Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Tea Leaf Green: Rock ‘N’ Roll Band

By: David Schultz

Over the last couple years, Tea Leaf Green has become one of those bands most associated with the phrase, "Dude, you have to see these guys live." Well, for those who have yet to experience a Tea Leaf Green show for themselves (and for those who have), their latest release Rock 'N' Roll Band, a DVD directed by Justin Kreutzmann, and its companion CD soundtrack of the same name, provides a nice snapshot of one of today’s most electrifying live acts. The DVD/CD documents Tea Leaf's May 19, 2006 performance at the Fox Theater in Boulder, CO. Although you get a healthy dose of Tea Leaf, the DVD isn't a full concert release. Kreutzmann compiled the footage into a documentary style production, artfully catching the band within its native habitat, on the stage.

The son of Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann, Justin Kreutzmann knows a thing or two about bands that thrive in the concert environment. In filming Tea Leaf on stage and at rest, he's provided a lengthy look into the TLG concert experience as well as some quick snapshots that provide some insight into Tea Leaf's personalities. Kreutzmann tries to present the band from untraditional angles, both in his filming perspective and personal insights. He contrasts the energy of the concert footage with one-on-one interview segments taped in the band's hometown of San Francisco, CA. The live segments are nicely filmed, giving an interesting close-up perspective as opposed to the traditional back of the arena camera angle. The one drawback to Kreutzmann's technique: too few shots of the audience, which, as the band says in the DVD, can sometimes be the difference between a good show and an incredible show.

The concert scenes and the interviews focus heavily on keyboardist Trevor Garrod and guitarist Josh Clark. As they are the two most talkative members of the band, it's not surprising that Kreutzmann featured them heavily in the interview segments. However, in the concert footage, Ben Chambers' animated bass is often relegated to the background and drummer Scott Rager appears primarily in the background of shots of Clark. The DVD contains some extras not present on the CD release. In addition to the encore of "Don't Let It Down" and "Sex In The '70s," the end credits feature Garrod and Clark's "Truck Stop Sally," the chorus of which might nicely sum up the band's philosophy. "If you want to get high with the band, you got to get the band high too."

One of the more fan-friendly bands, Tea Leaf happily allows and encourages their fans to trade bootlegs over the Internet. Although Clark pointed out to Earvolution that "we dressed up nice and shaved," Tea Leaf claimed they did nothing special for the taped performance. Consequently, a live CD seems, on the surface, like a teaspoon of water poured into the ocean. However, there's something here for everyone. Hardcore Leafers can appreciate the superior sound quality of the CD, which far surpasses even the best bootlegs. For those getting their first introduction to TLG, the CD provides a nice introduction to the band. The package includes exceptional takes on "The Garden (Part III)" and "Taught To Be Proud," their two most accessible songs, wonderful jams on "Jezebel," "The Garden (Part II)" and "Devil's Pay" and a relentlessly cool take on "Franz Hanzerbeak." If you can’t get into "Franz Hanzerbeak," just stop listening to music, it's probably lost on you.

No DVD could ever serviceably replicate the feeling of being at a Tea Leaf Green show or any other concert for that matter. While Kreutzmann's close-up documentary isn't the same as sitting in the front row yourself, it does give a good sense of how much fun a Tea Leaf Green show can be.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Listening Without Prejudice: Rock Star’s Ryan Star at the Bowery Ballroom

By: David Schultz

When going to see Ryan Star, as it would be with any of the contestants from CBS' Rock Star: Supernova, it's pretty hard to avoid some basic prejudices. Depending on your viewpoint, Rock Star either derived its formula from the much glitzier American Idol or ripped off the Fox show's premise by substituting spikier rock 'n' roll types for Idol's pop diva wannabes. The vast majority of competition-style reality shows have attuned audiences to the concept that simply being on television doesn't always equate to being a good performer. Given the large amount of finessing that goes into any television show, especially reality programming, any performer like Star, whose fame springs from the medium, can expect to be greeted with skepticism: particularly as to his basic talent and entitlement to any headlining position. Playing before a sold-out crowd at New York City's Bowery Ballroom, Star revealed himself to be quite a different performer than the one who appeared on Rock Star. Freed of having to impress any potential future band mates, Star played a relaxed, intimate show that allowed him to focus on his decidedly non Rock Star strengths: his warm, low-key stage demeanor and his ability to engage the audience, not with antics but with songs, much like his fellow Long Islander Billy Joel.

Making a homecoming of sorts, Star played before a crowd consisting of quite a few friendly Long Islanders eager to share stories of knowing Star from his pre-Rock Star days and many more that were curious to see whether Star was for real or a media creation. In calling him the "Dark Horse," a name Star wisely adopted as the title for a quickie CD release, it seemed that Tommy Lee and his cohorts realized that Star might not be the ideal performer for a pseudo-metal, hard rock band; they were correct. As Star showed at the Bowery, he is a solo performer, not a front man. Rather than demanding an audience's attention, Star earns it through his engaging personality and a rich, warm voice that occasionally carries the same depth as Neil Diamond.

For a good portion of his hour long set, Star sat alone at a grand piano, opening the show with "We Might Fall" and finishing there with "Losing Your Memory," both nice songs with elegant melodies. While at the piano, he briefly acknowledged his Rock Star stint, slipping in a couple verses from Depeche Mode's "Enjoy The Silence" and R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion." When not at the piano, Star stood center stage with an acoustic guitar, offering an acoustic version of "Back Of Your Car," a song he debuted on his final Rock Star appearance, as well as couple new songs like "11:59" which could foreshadow a promising future for Star as a singer-songwriter. He finished the night with a heavily restrained version of "Head Like A Hole." The Nine Inch Nails cover was a fun way to end the evening, but not really the best showcase for Star's gifts. Talented enough to play an entire show accompanying himself on piano or guitar, Star did go electric, fronting a rhythm section for a mid show four song arc that included "Psycho Suicidal Girls" and "Take A Ride With Me" from his 2005 album Songs From The Eye Of An Elephant.

It's interesting to gauge what Star took away from Rock Star. When they weren't praising each performance as the best they've ever seen in their life, Lee, Dave Navarro, Gilby Clarke and Jason Newsted kept imploring the contestants to "rock." Despite emphasizing it ad nauseum, they never explained - at least, on the air - what they meant. If they meant doing goofy things to unnecessarily attract attention to yourself: Star took a little of that with him. During the show, he began one song by leaping atop one of the side speakers with his guitar and finished another by violently sprinting from the microphone to accentuate a guitar riff. Rather than coming across as inspirations of the moment, the gestures seemed a little rehearsed. However, if Navarro and the rest meant that Star should relate to the audience, build up a rapport and bring the crowd into his world, he learned that lesson very well; although I tend to think he didn't need a reality show to acquire that skill.

By not getting selected to front Supernova, er . . . Rock Star Supernova, Star probably walked away from Rock Star in the best possible position. Instead of being shackled with the onus of fronting a band with minimal prospects for longevity, possibly branding himself to the detriment of the rest of his career, Star can take his newfound fame and name recognition and build an audience on his own terms. Even though he didn't win Rock Star and may never be a "Rock Star," at least in the traditional oversized arena-rocker sense of the term, Ryan Star should find it's just as good to be Ryan Star.

Dinosaur Jr. Announce Dates and New Record

Dinosaur JrDinosaur Jr., back with the complete original line-up of J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murphy, announced plans to release their first ever DVD and their first studio recording in 18 years. Both the DVD and the studio album are set for Spring 2007 releases. The band says they've spent the last month at Bisquiteen, the recording space at J's house in Amherst, Massachusetts. Meanwhile, they will do a quick series of shows before getting back to finishing up the record.

The complete list of current Dinosaur Jr. tour dates is as follows:

November 28 The Big Easy Portland ME
November 29 Paradise Rock Club Boston MA
November 30 Pearl Street Northampton MA
December 01-02 Rebel New York NY
December 05 Concorde 2 Brighton UK
December 06 Mean Fiddler London UK
December 09 ATP's "Nightmare Before Christmas" Somerset UK
December 11 Temple Bar Music Centre Dublin IRE
December 12 Warwick Galway IRE
December 13 Zenith Paris FR
December 16 Fritz Club - J. Mascis Solo Berlin GER

[Photo Credit: Robert Matheu]

Friday, October 27, 2006

Popper's Project Pops The Canal Room

By: David Schultz

The John Popper Project kicked off their fall tour at New York City's elegant Canal Room this past week. Reuniting for the first time since laying down the tracks for their self-titled album, Blues Traveler frontman John Popper, his band mate bassist Tad Kinchla, drummer Marcus Bleecker and turntable wizard DJ Logic spent the evening getting reacquainted. The Project took the stage without fanfare, easing their way onto the stage during Logic's half-hour long opening DJ set. Although not svelte, Popper looks much healthier than he did during Blues Traveler's heyday. Using a harmonica/microphone contraption that looked like a large black Shofar, Popper remained stationary by the side of the stage rather than front and center. The Project may bear his name, but it does not signify his dominance. With Popper limiting himself to only one harmonica throughout the night, Kinchla and Bleecker were the evening's workhorses.

