of hours, it qualified as a stroke of genius.

Many city dwellers find release and respite in Buffett's music and lifestyle, he sings of a way of life unsupportable in any asphalt jungle. As the embodiment of a Life Of Riley, it really shouldn't be surprising that Buffett's captured the imagination of concert goers both young and old. As evidenced by the many parents who brought their children to the show, Buffett's music transcends generations and has become something parents can share with their offspring. Buffett took notice of the varying ages amidst the crowd, playfully changing "Why Don't We Get Drunk And Screw," to "Why Don't We Drink Milk And Moo" so that parents wouldn't have to answer any embarrassing questions later. Playing barefoot, wearing a decidedly non-Metropolitan T-shirt and Bermudas, Key West's favorite son turned a rainy New York evening into a beach party. In between classics like "Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes" and "One Particular Harbour," Buffett worked in songs off his upcoming Take The Weather With You as well as some well-chosen covers. Without leaving the crowd waiting too long for the classics they came for, Buffett deftly inserted his newer material like "Everybody's On The Phone," "Party At The End Of The World" and "Bama Breeze."

With the Garden crowd singing along with every word, Buffett offered finely honed versions of "Cheeseburger In Paradise" and "Margaritaville" as well as the limbo classic "Volcano." Buffett's rapport with the audience is that of an old friend, he talks to the assembled crowd as a kindred spirit; an assumption that largely rings true to respective differing extents. Other than the joy of seeing Jimmy Buffett play a number of songs you know by heart, a thrill that seems to vary from person to person, there's not much to recommend about the show. Anyone who isn't a fan might have enjoyed the covers of "Werewolves Of London," "Southern Cross" and "Brown-Eyed Girl" but otherwise would have been mildly bemused and possibly a bit turned off by the Parrotheads. There are moments throughout the evening where the uninitiated will feel as if they entered a private club meeting and are missing the code words and secret handshakes. As there aren't many other occasions in Manhattan where a tacky Hawaiian shirt and grass hula skirt makes for a fashionably acceptable wardrobe, the local Parrotheads dressed themselves to the nines.

From a superficial analysis of Buffett's songs, he could easily be framed as the poster boy for immature irresponsibility. The sun and tequila drenched sagas had the audience singing and dancing and provided the high points of the show but Buffett's mediations on aging gave the show its heart. Most of Buffett's fans find him by their college years, relishing in the fun in the sun images of his music. However, Buffet has a reflective side. Even though most fans have sung "Son Of A Son Of A Sailor" and "A Pirate Looks At Forty" since high school, his words resound more weightily through the years. Buffett's heartfelt rendering of the songs at the Garden showed the depth of his uncomplicated lyrics and the world-weary experienced soul that has made him a successful songwriter and author. Without question, Jimmy Buffett isn't for everyone. Fortunately, those who do get him aren't starving for the company of those who don't.

U-Melt To Celebrate The I's Mind Release On September 30 At The Knitting Factory

U-MeltAfter a summer spent on the road, U-Melt will reward themselves on Saturday night, September 30 with a well deserved party at New York City's Knitting Factory to celebrate the official release of their second studio album The I's Mind. Recorded earlier this summer in Cincinnati, OH, the new album accomplishes the seemingly impossible task of capturing U-Melt's wildly inventive and free roaming style. Once The I's Mind is released, guitarist Rob Salzer, keyboardist Zac Lasher, bassist Adam Bendy and drummer George Miller will go right back on the road as headliners to promote the new album.

For anyone in the Tri-State area, the U-Melt show will surely be one of the highlights of the fall concert season, pick up you tickets here.

For a preview of the album, take a listen to the undeniably funky opening track "Air"

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Final Days of CBGB: Believe The Hype

In announcing the close of CBGB, Hilly Kristal intimated that he would attempt to make CBGB's final shows worthy of the club's storied history. Unlike many boasts, this one seems to have some merit. With Fishbone (September 28) and Sick Of It All (October 8) already on the schedule, the influential rasta-punk band Bad Brains will reunite for a pair of performances at the club on October 9 and October 10. The reformed band will include all the original members, including lead singer H.R.

In addition to Bad Brains, it appears that Patti Smith will also return to the Lower East Side on October 15. Fresh off her stint raising eyebrows at the Lollapalooza kiddie stage, the outspoken singer will surely be at home at CBGB. Unless further dates are announced, Smith's "Ides of October" show will be the last to take place at the iconic punk rock oasis.

The Killers Give Radiohead Songwriting Advice?

yeah, I really am a dickApparently no one has told Brandon Flowers that Radiohead is one of the best bands in the world and have gotten to that pinnacle by doing things their own way. Flowers thinks they should deviate from their artistic desires and write more "pop" songs. He's reported as saying "He should feel grateful that he's been given the gift to write pop songs - which he needs to write again."

I sent that quote to a couple of friends who are devout Radiohead fans. Both reactions probably sum up the feelings of the Radiohead fans as a whole. When asked if he heard the quote, my buddy from Ireland, in typical Dublin frankness said "Yeah. What a dick." A friend from DC similarly nailed the absurdity of the quote: "I like Radiohead's earlier stuff more than their later stuff, but Radiohead the band needs to write whatever songs gets their creative juices flowing. Any attempt to write for other people will turn them into The Killers." Well said on both counts.

Flowers can only dream of doing anything remotely close to Radiohead's body of work.

Pinebender Preview

Chicago's Pinebender is set to release their second disc for Lovitt Records this fall, called Working Nine To Wolf. The band has gone through a bit of a line-up change, but regrouped to record the new record in Chicago with Greg Norman. They reportedly crammed in the recording over two days in March at Electrical Audio and another three days in April at Studio Greg Studio in Chicago. That is some serious studio efficiency! You can hear how things turned out and catch a preview by downloading "Polly Gray."

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

MySpace Find: Siberian

Siberian: Rinjo likes us, so we must be cool!by Rinjo Njori

In an indie rock scene that is slowly being hijacked by the likes of Devendra Banhart's hoboism, Joanna Newsom's harp, Sufjan Steven's butterfly wings, and the Mountain Goats' revisionist take on the Violent Femmes, there is nothing more exciting then knowing a band like Seattle's Siberian merely exists. Siberian, consciously or unconsciously, is keeping the "rock" in indie rock alive. Pitchfork purists may say that Siberian's "Radiohead meets Muse meets Sunny Day Real Estate (with a hint of U2)" brand of rock is "alternative" rock, not indie rock. Ten short years ago alternative rock was also known as "indie rock" because these kinds of bands were on indie Labels or no labels at all. Now, the term is being forcibly morphed into a genre taken over by major label imprints.

The opening instrumental "Drive Safely" almost screams Sunny Day Real Estate, but it's a great jumping off point before they put together a perfect blend of Pablo Honey-era Radiohead and Absolution-era Muse. Nate Mendel's, Sunny Day Real Estate, influence is front and center in Zach Tillman's bass line. For once it's nice to here this hypnotic bass outside the traditional emo paradigm. "Any Day Now" similarly conveys the Sunny Day Real Estate comparisons. The chorus though gives the overall song a completely different feel. Which almost makes it work. "Paper Birds" is a perfect example of fusing the two biggest influences on Siberian. The rising intro and tight rhythm guitar recall Radiohead in their infancy. Finn Parnell harmonizes just like Matthew Bellamy and has perfected Thom Yorke's vocal inflections (warble here, borderline monotone there). That hint of U2 shows itself on "Talk to the Moon", if only for a second and highlights Parnell's and Colin Walbrug's excellent guitar work. "Georg Bendeeman" which closes out the album appears to be Finn Parnell and his acoustic guitar. The feed back that accompanies the guitar comes off too much like a prop, but you can't help feeling that without this "sound" the song is only half as good. Overall, Siberian needs a little more muscle, there songs are a little too deliberate in places. Hopefully, this will come with a little more experience.

This year we have seen Muse release a "ridiculously" perfect album Black Holes and Revelations (robbed of the Mercury award), Radiohead sprang back to prominence (Thom Yorke got the solo thing out of his system) and the Pitchfork Media faithful show no signs of ceasing their campaign to emasculate indie rock (though there positive review of Mastodon's Blood Mountain is a step in the right direction.) Why should Siberian matter? This self produced and self released album is very good and just short of really, really good. The fact that they put this together presumably by themselves provides a glimmer of hope for a return of "real" indie rock.


by Kirk James Folk

I survived the 80's, and am not really nostalgic for their return. I played and toured in an all original hard rock band, managed a rock club which I also lived above, d.j.'d for strippers, and in general lived the sex, drugs and rock'n'roll lifestyle. When "grunge" drove the stake into the heart of the "hair-band" era, I breathed a secret Jack Daniels' scented sigh of relief. I'm convinced that if I had to listen to one more song with solo upon solo of guitar diarrhea, and porpoise noises that passed as vocals, I would have jumped off a cliff, (or at least a stage with no mosh pit). So when I received a copy of Queensryche's Q2K for review, my first question was: Why?