The last time Popper, Kinchla and Logic shared the stage together was at the 2006 Jammy Awards at the Theatre in Madison Square Garden. On that night, they were joined by rhythm and blues legend Bettye Lavette for an earthy run through Lucinda Williams' "Joy." As the Project only has one album of material to work with, they stretched out the numbers with predominantly successful results. Playing off of Logic's grooves, "Horses" and "Trigger" soared, "Fire In Her Kiss" and "Lapdance" slinked and even though their segue into The Sopranos theme song lasted a little too long, their revved up take on "Everything" outdistanced the studio version. Going without a lead guitarist, Kinchla and Logic filled the gap with some inventive work, although Kinchla seemed to fall back to the "Joy" bass line whenever stuck for something to play. Logic's ingenious instinct for finding the right beat can sometimes serve as a disservice to a rhythm section. Some brilliant passages by Kinchla and Bleecker blended so easily with Logic's beat that it was tough to tell where it came from. The band had the same problem too: after one song, Kinchla had to tell Popper that what he heard came from him, much to Popper's delight.

Currently in the Midwest, the Popper Project tour will head out West for a week's worth of shows beginning with a Halloween show at the Aladdin Theater in Portland, OR.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Vh1: Bon Jovi's "Livin' On a Prayer" Top 80s Song

 Lest we forget how much "hair metal" dominated the 80s, you only need to look at the artists in the top two spots on VH1's Top Songs of the 80s list, as voted by fans. Here's the Top 10:

Rank / Artist / Song / Year

1 Bon Jovi / Livin' on a Prayer / 1986

2 Def Leppard / "Pour Some Sugar On Me" / 1987

3 Duran Duran / "Hungry Like the Wolf" / 1982

4 Michael Jackson / "Billie Jean" / 1982

5 Prince / "When Doves Cry" / 1984

6 Hall & Oates / "I Can't Go For That" / 1981

7 Guns N' Roses / Sweet Child O' Mine / 1987

8 Madonna / "Like a Virgin" / 1984

9 Run-D.M.C. / "Walk This Way" / 1986

10 AC/DC / "You Shook Me All Night Long" / 1980

Vh1 will show the entire list on back-to-back episodes of the appropriately titled "100 Greatest Songs of the 80s" on Monday, October 30 at 9 PM EST.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Tony Blair Sings the Clash

New Goo Goo Dolls Video

Goo Goo DollsI realize in some circles it's not very "manly" of me to admit I like the Goo Goo Dolls. But, you can't deny they've got loads of catchy songs and put on a great live show. Speaking of live shows, the band returns home for their North American tour beginning November 4th in support of their latest album, Let Love In. Meanwhile you can stream their latest video for the title-track "Let Love In" here: (Quicktime/WM). The clip was filmed in Los Angeles and directed by P.R. Brown (Death Cab For Cutie, Billy Corgan, Audioslave).

A New Monsoon Reigns Over Manhattan

New MonsoonBy: David Schultz

At last year's Brooklyn, New York edition of the Big Summer Classic touring festival, New Monsoon introduced themselves to good number of New Yorkers who knew enough to show up for their early afternoon opening set. Mixing bluegrass style strumming with Middle Eastern percussion, New Monsoon have crafted a distinctly singular sound. Just recently, the San Francisco rockers returned to the Big Apple as part of their co-headlining tour with their California counterparts Hot Buttered Rum for two shows at the Lower East Side's Mercury Lounge. For the Friday night show, New Monsoon took the stage close to midnight, energizing the crowd for close to two hours.

In the absence of percussionist Rajiv Parikh, New Monsoon didn't venture deep into their Middle Eastern tinged repertoire. Instead, the New Monsoon 6 focused their set around Jeff Miller's classic rock guitar, Bo Carper's banjo and lap steel guitar and a smattering of guest appearances. The middle of show saw nicely compatible visits from Animal Liberation Orchestra's Dan Lebowitz on "Greenhouse" and Steve Adams on "Trippy Keys." Bassist Ben Bernstein tagged out to Ron Johnson of Karl Denson's Tiny Universe for "Another Day (In Purgatory)" and returned for a double-bass cover of The Who's "Eminence Front." The Who cover didn't seem incredibly tied in to the rest of the San Francisco band's set, especially in light of the set closing cover of the Allman Brothers' "Jessica." Following New Monsoon's set finishing run through "Buckets Of Rain" and the hoe-down worthy, banjo-heavy "Daddy Long Legs," the Brothers and Sisters classic came across as a tip of the hat to one of their apparent influences.

One thing New Monsoon brings to the table is an extraordinary sense of fun. About a year ago at the Big Summer Classic, they replicated the eerie spacey sounds from Pink Floyd's "Echoes" with a simple party balloon. About two-thirds of the way through their Mercury Lounge set, they brought out a dancer who gyrated to Brian Carey's bongo solo. The dancer didn't add much to the music, however she did add a sense of whimsy and fun that spread throughout the remainder of the set. They will keep the tour on the road until Thanksgiving and after a short break will rejoin Hot Buttered Rum for three year end shows at Cervantes Masterpiece in Denver, CO.

Kurt Cobain Tops Dead Celebrities List

Nirvana's Kurt Cobain topped the list of celebrities raking in cash from the coffin straight into corporate coffers. Nirvana (or at least their label) managed to sell over 1 million records in 2005 and is on track to reach a similar total for 2006. When you tack on radio royalties and other income, Cobain's total for the last twelve months was a cool $50 million. I wonder if Eddie Vedder made that much?

Given the recurring nature of their revenue streams, it is no surprise that musicians took up seven of the top thirteen spots on the dead celeb earnings list. Elvis, John Lennon, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, George Harrison and Bob Marley also all did quite well for their heirs. Marley's estate alone raked in over $7 million. That's a lot of ganga!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Zutons Do The Little Things

The Zutonsby Rinjo Nori.

Equal parts pop, rock and soul, the Zutons meld it all together into satisfying, confident and surprisingly mature music. The band is the quietest sensation to emerge from the UK in years. Their upcoming single "It's the Little Things We Do", from their sophomore effort Tired of Hanging Around, conjures up the specter of Squeeze and Billy Joel and can be best described as an upbeat look at a devastating hangover.

Singer Dave McCabe matter of factly takes us through "the morning after" a night of "women, wine and party time." Whether it's the adverse effects of cigarettes or a seemingly harmless ham and cheese sandwich sitting in the pit of your stomach, the morning after is surprisingly accurate. When McCabe sings the chorus it's as if he is channeling the Piano Man himself. The subject and similarities to Joel's vocals make this song a little more than interesting, though I doubt it is intentional.

The song title itself says it all about what is interesting about this band. Sean Payne's drums and Russell Pritchard's bass drive the song, but Abi Harding's saxophone kicks the song into overdrive. Without these elements the song would be toothless, even though they clearly don't dominate the song. This demonstrates how strong The Zutons are collectively and how good they are at the little things they do.

Massive Attack . . . Not So Much

Massive AttackBy: David Schultz

During their late 80s/early 90s heyday, Massive Attack winnowed their way into the musical subconscious with relaxed, soothing beats that have been echoed in upscale lounges ever since. Even those not intimately familiar with their catalog (yours truly included) would be surprised how many of their greatest hits they recognize. The influential British trip-hop originators concluded their brief reunion tour earlier this month with a three night stand at New York City's Roseland Ballroom, putting forth a smooth, polished set heavy on grooves but light on any real excitement. For the chemically enhanced, they performed with a top notch light show featuring a nice mix of club-like lighting effects, pulsing colors and scrolling images.

The reconstituted band featured original members 3D (Robert De Naja) and Daddy G (Grant Marshall) who rotated in and out with reggae singer Horace Andy, Deborah Miller and the Cocteau Twins' Elizabeth Fraser. Other than lending the required authenticity to the affair, neither of the founding members made themselves intrinsically indispensable. The allure of Massive Attack has always been their seductive rhythms, which were duplicated by a bassist and two drummers who had seemingly no affiliation with the original band. Given that the meat of the show was performed by the backing band, the event seemed like nothing more than an excuse to watch 3D shadow box and Daddy G act graceful. For the most part, the show plodded along quite pleasantly, finding its stride near the close with "Angel" and "Future Proof." The unheralded rhythm section kept the crowd swaying by successfully conjuring the trip-hop mood Massive Attack are known for. However, there didn't seem to be anything significant about actually having Massive Attack in the building to front them.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Bar's Open: Trey Anastasio Kicks Off His Fall Tour At Webster Hall

Trey AnastasioBy: David Schultz

With Bar 17, former Phish frontman Trey Anastasio holds out no olive branch to his phormer phans who wish him to remain phishy. Although it has its upbeat moments, Trey's latest, featuring Don Hall's lush orchestral arrangements, retreats from the spontaneity of Anastasio's mythical live performances, coming instead from the same part of Anastasio's soul as the softer Billy Breathes-era "Waste." For the opening night of his fall tour at New York City's Webster Hall, his first headlining show in months outside of this summer's G.R.A.B. performances, Anastasio made the decision to forego focusing the entire evening around his relatively plaintive new release, sagely opting against alienating the sold-out boisterous crowd. Those in attendance knew not to expect a Phish phest, but meditative, reflective album or not, they came to Webster Hall for some good-old jam-based rock 'n' roll. A consummate performer, that's exactly what Anastasio gave them.

Anastasio's enthusiasm in returning to the stage transformed itself into a marathon performance. While he showcased new material like "A Case Of Ice And Snow" and "Host Across The Potomac" he didn't ignore other signature, crowd-pleasing solo tunes like "Tuesday," "Come As Melody" and "Money Love and Change." Admittedly looking forward to getting a chance to perform, Anastasio's excitement also seemed linked to the fun of playing with some old friends. Joining longtime band members Jennifer Hartswick, Christine Durfee and keyboardist Ray Paczkowski, who has become "The Big Man" to Anastasio's "Boss," are drummer Jeff Sipe and bassist Tony Hall. While Trey and Sipe can trace their history back to recent stints with Phil Lesh & Friends, their relationship goes back to the early 90s, when Sipe's Aquarium Rescue Unit regularly toured with Anastasio's Phish. Anastasio clearly relished playing with Tony Hall, facing off with him during second set renditions of "Gotta Jibboo" and "Night Speaks To A Woman." Anyone thinking Anastasio's guitar heroics are simply masturbatory wanking might have a field day with his near orgasmic facial expressions, especially during his center stage face-offs with Hall. However, the ecstatic expressions matched the inspired solos.

For the New York shows, Don Hall and a revelatory string section appeared for the tail ends of each set, providing soaring orchestral passages akin to those from the most indulgent Seventies' disco tracks; an astonishing counterpoint to Anastasio's guitar work. On "Goodbye Head" and "Shadow," Hall's strings recreated their lush arrangements from Bar 17, accentuating the music to such a degree that their prowess seemed out of place for Webster Hall. While the strings blended nicely, if not understatedly, with Anastasio's Zappa-esque guitar solos and Paczkowski's piano ruffles during "Bar 17," they seemed a tad misplaced during "Come As Melody," where they struggled to find their proper space. The evening's standout moment, an exquisite version of Phish's "The Divided Sky" with a slight detour into "Guyute" saw the most polished interaction between Anastasio and the strings. Played in honor of Anastasio's mother’s birthday, Anastasio played the tune solo on an acoustic guitar, allowing the talented orchestra to gloriously interpret the rest of the song.

Bar 17 features notable guest performances from the likes of Mike Gordon, John Medeski and the Benevento/Russo Duo. Opening night didn't include an appearance by any of Anastasio's recent collaborators but it did include a song from an old one. Although one of the night's weaker moments, old friend and Phish lyricist Tom Marshall joined Anastasio for "Skip The Goodbyes." The overly poppy tune seemed out of place amongst the guitar heavy tunes, although it did provide an interesting segue into the orchestral part of the evening.

Since beginning the solo phase of his career, Anastasio has weathered blistering criticism from some corners. That part of Anastasio's audience either stayed away from the guitarist's opening night or quite possibly, are warming up to his individual efforts. The perception shift seemed clearest during the crowd's warm reception of a wonderfully spirited rendition of the unfairly denigrated "Shine." A vocal segment of Anastasio's listeners seem to be trolling for a big catch in waters their quarry no longer calls home. They catch a nibble here and there, as in the orchestral "The Divided Sky," but for the most part they're missing Anastasio's evolution into a solo performer, best typified in the night's encore. In returning to the stage, Anastasio spoke to the crowd for a few minutes, introducing the band, providing an update on Phish drummer Jon Fishman and telling an interrelated anecdote about Paczkowski's prowess at milking cows. After the strings interpreted the psychedelic Beatles-ish opening to "Cincinnati," Anastasio led the band through one more jam, satisfyingly ending the evening close to four hours after it began.

Friday, October 20, 2006

My Chemical Romance Streams Black Parade

My Chemical RomanceMy Chemical Romance is streaming their new record, The Black Parade, in its entirety on their site. It's nice to see a big label act like this put up more than just "samples" of songs. Not sure how long they'll keep it up, but still a smart move. My Chemical Romance will also be the musical guest this weekend on Saturday Night Live and the record hits stores next week.

When Rock Stars Attack

 What ever happened to a little peace, love and understanding? Over the last week, random outbursts of low grade violence have marred shows by alterna-gods Wilco and the indie-duo Two Gallants.

While reports have differed slightly, it does appear that at Wilco's show this past Monday at the Shrine Mosque in Springfield, MO an overly excited fan surprised guitarist Jeff Tweedy by approaching him from behind causing the skittish Tweedy to turn and clock the interloper in the face. After being buried in various on-line outlets, Wilco defended themselves with an official statement on their site.

In short, the band cited their own decision to remove a barricade between themselves and the audience as well as lax security as underlying causes of the unfortunate incident. "I really regret what happened last night," said Tweedy. "I wish it had gone another way . . . and I suspect had I felt safer on that stage, had security been doing a better job all night long, well things would have gone differently. He approached me from behind . . . and I reacted in defense to get him away. I didn't know what his intentions were . . . and I had to get him off of me. I'm sad that it happened at all." While Tweedy could have possibly handled the situation better, let's be honest with ourselves: who hasn't wanted to see the band knock out the drunken idiot charging the stage.

The Two Gallants incident from Houston, TX is a bit more bizarre. Shortly into their set at Walter's On Washington, a police officer responding to noise complaints bypassed the soundboard and walked directly onto the stage and confronted the duo's guitarist Adam Stephens. After a bit of an argument, the officer tried to wrest Stephens' guitar from him and a struggle occurred. Drummer Tyson Vogel leapt to help his band mate and ultimately found himself under arrest. With more officers called in as backup, the situation between the police officers, Two Gallants and the fans in attendance escalated, with varied reports of arrests and tazer-usage.

Stories of the incident have faulted Two Gallants' impertinence as instigating a riot and pointed the finger at the responding officers for handling the situation poorly. Regardless of fault, the entire incident is sad and unfortunate. In the olden days, reports of such occurrences could only travel through word of mouth. Now, in the era of YouTube, we can watch fuzzy videos of just about anything. For a couple hardly definitive views on what transpired: click here or here.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Postcards from the Edge

This video is a funny U2 spoof where mild mannered Edge writes postcards to a friend that bascially serve as a diary of his relationship with Bono.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Shins Ready New Record

The ShinsThe Shins announced January 23rd as the release date for their new record Wincing the Night Away. The band will also put out the first single "Phantom Limb" on itunes, and release both a CD and 7" version before year's end.

The band also played the Austin City Limits Festival and is asking fans who were at the show to upload any clips shot with mobile phones to Current TV, to be considered for inclusion in a video.

The Shins have also been added to Relix's "Wear Your Music" campaign. The band says all profits go to charities personally selected by the donating artists and the Shins have chosen to benefit the Nature Conservancy's Adopt an Acre program.

Schultz in the City

By: David Schultz

For anyone with the desire to seek it out, this past weekend in New York City yielded a bounty of exceptional live music. Saturday night's option was easy to locate: the scalding hot Tea Leaf Green made their return to New York City for a show at Irving Plaza, their largest Manhattan venue to date. On Friday night, the intrepid and the mobile had plenty of time to catch the funky Afroskull ensemble at the Lower East Side's Parkside Lounge before Licorice's late-night set at The Knitting Factory.

A Band On Fire:

On the same weekend that Patti Smith, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein played CBGB's last notes, Tea Leaf Green made a triumphant return to Manhattan for the first time since headlining the beloved punk club during last April's Green Apple Music & Arts Festival. Without question, Tea Leaf Green is simply a band on fire right now. Portended by the increasing size of each ensuing venue, Tea Leaf is attracting a great number of new listeners to go along with their growing legions of converts. While newcomers may be daunted by Tea Leaf's sizable repertoire of concert staples, they can bring themselves up to speed with their new CD/DVD release, Rock 'N' Roll Band, which will be released on October 31st.

Ridiculously punctual, Tea Leaf took the Irving Plaza stage promptly at 10:00 p.m., opening with a rollicking "Jezebel" before segueing into a harmonica laced "Incandescent Devil." Their short first set featured a good dose of their laid-back jamming centered on Trevor Garrod's flowing pseudo-folksy keyboard riffs and featured spirited versions of "The Garden, Part II" and "Panspermic De-evolution;" the latter anchored by Ben Chambers' nifty bass work. A heavier second set really showed off Tea Leaf's burgeoning confidence, especially during the uber-cool "Franz Hanzerbeak." Fresh off of sharing the stage with Trey Anastasio in Charlottesville, VA, Josh Clark ripped through a number of crisp solos, closing the set with "Death Cake," one of their heaviest songs. Given the charismatic personalities playing in front of him, it's easy to overlook the drumming of Scott Rager, but his versatility gives Garrod, Clark and Chambers the freedom to explore musical possibilities without wandering far astray. Moving beyond the music, Tea Leaf's stage show received a boost from their lighting director, Alan Sezak. In step with the band the entire evening, Sezak used Irving Plaza's lighting system to a degree rarely seen at the venue, accentuating the music and adding an arena-like dimension to intimate venue.