I was a Queensyche fan. They were a band that wasn't for everyone. Even when "Empire" sold 800 billion copies, they still weren't a band for everyone. They didn't write songs about partying, or having sex, or partying while having sex. They wrote songs about isolation, paranoia, political terrorism through subliminal and physical manipulation, and well, come to think of it, they had a helluva lot of angst. And they're from Seattle. Maybe they really WERE the first "grunge" band.

Anyway...this was all done with an impeccably tight and tasteful rhythm section, two lead guitarists who both played with melody and precision, and what sounded like one mind, and a lead shriek who not only could sing his balls off, he could sing yours off too! Even though they weren't really a "metal" or a "hair band" per se, somewhere along the way (and I saw the band perform Operation Mindcrime at least three times, plus owned the concert video) I lost interest.

Which brings me back to "Q2K". This is a re-issue from 2000. I didn't hear this album in 2000. I'm listening to it now. But again, I ask "Why"?

At least that was my impression on the first listen. I really felt like this was just a blast from the past, and it didn't hold my interest. I listened to it again while I was painting my hallway. I liked it much better the second time. And I realize that I had re-programmed myself into their mind-set, and that period when I would really LISTEN to this kind of stuff. Now, as I write, with the c.d. playing behind me, I am really enjoying the time-trip into an era of great rock musicianship. By reading the liner notes by singer Geoff Tate, I discovered that this was a desperate time, where founding member and key songwriter/guitarist Chris DeGarmo had just left the band, and their comfortable world was falling all around them. He doesn't mention that their particular brand of rock was dead as a doornail, but I have to guess that that was a huge part of the unease and self-introspection which informs this recording.

So just let me say: If this style of music is not your cup of tea - this album is NOT for you. Of course you probably won't be reading this if it isn't your thang. If it is: This is actually a damn fine album from a veteran band who hasn't tried to change or alter their image/music to please an ever-evolving and fickle marketplace. They have stuck to their vision, and in light of their hardships at the time of its' recording, it is even more impressive how well they succeeded. There seem to be a few digs at DeGarmo, and unless I'm reading too literally into the lyrics, it sounds like Geoff Tate had some sort of mental breakdown during or prior to the recording. But regardless of the circumstances involved in its' inception, this album has grown on me, and it's no knockoff. This is Queensryche. And, it includes some really nice touches like "One Life", and "Beside You", which actually speak about -gasp!!!!- love! Also there are four bonus tracks not included on the original 2000 release: "Until There Was You", "Howl", a live version of "Sacred Ground", and the radio edit of "Breakdown".

Soooo, in summary: Rock isn't dead, it's just being re-issued. Geoff Tate sings better than you, and some bands actually bother to learn how to play their instruments. Now, about that Operation: Mindcrime sequel...

The Scourge of the Sea

we like our name tooFirst of all, I like the name of this band. Not as cool as "Be Your Own Pet" or "Gym Class Heroes," but creative nonetheless. They could have simply been another "The..." band, and with so many of those doing well these days you could hardly fault them if they had. Beyond the name, and obviously more importantly, The Scourge of the Sea create some well crafted pop songs.

Their debut full length record for Alias Records, Make Me Armoured, is out now and you can catch some preview tracks here. Take a listen to: "Out Of The Trash," "Waterwings" and "Smitten Kitten."

Beyond the new record, the band is on their first national tour. Dates are here.

U2 Fans Steamed Over eBay Book Sales

damn eBay wankersU2's new coffee table book - "U2 by U2" - has hit stores and last Friday the lads showed up for a bookstore signing. Some fans who got shut out from meeting the band in person, are upset that some who did make it in were simply there for the autograph's financial value. Autographed copies of the books showed up on eBay very shortly after the event.

In the past, the band has taken measures to limit concert ticket scalpers. However, this time a few memorabilia hawks beat the system. They'll give it another go today, after their big night last night in New Orleans, when they hit the NYC Barnes and Noble @ Union Square.

A limited number of wristbands for entry will be available at Barnes and Noble's Union Square store (33 E. 17th St. between Bway and Park Ave So.) beginning around 8 AM this morning. Wristbands will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Please call the store at 212-253-0810 for additional information, and a sales rep at the store told me that around 150 people were already in line by 11:00 last night.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Go Away Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton: Don't Go Away Mad, Just Go AwayWell, you had to think something like this was coming. The OK Go Away Paris Hilton Apparatus have composed an overdue ode dedicated to the heiress everyone loves to hate. These folks are not fooling around either. They've got a new website, some spiffy t-shirts and, of course the song, all dedicated to Paris. Listen to the tune here. If I was a cynic, I'd speculate that Paris' own peeps were behind this to make even more money. But, I'm not so I'm believing this "Mr. Smith" when he says it's him who created this little diddy.

New Tori Amos Box Set

Tori AmosTori Amos is releasing a box set this week. The 5-disc boxed-set is called A Piano: The Collection and includes tracks all the way back to her 1992 debut record, Little Earthquakes. Some previously unreleased cuts are included in the 86 tracks that make up the disc.

Click here for a little "Sugar" and an alternate mix of "Playboy Mommy": QT, Real or Windows.

Little Feat Listening Party

Rhino Records is releasing The Best of Little Feat this week and are hosting a free listening party. Little Feat is one of the all time great live bands and worthy of this retrospective tribute. The set includes 17 classics, all remastered, like "Willin," "Dixie Chicken," and "Oh Atlanta." I think these guys are often over looked by rock critics and historians so it's nice to see their music being introduced to a new generation. You can preview the entire set here.

Fall Tour Updates and MP3s

we are some seriously hip indie dudes!Dirty on Purpose is out on the road in support of their North Street Records debut Hallelujah Sirens. Spin Magazine gives them four stars saying: "The full-length debut from this Brooklyn foursome is a wet dream of collegiate, aural wizardry, swinging smartly between noisy rambunctiousness and delicate bedroom pop." See their video for "No Radio" and get tour dates are here.

The Capitol Years are also set to hit the road. They'll head out in early October, timed with the October 4th release date for their new record Dance Away The Terror. That's probably not going to make Dick Cheney's playlist. TCY will spend some of the time touring with label mates National Eye and you can see a full list of dates here.

The Prids, who describes as "pure indie rock goodness" are currently on the road with Built to Spill.

The Features are another one of those Nashville area bands proving that "Music City" puts out more than just country classics. The band has an interesting story in that they reportedly were dropped by Universal for refusing to record a cover of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" for a credit card commercial. Without major label backing, they've regrouped and recorded a new EP, Contrast. You can listen to the title track here and check out their MySpace page for show dates.

Brooklyn's Asobi Seksu are in full tour swing in supprt of their sophomore record, Citrus. You can get dates and check out their new video here.

The New Cars are taking their new lineup for a fall spin. Original members Elliot Easton and Greg Hawkes, are joind by touring rock veterans Kasim Sulton
and Prarie Prince and are now fronted by Todd Rundgren. It's been nearly 2 years since any version of the band has toured. They don't hit the road until November, but tickets are already on sale. Dates are here.

Art Brut and Brooklyn's We Are Scientists are taking turns swapping headlining duties as they tour together. Art Brut will also do a handful of solo dates in October.

Seattle's Minus the Bear and Chicago's Russian Circles (currently gigging with Daughters) are going to share some dates this fall. MP3 samples here, MTB: "Hooray" and Russian Circles' "Death Rides a Horse."

The View, from Dundee, Scotland, will join the MTV Gonzo Tour in October and then hit the road for some dates with Primal Scream in November.

Detroit indie rockers Canada also have announced new dates. The good folks over at You Ain't No Picasso give them the thumbs up: "It's almost like the mothers of twenty five years ago got together and spoon-fed their sons and daughters healthy doses of Bob Dylan, Big Star, and Neil Young, and these are the people they grew up to be."

An Old Boss Finds A New Management Style: The Who at Madison Square Garden

The WhoBy: David Schultz

With nothing left to prove, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, the two surviving members of The Who could easily ride out their career resting on their laurels as one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Since their first farewell tour in 1982, The Who have showed impeccable timing in parsing out their reunion performances, mixing benefit sets at Live Aid, Live 8 and The Concert For New York City with tours in which they played Quadrophenia in its entirety or simply scratched people's collective itch to hear "Behind Blue Eyes," "Baba O'Riley" and "Pinball Wizard" one more time.

Shortly after John Entwistle's death on the eve of a world tour, Townshend and Daltrey completed the dates and intimated, as they have many times before, that they were unlikely to tour again in the absence of anything new to perform. Well, more than two decades since the release of It's Hard, their last studio album, there will be a new Who release. With new material to debut, Townshend and Daltrey are taking to the road once more as The Who, enticing fans to listen to the new by offering a few of the old. Their recently commenced North American tour came through New York City last week with a pair of shows at Madison Square Garden. Anyone wondering if The Who have slowed down in their old age, (Daltrey is 62, Townshend 61) can rest easy. Townshend still windmills with a fury and although he seems to have a little more difficulty keeping it under control, Daltrey continues to be a microphone-swinging fiend.