Right about now, Tea Leaf Green are a high precision machine splendidly working on all cylinders. If for some reason you've missed this band: by any means necessary find one of their CDs, check out their MySpace page or even better, go see them when they come to your town. If for some reason you don't get it upon your first listen: play it again, because you did something wrong the first time.

1:00 a.m. Is The New 10:00 p.m.

With a California based band dominating Saturday night, New York based bands prodigiously plied their craft on Friday. Licorice, closers of our 2006 Summer Jam battled some scheduling uncertainties to pull of a wonderful late-night set at the Knitting Factory's Tap Room befitting of their status as a former New Groove of the Month. In an ode to Friday the 13th, Licorice took the stage with hockey masks that might have led the unaware to think they were seeing a Slipknot homage. Their set consisted of a nice mix of familiar staples, like the melodious "Freeze" and the lively avant-garde-ish "What's Your Status In London," with a couple relatively new tunes and some nicely selected covers.

Despite the late hour, Licorice kept the crowd energized. Even after seeing Licorice on many occasions, their ability to keep a loose jazzy feel while retaining their tightness as a band remains striking. Though impressive, it's not surprising: all four are such talented musicians. Bassist Matt Epstein and drummer Josh Bloom provide fertile soil for guitarist Dave Lott and keyboardist Chad Dinzes to improvise over. If anything, Epstein needs to face the audience more so they can get a better idea of his skillful bass playing. Before closing with their slick adaptation of Madonna's "La Isla Bonita," Licorice ran through a couple of their latest songs. The bouncy "All Kings Fall," which rides on a funky bass line, features some jazzy drumming by Bloom; "A Million Grains Of Sand" begins as a pleasing pop song before sharply shifting gears into a closing jam a la Yes' "Starship Trooper." Lott dove heartily into a cover of Eric Clapton's "Got To Get Better In A Little While" and though Dinzes may not have nailed Thom Yorke's relatively inimitable vocals, he masterfully got Radiohead's "National Anthem" across on his keyboards.

Afroskull's Funky Friday

With their roots in New Orleans, the now New York based Afroskull played an early evening show at the Parkside Lounge, one of their frequent haunts on the lower east side. Led by guitarist Joe Scatassa, Afroskull follows in the footsteps of the bands of the seventies that amassed a troupe of musicians to form their funky sound. Since transplanting from the Crescent City, Afroskull has kicked around New York for a couple years while their current lineup gels acquiring a fine little horn section along the way. Friday night's show appears to be their last for a couple months as they are about to retreat to the studio to record a new album.

With space at a premium, percussionist Seth Moutal and the horn section were relegated to playing on the floor as the stage barely held Scatassa, bassist Dan Asher, keyboardist Matt Iselin and drummer Dan Asher. Perhaps owing to the configuration, there were moments when the musicians seemed to playing over each other, struggling to find their space within the groove. On other occasions, their interaction worked perfectly, mimicking their blend of sweaty seventies soul and New Orleans funk. There were relatively few solos as the band went from one funky jam into another.

Besides the seventies era funk, Afroskull's show bears noting for one of the more astounding individual performances I've ever seen. Before closing with Santana's "Soul Sacrifice," Scatassa invited a couple friends on stage, an especially tall bassist and a slight statured drummer, whose names I unfortunately missed. Iselin remained on keys, Asher dropped to the floor to play bongos and the horns took a break. The scaled down band skillfully ran through a couple bluesy numbers but it the drummer's unique style that drew my attention. It wasn't until the drummer stood up to leave the stage that it became noticeable that the drummer didn't have any hands and had secured the drumsticks to his arms with a relatively inconspicuous contraption. Quite a revelation: but at its core it's all just part of your typical New York concert weekend.

Guitar One Ranks Top 10 TV Themes

Guitar One Magazine, compilers of the widely discussed "Greatest Guitar Solos" list, have now put together a list of what they deem are the "Top 10 TV Theme Songs With Outstanding Guitar Work."

Here is their list and rationale:

10. Simon & Simon - Ah the vaunted "private investigator" TV genre. And for once, a cool theme song, reflecting the yin (streetsmart Rick) and yang (booksmart A.J.) of those crazy Simon brothers.

9. The A-Team - This cheesy hard-rock riff provides the perfect backdrop to Mr. T and Co.'s explosions and rapid-fire submachine guns.

8. The Ren and Stimpy Show - The show's early-rock/rockabilly theme sure gives new meaning to "Happy Happy, Joy Joy."

7. Three's Company - One thing's for certain: some dude was totally trippin' when he cut this nasty wah-wah freakout. We're not sure how this insane guitar part slipped past the show's producer.

6. South Park - Leave it to Les Claypool's fecund imagination to push out this stinky ditty, a hypertense belch of a tune that fits beautifully with the warped minds of Stone and Parker.

5. Chico and the Man- Jose Feliciano's brisk Latin theme song, played on acoustic sounded almost as good as Freddie Prinze claimed he looked!

4. Batman - The weirdest thing about Neal Hefti's popular theme is that it charted four different times, at the hands of four different artists all in 1966!

3 Beverly Hill 90210 - The perfect hair-metal chord progression, laid over a lame keyboard lick and a heavily processed trumpet. Hmm..."perfect hair," "lame," and
"heavily processed" sounds a lot like a the cast of the show.

2 Law & Order - Super-stiff yet amazingly tasty blues plucks merge with a heavy, measured rhythm section to create feelings of simmering introspection and patience…both of which you'll need to get through the show!

1. Barney Miller - Barney's wacky 12th Precinct in NYC seems an unlikely setting to have inspired this Larry Carlton sound-alike jam out over a funk-fusion rhythm track. But add the presence of Wojo and Fish, and it all seems to make sense.

Guitar One's latest edition is in stores now.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Scarlett Johansson mp3

Scarlett & her Golden GlobesScarlett Johansson (often misspelled as Johannson or Johanson) created a little internet frenzy yesterday when stories floated around about the well-blessed actress recording a slate of Tom Waits' covers. The first thing that came to mind after envisioning the twins, was can she sing? The second thing, of course, was who cares when you got this going on.

Our friends over at Stereogum, however, remind us that Scarlett has already done some singing. Turns out she was one of many Hollywood types to belt out a song for Unexpected Dreams: Songs from the Stars. Here is Scarlett's take of Gershwin's "Summertime." Jennifer Garner, Teri Hatcher and Lucy Lawless are among the bevy of beauties breaking into song.

I was also remiss in not publishing a photo of young Scarlett when I posted the original story. So, as not to disappoint here's a memorable shot, at left, of Ms. Johansson showing off her lung capacity.

John Lee Hooker Tribute

John Lee HookerAn 84 track, 4 cd set of John Lee Hooker tunes will be released on Halloween. Hooker will include performances by Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana, Van Morrison, Ry Cooder, Jimmie Vaughan, Charles Brown and Los Lobos.

You can check out Clapton and Hooker on "Boogie Chillen" here and Hooker's classic "Boom Boom" here.

Gnarls Barkley to Tour with Chili Peppers

Gnarls BarkleyI've heard Gnarls' song "Crazy" about a zillion times since its release, and unlike say "Dani California" I'm not even remotely sick of it. I still dig it after all these listens. Plus, any time you come out on stage in complete Star Wars gear you get some bonus points.

The dynamic duo of Cee Lo and Danger Mouse will take their innovative sound and stage show on the road with the Red Hot Chili Peppers for a three month arena tour kicking off in early 2007. Dates will be announced later, which is cool because that allows their PR team to earn more money by announcing the dates in addition to putting out this general announcement and it gets us more Google hits because we get to write about it again! A win-win all around.

Beyond the news about standing by for more news on up-coming dates, Team Gnarls also announced that a limited edition CD + DVD package of their St. Elsewhere record will be released November 7th. It is said to include a 92 page booklet, four music videos and bonus songs from live performances. If you've only heard the one song on the radio, you should check it out to learn more about these "Crazy" guys.

Axl Gushes Over Christina Aguilera; Guns Postpone Shows

Just a reminder to Guns N' Roses folks that GNR postponed the first two shows of the U.S. fall tour. The Jacksonville date was moved from October 20th to October 31st, while the Nashville show was moved from October 22nd to a date to be announced in January.

Meanwhile, Axl is getting some "nice guy" props for giving some love to Christina Aguilera. No, not that kind of love. Axl reportedly approached Xtina after her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards to tell her she how much he admired her voice.

"Axl Rose was backstage in the greenroom at the VMAs, right near my glam squad, Aguilera reportedly told Blender Magazine. "I heard that he made everyone in the room quiet down so he could hear my performance. When I met him backstage, he shook my hand and said, 'You are one of the greatest vocalists of our time'. Isn't that sweet?"

Yes, very sweet. Axl is quite the sensitive rock hero. Maybe that's why he had his band do an instrumental of her mega hit "Beautiful" instead of trying it on his own at a show earlier this year? See he's not so dumb after all.