Even though Keith Moon and John Entwistle have passed away, Townshend and Daltrey touring as The Who doesn't ring false. Standing well out in front of a backing band consisting of Beatle descendant Zak Starkey, bassist Pino Palladino and Pete's brother Simon, Townshend and Daltrey churned out the songs upon which The Who's indomitable reputation has been built. Even though all of the jokes about The Who hoping to die before they got old have been told, it's fortunate that they never heeded their own advice. The two are a bit older, Townshend occasionally put on a set of headphones and Daltrey doesn't belt out the songs exactly like he used to, but no less entertaining. With the exception of Quadrophenia, The Who reached back into their estimable catalogue, hitting every major period: they covered their early days with "I Can't Explain," "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" and "My Generation," featuring Palladino getting his one moment to step forward; the conceptual era seventies with an extended encore of selections from Tommy and with "You Better, You Bet" and "Eminence Front" they hit their post-Moon period. Even though they have always had a predilection for a good synthesizer break, The Who never had a keyboard player as an official member of the band. Though entertaining, the prominence of the keyboard riffs on late-era songs like "Eminence Front" and "Who Are You," played this night by John "Rabbit" Bundrick, brought the reflective thought that The Who fortunately said farewell before the seemingly inevitable creation of a mid-to-late eighties synthesizer heavy "masterpiece" that would have hung on The Who's neck like an albatross.

Townshend and Daltrey's The Endless Wire, the first Who album in more than two decades comes out next month. While it's definitely refreshing that a classic rock dinosaur is offering more than high-priced nostalgia, peppering the show with new material does remove the most dependable component of any Who concert: familiarity. Far from sub par, the best way to describe Townshend and Daltrey's new Who material is that, unlike the rest of the show, the audience hasn't had three to four decades to absorb them into their interior rock circuitry. Even without Entwhistle or Moon, The Endless Wire material retains its unmistakable Who sound: "Black Widow Eyes" and "Mike Post Theme" have Townshend's distinctive guitar and Daltrey's trademarked howl and the mini-opera "Wire And Glass" recalls previous mini-suites like "A Quick One." Rather than soften the marketplace by playing unfamiliar tunes for an audience near guaranteed to buy the album anyway, a better idea would have been to tour after the album's release, building anticipation for their live performance of new material.

As opposed to their past tours, The Who aren't releasing the crowd onto the streets with a final Townshend guitar blitz. After completing "Listening To You," the backing band left the stage, Townshend retrieved an acoustic guitar, Daltrey picked up a coffee mug and the two closed the show with a new song, the sedate yet charming "Tea And Theater." The new boss may still be the old boss: they just work a little differently these days.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Earvolution Takes a Vacation

I'm off to Atlanta for the rest of the week so Earvolution will not be posting new stories until next Monday. Please come back then! Meanwhile, be sure to look around at our interview and review archives linked above in the red navigation bar. Also, be sure to visit our friends linked in the left hand column below. See you next week!

More Bricks In Roger Waters' Wall: A Floyd Fest In Manhattan

By: David Schultz

Since leaving Pink Floyd more than two decades ago, Roger Waters has expended an enormous amount of energy asserting his rights to the music and legacy of Pink Floyd, often framing David Gilmour, the guitarist who replaced Syd Barrett early on in the band's career, as the usurper to his throne. Over the course of his battles, Waters has brought his former band mates into court over the use of the Pink Floyd name; toured in direct competition with them when he lost his case and even buried the hatchet for a day to perform a "Hell Froze Over" set at the Hyde Park Live 8 show. Waters continues to mark his territory on his recent tour, playing a fulfilling 2 1/2 hour show weighty with Pink Floyd classics. Last week, Waters' tour came through New York City for two sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden.

Even though Waters has a full slate of solo material, with the exception of "Perfect Sense Parts 1 and 2" from 1992's Amused To Death, he essentially put on a Pink Floyd show featuring Dark Side Of The Moon in its entirety. The heavily publicized and much anticipated Dark Side second set did not disappoint. With a curious smoke cloud developing over the allegedly smoke free arena, Waters faithfully and flawless reproduced Floyd's landmark album almost note for note. On songs like "Brain Damage/Eclipse" and "Time" it was pure auditory candy; for "On The Run," complete with trippy video effects, it was difficult to tell what was live and what was wasn't. Giving the psychedelic masterpiece an added bit of authenticity, an extra drum kit was brought on stage and Waters made a special point of bringing out Nick Mason to join the band. Waters freely roamed the stage during the instrumental portions while his band capably handled the beloved material. Ian Ritchie replicated Dark Side's jazzy and ethereal saxophone riffs on "Money" and "Us And Them" and Dave Kilminster expertly echoed David Gilmour's ingrained guitar solos. As it's not exactly dance material, the crowd sat enraptured in their own head space, erupting at the set's close.

Smartly arranging the set list, Waters touched on Floyd's major (and minor) periods. The Wish You Were Here run through "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," "Have A Cigar" and "Wish You Were Here" were causes for delight, but the Final Cut selections dragged and seriously paled in comparison. Succumbing to the irresistible urge to start the evening with a joyous so ya . . thought ya . . . might like to go to the show," Waters wryly opened with "In The Flesh" and "Mother." He returned to The Wall for the encore, finishing the night with "Another Brick In The Wall, Part II" and "Comfortably Numb." For "Another Brick In The Wall," Waters brought out a Harlem boys choir and danced in step with them while everyone sang along to Floyd's sole chart single; the audience blithely ignoring the wisdom of singing "we don't need no education" along with a group of school children. For the devotees, Waters honored the recently departed Syd Barrett with A Saucerful Of Secret's "Set Controls For the Heart Of The Sun" and during "Sheep" unleashed Floyd's most identifiable non adobe-related icon, the inflatable pig. In addition to the glowing red eyes, Waters added a slew of anti - Bush slogans to the puffed up porcine's rump.

Waters' band kept their end of the bargain but were given very little room to stretch; the audience yearning to hear the Floyd classics they grew up listening to and not modified or improvised arrangements. Every guitarist surely dreams of headlining Madison Square Garden, having the crowd hang on every note and receiving adoring applause at the close of every solo. Waters' guitarist, Dave Kilminster, had the opportunity to live out those fantasies, adroitly duplicating David Gilmour's solos from all phases of Floyd's career. While Kilminster deserved appreciation for his guitar skills, he seemed to portray a sense of knowledge that the vigorously raucous cheers were for the absent Gilmour's work.

Waters provided a little bit more than simple nostalgia. Strongly opposed to the ongoing hostilities in the Middle East, Waters unsubtly made that point crystal clear. After introducing "Leaving Beirut" as the "controversial song of the evening," Waters related that the song derived from an experience in Lebanon where an Arab family welcomed him into their home after their car broke down. Insuring that his message wouldn't be lost, he bludgeoned the audience over the head with it: showing a graphic novel depiction of the incident he had just described with the song's lyrics superimposed over the artwork. The song, which forgoes Waters' usually sharp songcraft in favor of a jazzy, noirish 50ish doo-wop beat, lives and dies on its politics. Coming so shortly after the 5th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, the song, which takes unveiled shots at George Bush and Tony Blair, received a mixed reaction, a smattering of cheers, some noticeable boos and quite a bit of general indifference from those who don't like politics mixed with their Floyd. Waters conveyed more powerful emotion later in the show, letting the words of "Bring The Boys Back Home" making a stronger, if not more subtle point.

Waters' own war over "Which One's Pink" may engender some bruised feelings and frayed nerves amongst the musicians who could lay claim to that title. However, as long as the battles are fought on stages with guitars for swords and drums as cannon, it will be Floyd's audiences who emerge as the winners.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Beachles Persist; Brian Wilson To Create Live Pet Sounds

Pet Sounds: No Animals Were Harmed Making This RecordDue to some heavy-handed posturing by EMI, The Beachles, a middling mash-up of The Beatles' Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, are currently enjoying their 15 minutes of Internet fame. For those unaware, the record label not only demanded that the creator cease and desist disseminating the recording on his Web site, they reportedly demanded the IP addresses of everyone who downloaded the Beatles/Beach Boys pastiche.

Perhaps sensing a bit of Beach Boys Mania in the air (or more likely in conjunction with album's 40th anniversary), Brian Wilson will be playing a series of six shows (5 in the U.S./1 in London) featuring performances of Pet Sounds in its entirety. For the four East Coast shows, Wilson will be joined by former Beach Boy Al Jardine, making these their first appearances together in decades. Mike Love, the only other surviving original member of The Beach Boys, will likely sit home and fume (or lie in bed listening to a certain Bare Naked Ladies song).