Still A Leg To Stand On: Ian Anderson At Lincoln Center

Ian AndersonBy: David Schultz

No one could ever fault Ian Anderson for failing to understand his appeal. As the most recognizable face of Jethro Tull, he has made an extraordinarily productive living by extending the seminal English band's legacy into its fourth decade with timely re-releases, live archival recordings and greatest hits packages. In fact, Tull's most recent album, which they initially gave away during their 2005 fall tour, simply consisted of their live recreation of Aqualung as part of XM Radio's Then . . . Again . . . Live series. Given that Tull has released just one album of new material in the last decade, it's easy to imagine Anderson lounging comfortably upon his piles of Aqualung loot . . . and not solely because he jokes about doing just that. To the contrary, when not fronting Jethro Tull alongside guitarist Martin Barre, Anderson branches out into the world of orchestral flute. Without straying far from his Jethro Tull roots, Anderson uses his solo performances to show off a more personal side, poignantly offering a reminder that despite his reputation as a wild-eyed, shaggy medieval avatar of classic rock, he's an incredibly talented and enormously entertaining neo-classical flautist.

Anderson's solo tour recently traveled through New York City, coming to the Rose Theater at Lincoln Center, a venue normally reserved for jazz. Accompanied by bluegrass-style violinist Ann Marie Calhoun, an orchestra comprised of members of the New England Conservatory of Music and a four piece electric band, Anderson availed himself of the opportunities presented by the Rose's acoustically superior concert space. The fact that he fronts a progressive rock band known for singing songs about scruffy men who eye little girls with band intent tends to obscure the fact that Anderson is a technically skilled, accomplished flautist. Not only has Anderson played with many of the world's most renowned flautists, he's written music for them as well. On this night, as he has throughout his tour, he played "Grimelli's Lament," one such "piece of music" that he wrote for Andrea Grimelli as well as a violin and flute adaptation of "Sefika's Tango," a song Anderson wrote as a duet for himself and Turkish flautist Sefika Kutluer. A delightful surprise, the stunning Calhoun spent a small portion of the show occupying the orchestra's first chair and the rest acting as Anderson's foil. Occasionally mooning over the lovely violinist, Anderson clearly relished sharing the stage with Calhoun, letting her lead on two of her own compositions.

The orchestra allowed Anderson to present his instrumental pieces and Tull classics like "Bouree" with an added panache. With respect to the Jethro Tull material, the strings brought authenticity to "Life's A Long Song" and "Wond'ring Aloud," gave depth to "My God" and "Locomotive Breath" and permitted Anderson to completely deconstruct "Aqualung." While the strings dominated the ensemble, Anderson featured the oboe and bassoon during Aqualung's "Cheap Day Return" and "Mother Goose." A Keith Emerson influenced adaptation of Leonard Bernstein's "America" came across as a tad schmaltzy as did "Mo'z Art," an appropriately named medley that far acceded its groan-inducing title. Near the close of the show, the orchestra seemed a little out of place: while they couldn't save an interminably long "Budapest," the violin section pumping their violins over their head during "Locomotive Breath" adorably captured the feel of the show.

Anderson's band featured Tull keyboardist Andrew Giddings and his son James Duncan on drums. With the show focused around orchestral arrangements of several Tull classics, the band seemed superfluous on the interpretations of "Locomotive Breath" and "Thick As A Brick," though Giddings immesurably aided the latter. When delving into the non-orchestral Tull segments, the songs, accentuating elegance over brawn, didn't seem to soar with the same excitement or volume. Possibly, this owed to the staid, reserved venue; most likely, it was that, save Giddings, they weren't Tull.

In between songs, Anderson regaled the audience with his engaging sense of humor, touching on topics familiar to his longtime fans. With rakish English charm, Anderson shows he hasn't become an egotistical classic rock dinosaur: he knows he's old; that he's been playing Aqualung for nigh on 35 years and that Calhoun first heard "King Henry's Madrigal" on her father's old Jethro Tull album. He embraces rather than runs from these facts and his honesty remains part of his indelible appeal. Anderson also pulled out his customary slate of trademark poses: perching on one leg, phallically strumming his flute during guitar solos and playfully wandering the stage in his idiosyncratic way.

Despite a trove of solo material to sample from, Anderson kept his show well steeped in beloved Aqualung era material. As his fans have come to expect "Thick As A Brick," "Locomotive Breath" and "Aqualung" and other early-era Tull classics at every performance, be it Tull or a solo show: Anderson never disappoints. While some musicians have crumbled under the weight of their fans' insistence on hearing their old songs for years on end, Anderson shoulders that burden with ease. Given the enthusiasm he still has for his old material, it's hard to imagine he feels anything but excitement at the opportunity to play familiar songs for old friends. However, on the whole, Anderson seems hesitant to perform a show that significantly distances itself from Tull's weighty catalog. While Anderson's Tull-lite solo shows leave little room for complaints from longtime fans, he may be underestimating his audience's ability and desire to see him in a different role. In line with Owen Wilson's rant from Armageddon, Tull fans can be quite indignant when others mistake Ian Anderson for Jethro Tull; Anderson should help them out by drawing a brighter line between the two.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Scarlett Johansson Record Deal?

Scarlett Johansson may be joining the growing ranks of actresses cutting a record. Fox News is "reporting" that the lovely Scarlett is in talks with Atco Records to record a cd of Tom Waits covers, tenatively titled Scarlett Sings Tom Waits. Who knows if it is true, but when you're the "sexiest woman alive" you can pretty much do whatever you want. Hey, at least she's allegedly picked a hip guy to cover. Perhaps she should "duet" with Jessical Biel...I'd definitely buy that.

John Popper Project Opens Tour At New York City's Canal Room

The John Popper Project, featuring the once-portly Popper, turntable wizard DJ Logic, Blues Traveler bassist Tad Kinchla and Mosaic drummer Marcus Bleecker, will be kicking off their North American tour in support of their recently released self-titled album on Tuesday October 17 at New York City's posh Canal Room at 285 West Broadway. The intimate venue should make an ideal locale for the foursome's funky interplay.

Tickets are available here.

Friday, October 13, 2006

New Jeff Tweedy Coming

Jeff Tweedy, Photo Credit: Charles HarrisSunken Treasure: Live in the Pacific Northwest, a live performance DVD by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, will hit stores on October 24. The film was directed by Christoph Green and Fugazi's Brendan Canty, the creators of the documentary series Burn to Shine and includes includes performances gathered over five nights on Tweedy's February 2006 solo acoustic tour.

"I wanted this to feel how the tour felt to me," said Green, "...a chaptered flow down the west coast, showing the isolated bleakness you encounter when you travel quickly from one place to another, and then contrasting that with the experience at the shows—the gathering of people and the sense of community that is created night after night. "

You can catch a clip here for "The Thanks I Get" - a previoulsy unreleased Wilco tune - and a preview of Sunken Treasure.

Kierstin Gray at the Knitting Factory

Kierstin GrayIt's no secret that I'm a big fan of Kierstin Gray. And, as I've gotten to know her as a person over the past year and half, I can honestly say her terrific voice is matched by her grace and warmth.

She's going to be at the Knitting Factory in NYC this Sunday, October 15th to lay down some tracks for a live cd. She's one of those people who can just sing and record with no need for fancy production. So, get out there Sunday and support a truly deserving indie artist.

Cold War Kids: Robbers and Cowards Out Now

Cold War KidsThe Cold War Kids spent the last few years as one of the best indie acts in the country. Now, they take their game to a bigger stage with their fist full length release on Downtown Records (Gnarls Barkely, Art Brut), with V2 handling Europe.

This is one of those bands that deserves the hype and buzz. "Passing the Hat", a new song that did not appear on prior EPs is streaming on their MySpace page, as well as older favorites "Hospital Beds", "Robbers" and "Hange Me Up To Dry". This has been a big year for the Kids, and 2007 should be even bigger.

U-Melt Unravels The Knitting Factory: The I's Mind CD Release Celebration

U MeltBy: David Schultz

It should come as no surprise to anyone following U-Melt's ascent through the jamband ranks that the celebration for the release of their second CD, The I's Mind, wouldn't be your typical run-of-the-mill event.

ZacAs if the late night starting hour at New York City's Knitting Factory wasn't enough to set U-Melt's record release party apart from your usual celebration, shortly into "The Fantastic Flight of Captain Delicious," their second song of the evening, the main room of the quirky downtown haunt exploded in a blizzard of luminescent glow sticks. With the band's enthusiastic fans throwing the rods back and forth between themselves and back and forth with those in the balcony, Zac Lasher (keys), Rob Salzer (guitar), Adam Bendy (bass) and George Miller (drums) continued playing as if this playful chaos was simply business as usual . . . which it pretty much was. U-Melt fans take their cue from the band: it's simply good practice to expect the unexpected.