The Pet Sounds performances:

Nov. 1 Los Angeles, CA: Royce Hall
Nov. 12 London: (Adelphi Theatre
Nov. 17: Boston, MA: Orpheum Theatre
Nov. 18: Washington, DC: TBA
Nov. 19: Glenside, PA: Keswick Theatre
Nov. 21: New York, NY: Beacon Theatre

Joshua Radin Joins Hotel Cafe Tour

Joshua RadinJoshua Radin is getting plenty of exposure these days. In addition to having tunes recently featured on Scrubs, Grey's Anatomy and Fox's North Shore, he has two songs featured on the The Last Kiss soundtrack courtesy of buddy Zach Braff who also directed Radin's video for "Closer." And, he's on Jimmy Kimmel tonight.

After being beamed into living rooms and theatres, Joshua is looking to make a closer connection by joining this year's version of the Hotel Cafe Tour. If it's half as good as last year's line up, you'll want to try to catch it.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Jerry Garcia "Best Of" Set for Release

Jerry GarciaIt has now been a little over 11 years since Jerry Garcia's passing. To further commemorate the remarkable body of work that is the Garcia legacy, a 2-disc career retrospective titled The Very Best of Jerry Garcia will hit stores September 26, 2006.

The compilation salutes Garcia's solo work. The set contains both studio and live tracks. Disc one focuses on the solo records released from 1972-1982. The second disc contains 76 minutes of live cuts from a range of Jerry Garcia Band lineups from 1973-1990, including a previously unreleased version of "Dear Prudence" from 1979. All tracks have been remastered in HDCD. Get a preview and listen now here.

Roger Waters Takes Aim At Bush

Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame, unleashed a scathing attack on Presidenty Bush via a flying pig. According to the Druge Report, Waters floated a message to the crowd:

ROGER WATERS [PINK FLOYD] CONCERT TOUR HITS NORTH AMERICA AND NYC WITH FLYING PIGS, URGING DEM VOTES IN ELECTION, 'IMPEACH BUSH' WRITTEN ON REAR OF PIG FLOATING OVER AUDIENCE... One concertgoer writes: 'Seeing Bush's name written across the pig's arse made me howl'... The pig had graffiti. 'New Yorkers/Don't be led to the slaughter/Vote November 7'... another attendee played off the hit 'Another Brick in the Wall': ''We don't need no thought control,' even from Mr. Waters'...

Another sends a review: 'I attended the Roger Waters 9/15 show at Jones Beach, Wantagh, NY. At one point during the show Waters juxtaposed pictures of the President, Karl Rove, Ronald Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher with pictures of Osama bin Laden, Mao Zedong, Stalin, and other world tyrants. Rogers asked whether 'these people [Arabs] are really are enemies'. This took place during his anti-Bush/Blair song 'Leaving Beirut' in which he claimed 'that Texas education must have really f*cked you up' and asked why Tony the 'US poodle/pawn' is a warmongerer'...

Hmmm, just what Americans like to hear from someone from another country. The best anyone opposing Bush can do right now is basically sit back and watch. His own words and actions are the best weapons to spur change in the U.S.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

New Goldenboy Track

GoldenboyGoldenboy is a California duo consisting frontman Shon Sullivan and drummer Bryan Bos. Sullivan is a renowned session musician and reportedly was dubbed "Goldenboy" by the legendary Elliott Smith.

The duo has a new record, Underneath the Radio, that is due out October 3rd. You can hear a preview of their new track "End of Forever" here. Look for tour dates to be announced soon as well.

These Arms Are Snakes Mp3

These Arms Are Snakes are working on their second full length record for Jade Tree. It's called Easter and hits stores September 26th. TAAS bassist/keyboardist Brian Cook says the new disc has "an underlying theme of religion, the desert, and ghosts."

Besides releasing the new record, the band is gearing up for a fall tour. Meanwhile, you can sample "Horse Girl" here.

Austin City Limits Webcast Lineup Announced

If you're like me and can't get to Austin this weekend (I'll be at the Grape Street in Philly to catch Seer), you can watch some of the top acts via webcast.

AT&T has it's Blue Room back in action and will feature exclusive performances from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, John Mayer, Muse, the Flaming Lips, Son Volt, Thievery Corporation, Ben Kweller, Los Lobos, Aimee Mann, Jack Ingram, KT Tunstall, String Cheese Incident, and more are expected to be added.

Strummers Extending Summer

Summer is basically over when schools of all levels start back up and Labor Day weekend is that last gasp of fun in the sun. But, the folks behind the Strummer Summer Festival are squeezing out one more bash.

This coming weekend in Santa Monica, no less than the Donnas, Rooney, Matthew Sweet, Susanna Hoffs, Kinky, Ronnie Day, John Doe of X, Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, Run Run Run and another two dozen or so indie rock acts will hit the stage for one last summer solstice celebration. Sounds like a good one.

U2 Teams with Rick Rubin for Next Record

U2 has been busy working on their next record with super producer Rick Rubin. The connection makes sense in that both U2 and Rubin worked with the late great Johnny Cash.

Rubin, of course, produced Cash's stellar series for American Recordings. U2's connection is that they wrote "The Wanderer" from their Zooropa record with Cash in mind. And, Cash covered U2's smash "One" with Rubin at the helm.

It'll be interesting to see what this collaboration brings. I can only expect big things and given the spectacular sounds on U2's last two records I doubt I'll be disappointed.

Speaking of collaborations, U2 is also teaming up with Green Day for a cover of seminal Scottish punk band the Skids' "The Saints Are Coming." The single will be a fundraiser for the New Orleans area and proceeds will benefit Music Rising, a relief fund The Edge helped start to aid New Orleans' musicians. U2 and Green Day are set to perform on Monday Night Football's September 25th broadcast of the first game in the Superdome since Hurricane Katrina.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Waiting For The Punch Line: Asia Invades New York City

Cartman RulesBy: David Schultz

While fans salivate over the rumors of a Replacements or Smiths reunion, fans of the eighties have received a reformation that has been clamored for with the same fervor as a Supertramp or A Flock Of Seagulls reunion. In celebration of the 25th anniversary of their self-titled album, Asia, the supergroup made up of Yes guitarist Steve Howe, Yes keyboardist Geoffrey Downes, King Crimson bassist John Wetton and ELP drummer Carl Palmer have reunited for a summer tour and possibly to record new material. Not at the forefront of anyone's attention span, the progressive rock kingpins received their most publicity and airplay in years when Judd Apatow hung (and mocked) a framed Asia poster on Andy Stitzer's wall in The 40 Year Old Virgin, featuring "Heat Of The Moment" in the movie's last reel. Since they've become an obscure reference in cleverly conceived jokes, it's easy to forget that Asia made one of prog-rock's most successful forays into the commercial mainstream, once spending nine weeks atop the Billboard album charts. This past weekend, Asia's original lineup returned to New York City for a weekend's worth of shows at Times Square's Nokia Theater

Asia's Saturday night set, which mirrored their others from the tour, consisted primarily of songs from their 1982 debut Asia and their 1983 follow-up Alpha. To the delight of the crowd, they padded the show with material from each of their considerable solo careers, even when it didn't entirely make sense. Despite advertising on their Web site that they would cover material from their other bands, they acted like the inclusion of non-Asia material should surprise the audience. Sprinkled throughout the evening were Yes' classic rock radio staple "Roundabout," Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "Fanfare For The Common Man," Downes' prophetic Buggles' classic "Video Killed The Radio Star," and for Wetton, a thunderous reading of "In The Court Of The Crimson King." The latter was a puzzling inclusion as Wetton wasn't a member of King Crimson when they recorded the song.

A quartet of progressive rockers with a relatively limited catalogue might be tempted to pad the show with interminable solos. To the contrary: with the exception of a relatively constrained Palmer drum solo, the introspective excursions were kept to a bare minimum during the two hour show. Howe, who hasn't aged nearly as gracefully as the other members of the band, can still captivate a crowd with his guitar; his unaccompanied acoustic version of Yes' "Clap" showed that he hasn't lost his skills. Palmer criminally waited until the extended drum solo in "The Heat Goes On" before utilizing the gong that delectably loomed behind him. Thankfully, Wetton didn't treat the crowd to a twenty minute bass solo and Downes, when not blinding the crowd with his neon-silver threads wisely picked and chose his spots, not overwhelming the crowd with dated but nostalgically delicious synth riffs.

Asia cannot be faulted for failing to deliver the hits: with Palmer out front playing a tambourine and Howe seated on a stool - something he did often - Asia offered a acoustic version of "Don't Cry" and flawlessly recreated "Sole Survivor," "Only Time Will Tell" and, of course, "Heat Of The Moment." Their omission of their biggest hit from their main set made their encore break one of the least suspenseful in concert history. The odds of Asia failing to play "Heat Of The Moment" rank up there with the chances that Lynyrd Skynyrd will forget to play "Free Bird." In closing the evening with it, they seemed to revel in the crowd's unabashed enjoyment of the quarter century old tune.

Some concerts aren't about being hip or catching a band before their prime. In fact, there are many shows that can be quite enjoyable once you leave your pretensions at the ticket booth and stop caring about how hard people laughed when you told them you were going to see Asia, much less knew they reunited. Getting past the fact that Asia has become a sly, comical punch line (recall Cartman's a capella performance of "Heat Of The Moment" that spurred Congress to ratify stem cell research on South Park), they still put on a show that, while slight on freshness, provided a healthy dose of synthesized progressive rock eighties fun for anyone willing to be entertained.

Rock Star: Blooper Nova

Once Rock Star: Supernova comes to an end, Tommy Lee, Jason Newsted, Gilby Clarke and the winner named on Wednesday night will have to find a new name. A San Diego Federal Court has determined that their current one has already been taken. In protecting their intellectual property rights in the "Supernova" trademark, the original Supernova, a California based trio best known for the inclusion of their "Chewbacca" song in Kevin Smith's slacker opus, Clerks, sought an injunction last June to prevent CBS and Mark Burnett Productions from using their name.

In finding in favor of the punk trio, Judge John Houston determined that "the marks are identical, the parties operate in very similar or identical markets, the Supernova [mark] is distinctive and therefore strong, and there is evidence of actual confusion in the market." Presuming irreparable harm to the original Supernova, Judge Houston found that CBS' Supernova's access to a substantial amount of monetary and promotional resources will effectively diminish, if not eliminate, the original Supernova's commercial presence in the marketplace.

The bottom line is that once the show concludes on Wednesday night, the reality show creation will have to find a new name: but then again, if a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet; a mediocre band by any other name may sadly still go platinum and sell out arenas. If there is any corporate accountability left in America, look for a number of CBS Broadcasting and MBP lawyers to be looking for work in the near future.

The Mars Volta: Amputechture

By: David Schultz

There's an old saying that "if you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes." Now, while the aphorism has been applied to many different parts of the country outside of the Northeast, it seems an inordinately appropriate expression to describe The Mars Volta. Listening to any Mars Volta album – or any Mars Volta song for that matter – if you don't like what you're hearing, just wait a few minutes (yes, some of the songs are that long), it will change into something completely different. On their latest album, Amputechture, The Mars Volta continue to hone their painstakingly crafted pastiche of metal and progressive rock, coming up with an album that reveals something new with every listen.

Essentially a wildly productive partnership between guitarist and producer Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and singer and lyricist Cedric Bixler-Zavala, The Mars Volta specialize in a lovingly created mix of neo-classical speed metal that transforms itself into prog-rock on methamphetamine. Rodriguez-Lopez creates the music; Bixler-Zavala writes the lyrics. Having created albums centered on the dreams of a failed suicide that ends up in a coma (De-Loused In The Comatorium) and on the stories contained in a deceased band mate's diary (Frances The Mute), The Mars Volta have deviated from their concept album motif on Amputechture, creating the album without an all-encompassing theme.

Musically, Amputechture results from Rodriguez-Lopez's vision: in the studio, he has in mind specifically what he wants from each instrument and meticulously brings it to life. Though capable of handling the intricate guitar riffs on his own, Rodriguez-Lopez recruited Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist and current touring partner John Frusciante to handle the lion's share of the axe work. Frequent collaborators Juan Alderte and Jon Theodore are also asked to push some songs forward: Alderte adds a loitering, menacing bass to the spacey psychedlia of "El Ciero Vulnerado;" Theodore offering gonzoish bongo-centric percussion on "Day Of The Baphomets."

The ten minute plus opuses ("Tetragrammaton," "Meccamputechture" and "Day Of The Baphomets") could possibly be separated into two or three separate songs but for the fact that the various disparate segments flow seamlessly and thematically into each other like movements in a classical symphony. Evolving from the Frank Zappa school of musical arrangements, The Mars Volta fearlessly take their songs in wildly different directions: on "Vicarious Atonement," they move through the blues and spacey, nourish jazz; on "Meccamputechture," they take frenetic but restrained keyboards into an avant-garde mélange of horns and piano before emerging on the other side to close with a pleasant keyboard melody; on "Viscera Eyes," they completely revamp Led Zeppelin's "Trampled Underfoot" with Alderte contributing a rumbling bass throughout and on "Tetragrammaton," Bixler-Zavala sandwiches a sparse guitar interlude with romps through straightforward prog-metal, singing with a voice that sounds like it's recorded in fast forward. Bixler-Zavala can do more than just howl; on "Asilos Magdalena," he croons through the acoustic Spanish troubadour song with ultimate suave charm.

The Mars Volta are clearly gifted musicians who possess a musical vision that differs significantly from your garden-variety rocker. Not many bands are confident enough to crawl to the precipice with lightning-quick, speed-metal guitars only to retreat into a jazzy, avant-garde interlude or Latino-inflected rhythms. With so much to discern in each song, it's hard to tell if The Mars Volta are to be enjoyed or whether their music should be placed on a pedestal and studied. Either way, the California based band has produced a challenging album well worth the investment of time and mental energy.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Splendor In Central Park: Ben Harper at Summerstage

Ben HarperBy: David Schultz

Ben Harper has an unquestionable skill for creating distinctly different moods with his music. On his most recent double album, Both Sides Of The Gun, Harper separated his intimate acoustic songs from his electric, band-oriented material by relegating each style to its own disc; a strategy employed to great effect on his live album Live From Mars. Absent a shuffle feature, you usually have to choose between sensitive Ben or the rocking Lenny Kravitz style Harper. On a misty, rainy evening at New York City's SummerStage, Harper played a show featuring his more soulful, groove-oriented, gospel-tinged tunes. Although he typically interjects quiet acoustic breaks into the set, Harper wisely modified his formula: the crowd unlikely wouldn't have tolerated lengthy introspective interludes while they stood unsheltered from the weather.

Backed by his usual band of suspects, the Innocent Criminals, Harper kept the show upbeat for the majority of the Tuesday night show, his first of two at Central Park's outdoor theater at Rumsey Playfield, keeping the crowd dancing by focusing on the electric disc from Both Sides Of The Gun as well as old favorites like "Burn One Down" and "Steal My Kisses." On "Forgiven" and "Faded," the evening's opener, Harper broke out his signature Weissenborn lap steel slide guitar, pairing with organist Jason Yates to offer fully fleshed out versions of the tunes. Harper reserved his serious playing for the lap steel, breaking out some Jimmy Page-like gymnastics before launching into a gritty version of "Ground On Down." Harper couldn't replicate a similar mastery while standing; his standard electric guitar work really didn't add anything special to the proceedings. When Harper played traditional guitar, guitarist Michael Ward supplied the tasty licks, allowing Harper to concentrate more on his singing. Harper possesses a considerable vocal range, able to convey tender emotion or righteous indignation whenever it's called for. On "Both Sides Of The Gun," Harper barked out the lyrics with the tone and style of an impassioned street poet.

Ben Harper Both Sides of the GunThe Innocent Criminals served as more than Harper's support: on "Steal My Kisses," bassist Juan Nelson, who looks like the human version of Aqua Teen Hunger Force's Meatwad's imaginary friend Boxy, got the opportunity to really play up the bass hook; on "Burn One Down," percussionist Leon Mobley came to the forefront to deliver an extended bongo solo that delighted the crowd as well as the rest of the band. Later, on "Black Rain" Nelson, Mobley and drummer Oliver Charles wrung every bit of seventies soul out of the number.

With the exception of the exquisitely heartbreaking ballad "Waiting For You," Harper reserved his acoustic material to a short two song set to start his first encore. Returning to the stage during a pause in the precipitation, Harper offered Fight For Your Mind's "Another Lonely Day" and "Walk Away" the only song he played from his debut album, Welcome To The Cruel World. Closing the first encore with an ardent reading of "Where Could I Go" from There Will Be A Light, Harper's album with the Blind Boys Of Alabama, Harper broke away from the microphone and frantically attempted to quiet the crowd. After battling a random smattering of yahoos who wanted to hoot and holler in the silence, Harper powerfully belted out a couple verses without amplification, hushing the crowd with his passion.