GeorgeAfter recording the majority of the album with long time sound engineer Josh Parrish earlier this year in Cincinnati, OH, U-Melt returned to the road for the summer, tirelessly continuing on a seemingly endless tour that made its way to festivals and venues throughout North America. On their return to the Knitting Factory, where they played this past March with Tea Leaf Green, the experience showed, especially in their growing mastery of the ability to work the crowd. Rather then simply shift into a different passage during a lengthy jam, U-Melt, in unison, skillfully built anticipation, bringing the crowd with them and causing them to burst with glee when they hit certain riffs or upped the tempo to a different gear.

RobOver two sets spanning close to 3½ hours, George Miller set a furious pace for the rest of the band to match. Tirelessly working the bass drum and cymbals, Miller consistently provided a danceable beat, laying down the challenge to the assembled crowd to keep up. As usual, Adam Bendy remained relatively stationary throughout the night, his calm demeanor betraying his subtly funky and ferocious bass lines. Even though he stood near the back of the stage, Rob Salzer's guitar skills can’t be hidden. Best typified in the first set closer, "The Eternal Groove," Salzer's ability to rifle through guitar god worthy riffs without drawing the focus away from his band mates remains astounding. Zac Lasher continues to match Salzer's drive, seamlessly moving between his various keyboards and offering one rave-worthy roll after another.

Focusing on the cause for the night’s gathering, U-Melt devoted a portion of their first set to selections from The I's Mind. Though new to the studio, their opener "Ernest Funknine," "Cloud Box" and "Escape" have long been part of the band's live repertoire. With the new album only hours old, U-Melt refused to be satisfied with living in the present, debuting three new songs over the course of the night. "Clear Light" is cut from the mold of U-Melt's prior songs and "Elysian Fields" evolved into one of U-Melt's more trippier, psychedelic jams but "Perfect World," a more traditional song sung by Miller, presented the evening's most intriguing change of pace. Like most of their songs, expect that these will develop over the band's live performances.

AdamU-Melt stayed faithful to their reputations as the kings of the after-hours jam, taking the stage after midnight and playing until 4:00 in the morning. After an evening of frenetic jams and soaring melodies, U-Melt finished their second set with a bouncy rendition of Medeski Martin & Wood's "Bubblehouse," returning for an encore of the Talking Heads' "Once In A Lifetime" that had Lasher nailing David Byrne's vocal mannerisms.

With the new album now released and available here, U-Melt will be hitting the road on The I's Mind tour, which currently has them in Midwest but will shortly bring them back to the East coast.

[Photo Credits: Sillouette Andrew Francke; Live Shots Richard Clarke]

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sirius To Broadcast Last NYC CBGB Show

Sirius Satellite Radio (NASDAQ: SIRI) will broadcast the last NYC hurrah for CBGSs, featuring the legednary Patti Smith, on Sunday, October 15 starting at 9pm EST. Tickets for the final show reportedly sold out in less than 10 minutes.

Smith, who first played CBGB in February 1975 says, "Although we mourn the closing of CBGB, we should remember CBGB, not merely as a place. It is a state of mind."

CBGB plans to open at a new location in Las Vegas. I imagine that Sin City will embrace the club, particulary since Vegas has become even more of a playground for young stars with its proximity to Los Angeles.

Jimmy Buffet Denies French Drug Claims

maybe it is her fault after allLast week the tabloids jumped on the story coming out of France that Jimmy Buffett had pills seized from his luggage by French authorities when he landed there on his way St. Tropez. According to Page Six and local reports, Buffet was detained, but not arrested, and allowed to go free after coughing up a minimal fine.

Jimmy tells his side of the story on his site:

I have tried over the years, to live below the radar when it comes to the "celebrity" thing. I see what I do as just a job, a really fun job that has opened the world, its people and places. However, I seem to still have a way of causing commotion now and then.

In Toulon, we arrived at the private terminal to leave and were moving through security, when my captain informed me that we were being ramp checked by French customs and some plainclothes guys. This is nothing new but what was strange was that the search was being conducted as we were leaving - not as we were arriving. No big deal - I thought. I found my bag and opened it up and they went right for a little pouch which contained my prescription medicines which was sitting on top of my clothes, not the most secretive part of my bag. I don't know about you, but at a few months away from turning sixty, I carry a few prescriptions, including a B vitamin supplement, called Foltx.

Well, that's the one that deflated the party balloon for when they examined them you could see a heart on the pill. "Ecstasy," they said. I have never taken it and couldn't tell you the difference between a hit of ecstasy and Excedrin PM. My vices these days consist of boat drinks, beer, wine and the occasional hot fudge sundae. I hadn't even opened the bottle, because my secretary had made a mistake and had sent the wrong prescription.

Read the rest here.

New and Old Aerosmith

Aerosmith is putting out another greatest hits collection next week called Devil's Got A New Disguise: The Very Best Of Aerosmith. The set includes two brand-new songs "Sedona Sunrise" and "Devil's Got A New Disguise" and hits stores Tuesday October 17th.

Aerosmith are also on their "Route Of All Evil Tour" with Mötley Crüe - tour dates are here.

Robert Randolph & The Family Band: Colorblind

By: David Schultz

Anyone who has been to see Robert Randolph & The Family Band in person knows that the young pedal steel guitarist has it within his power to be the savior of rock n' roll. A typical show features numerous rollicking instrumental jams featuring Randolph's awe inspiring pedal steel guitar riffs, multiple audience participatory dance parties, crowd members coming on stage to perform guitar solos and unending doses of Randolph's youthful ebullience. While they have been known to incorporate traditional blues and gospel into their music as well as cover the occassional Jimi Hendrix or Michael Jackson tune, without question, Randolph & The Family Band have shown that they can achieve so much more than simple rehashes of time-tested riffs. Unclassified, their 2003 studio debut, captured the energy of Randolph & The Family Band's frenetic live performance so well documented on Live At Wetlands; Colorblind, their latest, reigns in that enthusiasm, gaining in finesse where they lose their zeal.

With far less experience than the others on the list, Randolph's pedal steel guitar work earned him a spot on Rolling Stone's 2003 ranking of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Puzzlingly, Randolph's pedal steel seems to be relegated to the background of the majority of Colorblind's tracks, featured most prominently on the freewheeling closing track "Homecoming." The omission of Randolph's signature instrument shows that they are trying to stretch in new directions: the horn section on "Diane" nicely compliments Danyel Morgan's funky bass and euphorically high-pitched backing howls and on the disc's opening "Ain't Nothing Wrong With That," they blend the stomp of a collegiate step-dance with a little OutKast bridge resulting in a roaring joyous romp of an anthem that will surely become a staple of any reputable SWAC marching band.

In part Colorblind creates the same kind of raucous funky community rhythms of another Family band, Sly & The Family Stone. It also contains excursions into the band's softer side which oftentimes turns unnecessarily syrupy. As on Unclassified, Colorblind has a couple moribund tracks where Randolph explores his schmaltzy Stevie Wonder "I Just Called To Say I Love You" feelings. On "Stronger," which features soul singer Leela James, Randolph strikes a nice balance but on "Blessed," he brings the album to an unnecessary halt. These tracks don't terribly weaken the album, but they do considerably slow down the pacing.

Randolph & The Family Band have received a good deal of exposure as an eagerly anticipated opening act for Eric Clapton and the Dave Matthews Band, with Randolph usually returning to help close out the main set. On Colorblind, Clapton, Matthews and saxophonist Leroi Moore return the favor, making high-profile guest appearances on the album. Matthews and Moore join in on the deliciously sizzling "Love Is The Only Way." Sounding more like a Matthews tune than a Randolph romp, the song, which Matthews gives a suave assured sense of confidence, may possess Colorblind's most crossover appeal. Clapton lends his estimable guitar to a cover of The Doobie Brothers' "Jesus Is Just Alright," a song that has been a Randolph concert staple for some time, usually augmented by the ubiquitous Warren Haynes. Clapton not only goads inspirational performances from Randolph, who matches Slow Hand's skills with his own on the pedal steel, and his cousin Marcus Randolph on drums, he absolutely nails the song's bridge, coming the closest to his "God" persona since performing "Eyesight To The Blind" in Tommy.

Remaining true to their gospel roots, much of Colorblind remains grounded in pseudo-religious themes. "Thankful N' Thoughtful," whose lyrics don't expand much beyond the title, and "Angels" focus on bring grateful for the gifts that life brings and "Blessed" is simply self-explanatory. Best exemplified by the fact that Randolph's adrenalin fueled rhythms have already attracted the attention of the NCAA, which featured "Thrill Of It" prominently as part of their opening weekend games, Colorblind moves Randolph & The Family Band a little closer to the mainstream and a little farther away from the rock icon persona they could easily assume. At the present time, they are softly treading the line between the two worlds (which don't always have to be mutually exclusive), keeping one foot placed firmly in each camp. Fortunately, they are young and they have time; the fun will be in watching their career mature and develop.

Return of the Hoodoo Gurus

Hoodoo GurusRemember the 80s? Australia's Hoodoo Gurus hope you do and to refresh your recollection have remastered their early albums for release later this month.