Harper's lyrics pose a bit of a paradox: on "Better Way" Harper protests, "what good is a man/who won't take a stand/what good is a cynic/with no better plan" while becoming the embodiment of the plan deficient skeptic on "Black Rain," his response to the horrifying governmental neglect in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, offering lyrics like "now you don't fight for us/but expect us to die for you/you have no sympathy for us/but still I cry for you/now you may kill the revolutionary/but the revolution you can never bury." Regardless, Harper's songs project a strong sense of positive energy: his ability to capture reggae's spirit of self empowerment on "With My Own Two Hands" infusing many of his other songs. Harper's Central Park outing provided an opportunity to consider his message and for an outdoor show the acoustics were startling clear. Sometimes it was hard to figure out if the audience was paying attention to Harper's words. On "Get It Like You Like It," Harper's reference to Johnny Damon's grand slam home run that defeated the hometown Yankees in the 2004 playoffs apparently went over the decidedly partisan New York crowd's head. As Damon currently mans centerfield for the Bronx Bombers, the mere mention of his name generated some cheers in place of the expected grumbles for bringing up an event most Yankee fans would like to forget.

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death Used to Mean SomethingHarper's pointedly politically conscious lyrics, especially on Both Sides Of The Gun, are simply deadly in their simplicity; it's as if he was born a generation too late. Oddly, the crowd seemed generally unresponsive to his activist lyrics: singing along without seeming to join in the thought, appearing to appreciate the poetry but missing the passion behind it. Then again, what did I really expect the crowd to do: stage an impromptu sit-in on Mike Bloomberg's lawn; immediately march down to Washington and overthrow George Bush, elect a Libertarian; feed a squirrel? Probable misperceptions aside, Harper seemed to get his message across during the evening's finale, the Middle Eastern flavored "Better Way," leaving the crowd with the final thought that "You have a right to your dreams/don't be denied."

Monday, September 11, 2006

We Remember

Ground ZeroThere is a blood red circle
On the cold dark ground
And the rain is falling down
The church door's thrown open
I can hear the organ's song
But the congregation's gone
My city of ruins
My city of ruins

Now the sweet bells of mercy
Drift through the evening trees
Young men on the corner
Like scattered leaves,
The boarded up windows,
The empty streets
While my brother's down on his knees
My city of ruins
My city of ruins

Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!
Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!
Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!

Now's there's tears on the pillow
Darlin' where we slept
And you took my heart when you left
Without your sweet kiss
My soul is lost, my friend
Tell me how do I begin again?
My city's in ruins
My city's in ruins

Now with these hands,
With these hands,
With these hands,
I pray Lord
With these hands,
With these hands,
I pray for the strength, Lord
With these hands,
With these hands,
I pray for the faith, Lord
We pray for your love, Lord
We pray for the lost, Lord
We pray for this world, Lord
We pray for the strength, Lord
We pray for the strength, Lord

Come on
Come on
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Free Robert Randolph Concert

Robert RandolphFor those in the LA area, get yourself over to the ABC studios now to get a good spot for a FREE special 5-7 song performance and be on national TV with Robert Randolph & The Family Band.

They will be performing "Thrill of It" on the Jimmy Kimmel (show check your local ABC station for air time). In addition to performing on the show, the band will also be playing a mini-concert on the Pontiac stage in the Jimmy Kimmel parking lot directly following the taping. For more information click here.

The Pawnshop Roses: A Band To Watch

Pawnshop RosesI first heard of the Pawnshop Roses from the great Justin Jones, and eventually made my way out to see them one night in Philadelphia and I was instantly impressed. These guys can flat out play. They don't play "hip" indie rock, just rock and there is never anything wrong with that, particularly when do it as well as these guys do. I dug the tunes enough to go out and recruit my man Anthony from Sonic Movement to record an interview with the band.

I ventured out to Whiskey Dix in Philadelphia earlier this summer to talk to the band over some Pabst Blue Ribbon specials and recorded the first ever Earvolution podcast. The great thing about podcasting is that since I'm not a "professional" there's no need to edit out my obvious shortcomings as an interviewer. This is basically us just sitting around, drinking and talking. Some of the chat is "dated" because I sat on this a bit during my attempt to get the band to let me work with them to promote their next record. More on that in a later post, but you can now download and listen to the interview here: PawnshopRosesInterview.mp3

You can see the band live tomorrow night at the famed Grape Street Pub in Manayunk (Philadelphia) and Saturday night at Milkboy Coffee in Ardmore where they will play with Justin and his band the Driving Rain. If you can't make it out, you can get a feel for the music and live show by checking out these two videos recently filmed at the Grape: "Get's So Hard" and "Fading Out."

Mp3: Fading Out (Live)

Death Cab Annouces Tour Dates

Death Cab for Cutie is following in Radiohead's recent footsteps and kicking off their fall North American tour at the Tower Theatre in Philadelphia. The band's six week tour will take them across the U.S. and into Canada, and then back to their Seattle hometown for a major show at Key Arena on December 9th. Ted Leo + Pharmacists, OK Go, and Jenny Lewis will be supporting DCFC on many dates. All dates are available on their website.

Meanwhile check out DC's video for "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" here:.

New Track from My Chemical Romance

My Chemical RomanceThe new record from My Chemical Romance, The Black Parade, isn't due out until October 24th. But, we (and everyone else given the massive promotion behind this thing) have a preview track for you. Check out "Welcome to the Black Parade" here: QuickTime / Windows Media.

Warner Brothers also does some nice marketing by taping their own interview with the band and then sending it out to sites like this one. This way, the band gets tons of extra exposure without having to subject themselves to dozens of interviews with new media outlets. Shrewd move. You can stream the video interview here.

Bob Dylan Scores Number One Record

Bob Dylan Modern TimesThe last time Bob Dylan had a record at number one the U.S. was facing a looming energy crisis at home and uncertainty abroad. Well, 30 years later history is repeating itself. Dylan's Modern Times is at number one, beating out some artists who weren't even born yet in 1976, and the U.S. is obviously facing trouble abroad and our pocketbooks are reeling from high gas prices.

Modern Times sold nearly 200,000 units its first week out. Dylan's poetic abilities are in full form and his legend status, along with what I hope is a renewed appreciation for real artistry among American consumers, is propelling record sales. And, old Bob seems to know a thing or too about modern marketing as well: like sex sells. Hence, the featuring of starlet Scarlett Johansson in the video for "When the Deal Goes Down." It is not an overtly sexual video, but anything with Scarlett in it has an undeniable sexual component. The song is great and although the word "haunting" is cliche, it is an apt description of Dylan's lyrics and delivery. Whether you agree or disagree with that assessment, one thing is for sure, Dylan's return to the top is a welcome event in these sometimes trying modern times.

Prophet Omega Tracks

Prophet OmegaJoe Magistro is the man behind the ensamble sounding Prophet Omega. Joe says he put down all these sounds himself and his effort will be released by Astralwerks (Fatboy Slim, Chemical Brothers) in a couple weeks.

"It's definitely a one-guy-with-no-life-holed-up-in-his-home-studio record," Magistro says of The Natural World. "I really locked myself away and went into my own little world. I was doing everything myself—writing, playing, recording, setting up the mikes, putting beats down. I had my computer, keyboards, bells, melodica and various different doodads in one room, and my guitar amps in my bedroom. I could roll out of bed whenever I wanted, and I could track guitars at midnight and there was no one to complain about the noise."

How does he produce the myriad sounds?

"All the beats are programmed, and there are three or four keyboard-sounding moments that are actually chopped-up audio," he explains. "But everything else is played on real instruments; all the guitars and amps were real guitars and real amps. The one area where I really used technology was that I used the computer for editing, which meant that I could sketch out an idea for a song with a rough beat and an acoustic guitar, and then cut and paste the track over that."

Joe sent over two tracks for you to check out: The Right Thing.mp3 and Get By.mp3.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Benevento/Russo Duo: A Spectacular Series of Wonderful Events

By: David Schultz

Large Photos Courtesy and Copyright of Greg Aiello.
Smaller shots, excluding cd cover, via Flickr.

If Lemony Snicket were enlisted to write the history of the Benevento/Russo Duo, he would be hesitant to name it anything other than A Series Of Fortunate Happy Accidents. Since forming, seemingly on the spur of the moment during Joe Russo's residency at New York City's Knitting Factory, the Duo have won over fans and their fellow musicians with their inventive combination of organ and drums. In the past two years the Duo have garnered the 2005 New Groove of the Year Jammy Award; embarked on several tours across the United States; released two critically acclaimed albums and, just this past summer, shared the stage with two of the jamband scene's most revered performers, Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon. With a career marked by fortuitous developments, it would be hard to say that things are going according to plan for keyboardist Marco Benevento and drummer Joe Russo since the relatively rapid pace at which they've progressed has left them little time to form one.

In the short interim between the end of their highly publicized summer tour with Anastasio and Gordon and the commencement of their own headlining tour in support of their recently released second album Play Pause Stop, Russo spoke to Earvolution during a break from a recording session in Philadelphia. Benevento found time to chat, pleasantly multitasking the interview with maintenance of his Wurlitzer electric piano. While you might imagine that two separate conversations on the same topic would provide divergent responses, both Benevento and Russo are remarkably like-minded in how they view and interpret the events that have marked their career's past, present and future. Their similar views are indicative of the wonderfully symbiotic relationship that has resulted in the creation of some of rock and roll's most startlingly innovative instrumental collaborations.

Middle school classmates in Franklin Lakes, NJ, Benevento and Russo trace the Duo's origins to New York City's Knitting Factory. The small stage and lack of material prompted the Duo to face each other, giving birth to the unique stage setup they use today. "The first time we set up, we said 'Let's face each other cause we're going to be improvising," remembers Russo. "It made sense for us to watch each other: to communicate visually and vocally at times; to be right in each other's face. It made such a great connection for us. We didn't even think about changing it. It's such a great way to play music when you're staring into the other guy's face and able to see the facial emotion and really feel what the other person's feeling."

While their studio albums have received considerable critical acclaim, it's the Duo's live performances that started people talking. The two regularly amaze mystified concert-goers who sometimes have trouble explaining exactly what it is they just saw. Benevento's and Russo's effect on their audience isn't accidental. It stems from their refusal to limit themselves to traditional roles. "We started as a band playing totally free-form jazz," says Benevento of the Duo's maturation. "We use everything to our advantage," states Russo. "Charlie Hunter, when we first met him years ago, told us, 'Just because you guys are a duo doesn't mean it just has to be organ and drums. There are two men on stage, two musicians, do whatever the fuck you want,'" recalls Russo. "That was something that spoke to the both of us at the time. It took a little bit of time for us to come full circle, but now, we're at the point of complete abandonment of our roles. We know I play the drum set and Marco plays the keyboards, but we don't confine ourselves to those roles. We want to be two guys on stage that make music, whatever the instrument is or however we do it. We just want to hear what's in our heads live and play it for people." In acknowledging the difficulty of explaining what the Duo accomplishes on stage, Benevento has a perfect solution. "You just have to come out and see it," he explains. "If you have ADD, you're going to love this show. There's so much different shit going on every second that anyone with a mind that likes to drift will have a hard time drifting at a Duo show."

This past summer, which saw the Duo hit up many of the numerous festivals that have sprouted up around the country, seems to have flown by in a blur. When asked about their experience at Warren Haynes' Mountain Jam, Russo had to rack his brain to recall the event. "It feels like so long ago," said Russo, finding humor in his struggle to remember the early June festival. "I remember having a good time there," he chuckles, marveling over how much can happen to a band in a very short time.

Old hands of the festival circuit, both Benevento and Russo expressed their thrill at playing the Fuji Rocks Festival in Niigata, Japan. Russo compared the diverse lineup of bands to that of this year's Lollapalooza festival. "It was such a refreshing vibe," he said. "It was different in almost every way possible. People there go to really enjoy the music. There's not as much of an obvious, people just want to get fucked up kind of thing. They're there, they're psyched for the music and they treat the grounds with such respect." Benevento echoes Russo's observations about the respect the Japanese crowd showed for the venue. "They recycled every bit of garbage. I was just about to throw a water bottle in the trash: they had me pull the label off the water bottle; throw the bottle in one place; the label in another place and the cap in another place. They had truckloads of chop sticks just to be recycled. There was no trash anywhere; everybody was very peaceful." Benevento also had nothing but kind things to say about the locale itself. "The scenery was gorgeous. It was really misty and humid. You would walk through the woods from stage to stage and there would be these cool art installations with laser beams shooting through the forest like a disco ball. It was very magical; a cool little hobbit world to be in."

The Duo didn't just appreciate the respect the Japanese showed for the festival; they also enjoyed the reception they received during their performance. "People there knew our music better than the people know it here," Benevento explained eagerly. "They were behind every dynamic change and behind every little thing that anybody could cheer. They made so much noise. I've never seen Joe smile on stage before; he was smiling the whole set. It was totally incredible: one of the highlights of my life to play there." Russo also enjoyed the Japanese audience's familiarity with their music. "It's how a concert should be. It felt so good playing for that crowd; just really being there for the music."

With the festival season coming to a close, the Duo are preparing to head to the west coast to begin a two month tour in support of their recent album Play Pause Stop. Their newest release marked a significant step forward for the Duo. "We tried to embellish on the concept that we wanted on [their debut album] Best Reason To Buy The Sun," explained Russo. "We were still coming out of a more improvised sound on Best Reason and there's more of a jazzlike feel on that record. On this one, I think we realized that we can play instrumental rock music. We weren't really afraid: people like what we're doing; they like what we're going for, so let's go for it. We were more confident on this one and got closer to the mark of what we wanted." Typical of the Duo's ability to collaborate unselfishly, Benevento explains that, "There are some songs that are more Joe and there are some songs that are more me. But for the most part, the arranging and the decision as to how we're going to play them as a band is done by both of us." Russo and Benevento are incredibly open in describing the writing of their songs, each remembering the details of how their songs came to be. As an example, Benevento, describes the creation of Play Pause Stop's title song. "I wrote the beginning of the tune; I had the melody in my head," explains Benevento, singing the opening melody for emphasis. "That was my idea. The middle idea was our idea, Joe was like, 'Why don't we circuit out in the middle.' The ending was his chord progression." If the songwriting style sounds familiar, it may be because a certain couple fellows from Liverpool found success writing songs the same way.

In bringing their songs into the studio, the Duo curb their prodigious ability to creative improvise wonderful melodies. As their catalogue grows and matures, they realize that the room for odysseys and explorations diminishes. "For the most part, the songs are the songs on Play Pause Stop," explains Benevento. "There's not much variation to be done on any of those. Not that we're playing them note for note every night, but the tunes that we can stretch seem to be 'The Three Question Marks,' 'Becky' and a lot of the covers." Russo enjoys the freeing aspect of improvising, especially with Benevento, because there's not much room to hide. "Say I go for something and don't pull it off, Marco's right there with me to get me back on track. We'll throw little shots at each other, especially when we're improvising and getting into something heavier, in the moment stuff. It doesn't feel like there are any mistakes: just going for it and the result is whatever the result is; it's never wrong. Sometimes it feels totally right, but it's never wrong."

The free-form improvisational nature of the Duo's performances succeed due to their respective mastery of the keyboards and drums. However, Russo may have the deck stacked biologically in his favor. Anyone who has ever seen him stretch by throwing both arms directly over his head in a manner that would dislocate the shoulders of your average man, drummer or not, can attest to his near super-human flexibility. When asked if he is double jointed, Russo laughs. "I have something called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome," he discloses. "It's something where the ligaments in my arms are connected in a different place from normal people, so I'm able to do weird shit." Does it help him play the drums? "When I really get into it, I get into a rubbery zone and my body kinds of moves with it. Maybe it lets me relax a little or get into the music or something easier for me," Russo explains before breaking it down to its essential components. "I just kind of flail around and hit shit."

Inspirationally, Russo traces his passion back to one of the original rock masters: John Bonham. "He just had that don't care attitude and just did whatever," states Russo. "That was the first guy, when I was younger, that had that impression on me. After that, when I started playing with the Fat Mama guys, they would take me to see Joey Baron, Bobby Previte and Kevin Wolleson, playing this stuff; Jack DeJohnette, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams as well. It was so freeing: they didn't fit in this mold; it was in the moment stuff; it relaxed me into that feel of being able to be a musical drummer without having to play just a kit and a snare drum, even though that can be musical too." Those drummers taught Russo to not be afraid of the pressure and not be afraid to mess up. "That was the biggest lesson I learned: messing up can be really cool."

The Duo indulge their love of Led Zeppelin with "Bustle In Your Hedgerow," their Zeppelin cover band, whose current lineup includes RANA and former Particle guitarist Scott Metzger and Ween bassist Dave Dreiwitz. Just as he provided Joe Russo the Knitting Factory residency from which the Duo sprung, Wetlands owner Jake Szufnarowski was the catalyst for this project. "For his birthday, Jake wanted Joe and I to play with Scott Metzger and he wanted us to play all Led Zeppelin," recalls Benevento. "We both love Led Zeppelin; so we learned a bunch of tunes. It was great to go back and learn all the tunes that I listened to a shitload of times when I was a kid. They were definitely one of the first bands that I got every album and listened to every day when I was 12 or 13." Russo clearly relishes the opportunity to step into the shoes of John Bonham for a night. "You get a couple drinks in you and get to play music of the best band ever. It's supposed to be fun for us and fun for the crowd. It's fun playing your idols' music. It's a treat."

Inventive and influential in his own right, Benevento seems to thrive on soaking up knowledge from his fellow musicians. In fact, it's that aspect of the business that he appears to enjoy the most. "The musicians you hang out with are so willing to share: always talking about stuff that they're being hip to or getting in to," explains Benevento. In listening to Benevento, it becomes evident that his home, while serving as a hostel for all musicians traveling through New York, also doubles as a think tank for emerging musical thought. "Every musician that I know is just sharing information constantly. There's no musician saying 'I'm not telling you what's in my iPOD. You got to find it yourself bro.' You can't hide anything in music, everyone wants to share. That's what I love about all the people in my music world. When I get turned on to something, it immediately changes the way I play or the next thing that I'm looking for." He also enjoys the personalities inherent in the business. "In music there's no 'I'm better than you.' You're just on stage being as honest as you can."