The Stoneage Romeos reissue comes with the original Australian front cover art, as well as additional new material, including bonus tracks "Leilani Pt 2", "Be My Guru" and "Hoodoo You Love." Of the release, All Music Guide says "StoneAge omeos ranks with the most solid debut albums of the 1980's and if you don't like the Hoodoo Gurus, I suspect you don’t like rock & roll very much."

There is also a two disc DVD, Tunnel Vision, that includes all the band's thirty videos, live performance filmed in venues around the world, and a full length documentary. The Gurus are currently in the studio recording a new album for release in Spring of 2007. Look for some US tour dates around that time as well.

Rolling Stones To Play Bill Clinton's Birthday Bash; Scorsese To Document

Good call Schultz!After spending the summer playing stadiums and soccer arenas around the world, The Rolling Stones have announced a two night run at New York City's 2,900 seat Beacon Theater. The October 29 and October 31 shows will be part of Bill Clinton's 60th birthday celebration and will be The Stones' most intimate concert performances in years. Tickets for the shows have yet to go on sale and no statement has been made as to their face value, which should be sizable. However, proceeds are earmarked for Clinton's charitable foundations. There has also been no announcement as to whether the former President will break out his saxophone and join Mick, Keith and the boys on stage. (Earvolution suggests The Stones' cover of Ray Charles' "The Right Time" would be a perfect vehicle for a Presidential jam session).

Director Martin Scorsese will be filming the shows for use in a documentary on The Rolling Stones' Bigger Bang tour. One of the editors on the original Woodstock documentary, Scorsese's most recent rock 'n' roll doc on Bob Dylan, No Direction Home, won a slew of awards including a Grammy for Best Long Form Video.

Guns N' Roses Announce North American Tour; Hint Once Again At Chinese Democracy's Release

Chinese DemocracyGuns N' Roses is preparing to head back out on the road for an extended fall tour of North America. To publicize the tour, Axl Rose has fallen back on his one sure-fire headline grabbing announcement: the release of Chinese Democracy, the long awaited, heavily rumored, potentially non-existent new Guns N' Roses album.

In releasing the tour dates, the band, making reference to the traditional release date for new CDs, finished the announcement with the puzzling statement, "[T]here are thirteen Tuesdays left between now and the end of the year." In addition, Rolling Stone has reported that Chinese Democracy will see the light of day on November 21. NME reports that GNR management has not confirmed the November 21 release date.

Earlier this year, rampant speculation had Chinese Democracy being released in March. Those rumors were fueled by Axl Rose's comments to Rolling Stone and Slash's statements on Philadelphia radio. If history has taught us anything in this regard, don't believe Chinese Democracy will be released until you are holding a copy of it in your hand. Then, it might be safe to believe the hype.

Gorillaz Enter Phase Two

GorillazGorillaz will be delivering a Halloween treat with the release of their Phase Two - Slowboat to Hades DVD, the follow up to Phase One - Celebrity Takedown.

The DVD will include material released by Gorillaz from 2004 to 2006, including the full videos for "Rock It", "Feel Good Inc.", "DARE", "Dirty Harry" and "El Mañana". It also includes the MTV EMAs, Grammys and Brits live performances, the Gorillaz MTV Cribs episode, the Phase Two Gorilla bites, a new Kong Studio guide, and short interviews. A bonus CD-Rom includes 16 games including Gorillaz.com favorites Animal Kwackers, Tiles of the Unexpected and Operation.

As they say on those late night infomercials...wait that's not all! Gorillaz will also release a series of four EPs following the DVD. The first, Dare, will drop October 24th.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Ever Evolving Particle: The Earvolution Interview With Darren Pujalet

Photo from Evans Drums By: David Schultz

It lacks the posturing and taunting of its rap counterpart and there surely are no recorded accounts of a feud degenerating into shocking acts of violence but in the world of high-octane, electronica fueled jambands, an overactive imagination can envision a rivalry amongst the East coast and West coast bands. The competition seems to take place on stage, with each of the bands amping up their sets to offer fans the liveliest show possible. While The Disco Biscuits and U-Melt are representative of the East Coast; the California based Particle have emerged as the band most identifiable with the West Coast sound.

Particle's road has not always been smoothly paved: their original lineup of keyboardist Steve Molitz, bassist Eric Gould, drummer Darren Pujalet and guitarist Dave Simmons was short lived, Simmons passing away shortly after the group formed. Wanting to keep Simmons' spirit alive, Charlie Hitchcock joined the band and Particle steadily built their reputation as one of the up-and-coming bands on the jamband scene. In 2002, they performed at the Jammy Awards with Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson of the B-52s, bringing down the house with an extended version of "Love Shack" that had the most jaded of music fans dancing with glee. In 2004, they released their debut album, Launchpad, a collection of instrumentals that succinctly captured the aura of their spacey, electronic live shows. In 2005, they paired up with the Grateful Dead's drummer Mickey Hart, touring as Hydra and offering their take on world music.

As with all stories worth telling, every flowing wave comes with its equivalent ebb tide and Particle's story is one of those; their last twelve months constituting quite a roller coaster. Even though they have spent little time off the road, Particle has endured a mutual split with guitarist Charlie Hitchcock; reemerged as a quintet with guitarists Ben Combe and Scott Metzger; recorded and released Transformations, a CD and DVD commemorating the band's new configuration only to see the lineup break apart with Metzger leaving the band a few months later.

In the brief break between their summer and fall tours, during which Eric Gould got married and Particle added "wedding band" to their resume, drummer Darren Pujalet took some time to talk with Earvolution about the band's various transformations, which while serving as the title of their latest releases also seems to be a good term for describing Particle's last twelve months.

At the outset of the discussion, Pujalet agreed with the assessment that "transformation" perfectly sums up Particle and their constant evolution. "Basically, we've always been a band that's transformed to the moment. We've done so many different things: we've played in Hydra with Mickey Hart; we've all done mix and match things; we've played with Satriani; we did a Doors song and then we did some hip hop," says Pujalet noting how Transformations succinctly encapsulates the band’s versatility. "There are certain styles that we like to play. I would say that Particle has a sound and vibe and there's a percentage where it's off the map that we like to do that as well."

Without question, the biggest transformation began at the end of their 2005 summer tour: a seemingly amicable split with their longtime guitarist Charlie Hitchcock. The search for a new guitarist yielded double bounty in the form of established RANA guitarist Scott Metzger and the lesser heralded but equally talented Ben Combe. "It's kind of funny that we are where we are today," explained Pujalet of the transition process. "When we first started looking, we were searching for one guitar player and we came up with two guys who brought something so different. We liked a piece of what they were both bringing to the table and it was hard to make a decision. We thought to ourselves, 'Well, we love what they're both doing and they bring different elements to the band, so let's hire two new guitar players.'"

Combe, who has now, in essence, replaced Hitchcock as the lead guitarist, came to audition for the band when a friend pushed him into sending Particle an audition CD. "When we heard the CD, we loved the production, the singing, the songwriting, everything about it," recalls Pujalet. "We thought, 'Hey, we've got to give this guy a shot, let's get him over here.' He came over four different times to audition for us. Any time we wanted to have him, he'd be over [from Arizona] within a day." On the other hand, Metzger came to the band in quite a different fashion. A longtime member of the East coast based RANA, Metzger came out west in search of a different fortune. "I knew he wanted a change and a challenge and maybe to be in a band that was a little bit further ahead on the touring level," says Pujalet of Metzger's desire to join the band. Noting that the RANA musicians are involved in various side projects, "I think Scott figured: 'Well, what can I do to venture out and do my own thing.' I think he saw it as a great opportunity."

Quickly gelling as a quintet, the new lineup debuted on February 24, 2006 at the Henry Fonda Theater in Hollywood, California. Memorable not only for the guest performers, which included Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger, Joe Satriani, turntablist DJ Logic and rapper Blackalicious, Particle memorialized the event on Transformations. "It was a really big risk for us to do that," said Pujalet of making the band's debut as a five piece the focal point of a major CD/DVD release. "It felt like putting all of your money on the line, putting it all on red at the roulette table. Part of that feeling was the nostalgia of getting that footage on DVD knowing that it was our first performance ever together." Recorded before their avid hometown fans, Transformations features Robby Krieger sitting in for a romp through The Doors classic "L.A. Woman" and Satriani and old friend DJ Logic helping out on "W," a Particle live staple.

Transformations illustrates a nice dichotomy inherent with Particle. Although Particle has crafted their own distinct style, they have not isolated themselves from other musicians. In fact, they have proven quite adaptable to all types of music. Their performance with Robby Krieger, who surreally wore a Doors T-shirt, seemed to be one-off deal; unlike Hydra, their pairing with Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, which went so swimmingly that they took the whole shebang out on tour. "He [Hart] heard our music and wanted to try and pair up with a band that a lot more forward thinking and had a more modern type sound," relates Pujalet. "Particle really offered that for him. We had an opportunity to play together and from that point on, he was sold on the band." As any drummer hailing from the West coast would, Pujalet was excited to share the stage with Hart. "I'd heard their music for years and been to some Dead shows as a kid. To play with someone I'd always dreamed of having the opportunity to play with was really inspirational and nostalgic at the same time."