 One of those relationships, that with Phish bassist Mike Gordon, helped thrust them into the spotlight, greatly accelerating their progress on the national recognition curve. Like most events in the Duo's career, their affiliation with the Phish bassist just kind of organically occurred. "I met him [Gordon] at one of the shows we were doing for Ropeadope [Records]," explains Russo. "Mike and I played together and then went back to his apartment and jammed a little bit and we said 'Oh we've got to do this again.'" Soon thereafter the Duo agreed to participate in a benefit being organized by Disco Biscuit Mark Brownstein for the voter registration organization HeadCount. "I was like 'I kind of just met Mike. Maybe he'd be down for doing a trio with me and Marco," recalls Russo. Brownstein agreed that this would be an excellent idea and encouraged Russo to make the call. "So I called him up and was like, 'Hey Mike, would you be down for doing this benefit show for Headcount?' He was like, 'Yeah, how much rehearsal?' I was like 'none.' To which he immediately said, 'absolutely,'" recalls Russo. "We went on stage and played for 45 minutes to an hour: completely improvised music. We all went into it without great expectations or really, any expectations. We walked off stage and thought, 'Wow! That was some real cool shit going on.'"

From there, their musical connection with Gordon continued to progressively pick up steam. "After that we thought, 'Well, now we have some material: Mike learned some of our stuff; we learned some of his; we did some covers," said Russo of the evolution of the trio's catalogue. "We thought that maybe we would do a little run. Then, like everything does, it just kind of organically snowballed into three or four tours with Mike . . . and then Trey had us come in and all play on his record for two songs . . . and then that starts a whole other thing of us going 'Wow, that was real fun; let's play a gig' . . . and then 'Let's do a tour' . . . .and then 'Holy shit! We're actually doing a tour,'" marvels Russo over the events that rapidly developed. "There was nothing preconceived or anything like that. That's been Marco and my history the whole time. There's never been any set thing: we play, have a good time and luckily, things have just been happening."

Mike GordonThe latest "thing" to have happened to the Duo was a high profile pairing with their friend Mike Gordon and his former bandmate Trey Anastasio on a tour that overlapped many dates with Phil Lesh & Friends. Obviously, the Duo realized the opportunity presented to them. "We both listened to Phish," said Russo. "To be able to play with two guys who we respect immensely and experience that whole side of the music business that a band of our size normally would never get to see. It was really quite a gift."

Most new groups warm up with a couple club dates or small arena shows; so of course, the G.R.A.B. quartet debuted on the main stage at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival with an unannounced performance in front of approximately seventy-five thousand people. Although the gig had been scheduled for a couple months, it was a well kept secret; at least until that day. "During the day I started telling people," admitted Benevento. "I had to tell someone." After only four rehearsals at Benevento's house, the Duo took the stage before the largest crowd ever assembled to see them play. With Russo describing the event as "awesome" and "very intense," Benevento termed it "the incredible high of the summer for sure." "The first five to ten minutes of that show kind of got all that anxiety of playing for a crowd that big over with," said Russo. The initial amazement of the number of people in the audience quickly passed and then it was simply business as usual. "I don't think it was the tightest show but I think the energy was so cool because we were all so excited," Russo further explained. "Just as much as the fans, we were excited to hear what it was going to sound like."

In joining up with Anastasio and Gordon, Benevento and Russo found themselves in different roles, musically and logistically. "I haven't played in the back of a band . . . ever," explained Russo. "I always set up on the side so I can see the musician's faces or their hands or read their body language, so that was real awkward for me." From a musical perspective, Benevento approached the venture as a bit of a working vacation from his role in the Duo. "I didn't really have to change my style; I just changed my role from more of a lead player to more of a piano player. With Joe, I'm the bass, the chords, the melody, the soloist and everything. With Trey and Mike, Trey takes a lot of the leads and Mike plays the bass line and I was a lot freer to fill in the texture. I turned into more of a keyboard player: I'll just play those chords under Trey, I can figure this out," Benevento explained of his approach. "I played piano a lot on the Trey tour so I would do a lot of chordal accompanying. It was a different way to think. I had to tune my ears to a different place by being the piano player." Russo concurs with Benevento as to the necessity of finding a new role within the foursome. "We all went into it not being very rehearsed or familiar with playing as a four piece. It took time talking with each other about what needs to happen and how we can all make this sound like a band within 2½ weeks," explains Russo. "Instead of trying to force your own vibe; you had to try to figure out what's better for the whole. We figured it out towards the middle and once we really started clicking, near the end, it was over."

There are no future G.R.A.B. shows planned for the near future, but Russo did not rule out the possibility of further performances. "I don't see why there wouldn't be. We've made no plans; we all have such busy schedules. When time allows, in some facet we'll all play together again. Maybe we'll just do a random club show in New York. We would do it just for fun, just to enjoy playing with each other again."

While the Duo's tour with Anastasio and Gordon excited many, Russo was aware of some the criticism leveled at the G.R.A.B. quartet. "We all knew going into this thing that everybody wasn't on board with what we were doing: especially dealing with a band like Phish that is so dear to people's hearts that everybody feels so involved. So many people want to hear Phish and the last thing we wanted to do is pretend that we were Phish. I'm not John and Marco's not Page and we never wanted to portray that we were trying to fulfill that role," explains Russo. "I think some people really respect the fact that we did it; I think some people hated the fact that we did it."

The small ripples of resentment Russo sensed gave him an insight into Anastasio's post-Phish existence. "It's appalling the things I've read and heard about him as if he owes people things. He was in a band that people really enjoyed and the fact that people can say fucked up hurtful shit about him because that band's not around any more and he's trying to do something different; I find it insane and that shit pisses me off so much when someone says something like that that's so stupid or so ignorant . . . but let everybody have their opinion." The discussion over a certainly vocal minority leads to a broader discussion over the relationship between jambands and their fans with Russo noting a sense of entitlement that seems to arise. "I'm not trying to bash anyone," Russo states with honesty. "They get so involved where they think they can control the band. The reason they liked [the band] in the first place was cause they were a fan of the music. It seems like a group mentality to hop on the bashing train. To be so involved with something you don't like is such a waste of time. That's something that a lot of scenes don't have; it's kind of specific to that audience. A normal music fan will go 'I like this band; I'll go see them' or 'I don't like this band; I'm not going to go see them.' Some of these kids will get so aggravated, so personally involved in hating something; which seems that it would be the complete opposite of this scene. If you want something that you know you're not going to get and then get pissed off: well then, don't come."

The extended tour with Anastasio and Gordon as well as Lesh made a lasting impression on the Duo. "An unforgettable experience and an amazing moment of my life," states Benevento. "I played at a place where I saw Phish 11 years ago." However, what they will take away from the tour goes beyond melodies and chords. "Those guys have had so many experiences and have been doing it for so long," relates Russo, explaining that his time with Anastasio and Gordon left him with a feeling of optimism. "The knowledge of being a lifelong musician: hearing the stories of what they went through when they weren't PHISH; when they weren't this huge band and seeing that they went through the same shit that every small band goes through. Sitting back and listening to them talk about old times and the war stories of Phish puts a lot in perspective." Benevento had a more pragmatic take on the subject. "Mainly the thing I'm taking away from [the tour] is that it's going to make touring a lot easier. It's going to make our whole operation a lot more pro, a lot more efficient."

 Once the Duo's fall tour concludes, Benevento will take up residency at New York City's Tonic for the month of November. Stanton Moore, Skerik, Bobby Previte and Russo are already scheduled to make appearances over Benevento's slate of Wednesday night gigs. "Any moment I can get to play with different people, I'll take it. It's really awesome to have the Duo and have our little musical baby per se and then go and freak out with all my friends and play totally improvised music," says Benevento. "I love playing free music. Every chance I can." How much of the Tonic residency will be laid out beforehand? "None," Benevento replies and without seeing him, you can imagine the smile accompanying the statement.

Since their debut at the Knitting Factory, the Duo's career has moved ahead at light speed. Benevento attributes the pace of their career to not vacillating over decisions. "Joe and I are definitely good at deciding quickly; which has pretty much been the theme of the Duo," explains Benevento. "Knitting Factory show, no problem; Mike Gordon wants to play with us, sure we'll do it; want to get in the car and do a tour, no problem. We're quick to decide yes or no." So far, the path of the Duo's career has emulated their approach towards their music: by refusing to be confined to a regimented plan, they have been able to benefit from the myriad of opportunities generated by their inventive talent and robust creativity. Like most things associated with the Duo, it seems to be something that only Benevento and Russo could accomplish.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!