Although he's not featured prominently in the DVD, DJ Logic also has a hold on Particle's heart; a kindred spirit to what the band tries to accomplish. Logic has joined Particle on numerous occasions and Pujalet has returned the favor, relishing the opportunity to sit in while Logic works his turntable magic. "We've run in the same circle for years," says Pujalet. Keeping it all within six degrees of musical separation, Pujalet first played with his future band mate Scott Metzger at a DJ Logic and Friends show. "As the drummer of Particle, I enjoy having him sit in, but I've had much more fun playing with Logic when its his band," explains Pujalet. "Logic supported Particle on ten to fifteen dates last year. I would come out and play drums with him. To be able to play with him was great because he would spin beats and grooves and I would play drums over the top and just listen to what he was doing." Pujalet pauses for a moment before continuing, "It's a much more pleasing style. There's just a lot of good interaction,” he notes. "You have to listen really well. We are both rhythm oriented. It's a treat: I love playing grooves over the styles that he plays."

Transformations also features Molitz, Gould and even Pujalet utilizing the microphones, adding vocals to a couple new songs as well as to a randy romp through Beck's "E-Pro." Always considered an instrumental band, they have long considered bringing vocals into the mix, just recently reaching the point where they acted on their impulse. During the auditions for new guitarists, Particle explored whether they had a singing voice. On Transformations, the encore showcases the vocal (and guitar) talents of the new members with Combe and Metzger returning to the stage alone for an acoustic reading of The Verve's "Lucky Man." The guitarists' duet marks the critical conclusion of the show; the all-star finale consisting of a cover of "Superstition" hurt by too many cooks stirring Stevie Wonder's pot.

Regrettably, Transformations captures a short-lived moment in Particle's history. Metzger's Particle brief tenure with the band lasted only a few months as family matters requiring him to return to full time to New York. Pujalet looked at Metzger's decision pragmatically. "Unfortunately for Scott we work really hard, we tour a lot and we're based out of the West coast, which really doesn't allow us to be home that often. I know he has all his family [on the East coast]; there were troubled times going on and it was really hard for him to attend to them from such a distance. It didn't surprise me when I heard the final decision," said Pujalet. The drummer believes Metzger's decision to join the band was in earnest and he takes an existential view as to whether his departure from the band will be a temporary one. "You never know, we don't know," he explains. "At this point, the band is going on as a four piece. We're taking it as a four piece for now."

As Metzger left the band with some shows remaining, Particle's had time to reestablish themselves as a quartet. "The band sounds a lot tighter and really polished," explains Pujalet, making mention that he's not saying such as a slight to Metzger. "I think the motivation factors been a lot higher as well. With just the four of us, it's a little bit easier. We're really pushing the band to look for new directions and new ways of performing." In the wake of Metzger's departure, Combe's role in the band expanded and Pujalet has been quite impressed with Combe's handling of the responsibility. "Ben has really kind of picked up the slack on the other end and really stepped up to the plate. Now that Scott is not around, his playing has really started to flourish. I think it's really hard and takes a certain type of character to do what Particle does and work as hard as we've worked."

The hard work Pujalet describes bursts forth on stage where, given the lengthy nature of many of Particle's tunes, their shows devolve into a wonderfully groovy rave type atmosphere; a result that's not altogether unintentional. "We've all attended raves and that environment has infiltrated our world so much just because of traveling around to festivals where there are rave tents," explains Pujalet. "It's always present and it just kind of seeps into your pores. Plus, we've really been influenced by electronic music and dance music in general: the more and more you listen, you get that rave element."

Particle's incorporation of the rave scene's hypnotically trance-inducing music into their self-defined organically electronic jams has given rise to "livetronica," a term Pujalet loves. "It really connotes a more organic sense of what you hear coming from DJs. It's more of an interpretive, in the moment, improvisational style of electronic music," describes Pujalet. "When someone asks me to go through the evolution of different phases in our career, a lot of time I describe our music as high-energy dance music or funktronic rock. We have a lot of funk and dance influence as well as a large electronic influence. To be honest with you it's basic rock music, we hit hard we play hard, we have high energy, it's not as calm as you hear from a lot of electronic music."

Though nothing could replace the feel and fun of any live show, the Transformations DVD admirably documents the atmosphere of a Particle show. The crowd scenes, including many fans dressed in costume for the evening, give a good sense of the aura surrounding the band. When Particle played a late night show last summer at New York City's Irving Plaza, they created a rave-like atmosphere befitting the late hour of the show. The fans helped foster the mood, many dressing up in outfits varying from the traditional tie-dyes to one fan who found a leopard print suit with top hat. The outre environment that occasionally arises at Particle's shows isn't lost on the band. "We really encourage that. We love to see people dressed in costume," Pujalet says with pride creeping into his voice. "It just adds so much to the flavor and says something about the people that count when people come dressed up for the show and seeing that they're so steamed for the show. It's awesome to see them getting in character, getting in the spirit of the night. We've just done so many out of the box, zany type shows; people know that that's the type of band we are. So to see some guy dressed up in a Superman costume at the show is cool, it's great, we welcome it. It's not something you would necessarily see at a Black Crowes' concert," he jests.

In addition to digging the apparel during the show, Particle puts thought into the composition of their prospective audience at each venue. "Particle's so good at tailoring their set," says Pujalet, proudly. "A lot of the times when you play at night you can couple really high energy music with some drawn out cerebral music; people are in that type of head space late at night. Whereas during the afternoon, we usually play with a more rock and roll style to get people pumped up for the long day." To accentuate the point, Pujalet points to the band's recent sets at Lollapalooza, Milwaukee's Summer Fest and Wakarusa. "Each show: it's a different experience."

Pujalet expressed excitement over their current fall tour, which will take them to nearly every corner of the United States. While the tour will ostensibly be in support of the Transformations project, Pujalet looks forward to the opportunities to experiment as well. "We've got some new material that we'll be working into the new tour. I think you'll see a lot of transformations in the band over this tour as well. A lot of new directions, a lot of new styles and ways to show what we've put together." As the changes seemed to be in the process of developing, Pujalet was politely hesitant to prematurely discuss any future changes. "Some of it hasn't even been completely determined: a lot of ideas and thoughts have been tossed around and I know it will be a unique tour."

Photo from TheHarvestJam.com

Beyond the music, Particle tries to bring something memorable to each show. When they last traveled through New York as part of the Green Apple Music & Arts Festival, Particle attempted to impart an environmentally conscious vibe onto their sold-out performance at the Bowery Ballroom by encouraging fans to ride their bicycles to the venue. Unfortunately, New York City was beset with torrential rains on the day of the show, making non-vehicular, uncovered travel extremely inconvenient. Pujalet's sense of pride over selling out the Bowery Ballroom, which featured a guest appearance by Mickey Hart (who seemed to be everywhere that weekend), is matched only by his anticipation of returning to the much larger Irving Plaza on November 8th. For Halloween, the band will faux-travel to the year 2070 to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the birth of funk at the Granada Theater in Lawrence, KS where they will award the title of God and Goddess of the Universe to a pair of lucky concert-goers.

In talking with Pujalet, it's easy to become wrapped up in his enthusiasm for Particle's future. Clearly proud of the band's accomplishments to date, Pujalet seems more excited about the experiences that loom ahead. Even though his eyes are focused on the recent album, the fall tour and newer music, he did not demur when asked about the split with Charlie Hitchcock, taking a very pragmatic view over his departure. "In a nutshell, we were heading in different directions," relates Pujalet. "In the musical sense, we wanted different things out of the band. I think Eric, Steve and I wanted to become a little more of a polished, refined band and show a little more depth. I think Charlie was more of an in-the-moment, let's just play what's in front of us kind of guy. We drifted apart in our musical styles." As to the split itself, Pujalet could see that a split was imminent. "It had been surfacing for a long time but we'd been working so hard together that it was challenging to do anything about it when you were so busy. You can only head in different directions for so long and still be close." Despite the differences, could Hitchcock ever return? "I don't think so, but stranger things have happened."

This Friday will mark another milestone for Particle: their sixth anniversary. To celebrate the occasion, they will return to the Henry Fonda Theater where they are encouraging fans to bring their parachute pants, Adidas and boom-boxes. Proving the adage that what does not kill you makes you stronger, the anniversary show will not only signify another year in Particle's young but fruitful career but will also serve as a testament to their durability.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Lucero Opens YouTube Channel

Ben Nichols: There is a gamy rawness captured here, created out of no shortage of heart and boozeWill from East West Records sent over some info on " alt-country styled punk" outfit Lucero. Their latest release Rebels, Rogues and Sworn Brothers hit stores last week and they ready to tour with the support of Rocky Votolato.

Lucero also set up a YouTube channel with live footage and interviews. You can check out their video for "She's Just That Kind Of Girl" here.

The Blood Brothers Release New Video

The Blood Brothers have a new record out coming out October 10th, Young Machetes, and have put together a video for the song "Laser Life." They will hit the road to tour this fall with And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead.

Watch it here on Quicktime or YouTube.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!