Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Experience Hendrix Wins UK Court Appeal

Experience Hendrix scored a victory in the UK courts. The music company had been battling attorney John Hillman over some claims of ownership interest in Jimi's music. The company, formed by Jimi's father, says the Court of Appeal in London has now upheld a 2006 decision of the English High Court rejecting Hillman's claims.

The dispute apparently goes back decades to late 1960s and early 1970s when Hillman represented Michael Jeffery, Jimi's then manager. Hillman apparently helped administer "Yameta", a company which handled funds earned by Hendrix and other artists managed by Jeffery. After Hendrix and Jeffery died, the company dissolved.

Experience Hendrix says that in the early 1990's, Hillman began claiming that Yameta had owned the Jimi Hendrix music rights, and that these alleged rights had transferred to himself and licensed his claimed rights to a UK record company, Purple Haze Records. Purple Haze began distributing Hendrix recordings, but were stopped by the UK court judgment in 2006. Hillman appealed, and the Court sided with Experience Hendrix.

The company says the Court's decision "also effectively puts an end to another Hillman associated project, a proposed biographical film based on Hendrix's life and career. Dragonslayer Films, a fledgling independent company, claimed to rely on a license from Hillman for the necessary music rights for this project." They say they have not granted any license or approval for the film.

The Popo

So, I was hanging out at Milkboy Coffee last night checking out a few singer-songwriters and then later sat outside to enjoy the great evening weather. I was sitting with Milkboy owner Tommy Joyner when one of many folks stopping to speak with him mentioned how he had just got back from touring with Nine Inch Nails in Europe.

Turns out the F.O.T. (friend of Tommy) was "Sam" from the PoPo a talented Philly area band that released a literal basement tape through Buddyhead Records and did indeed do some shows in Europe with Trent Reznor and NIN. Check out this band as they are doing some very different things from the rest of the indie rock crowd. As I said, these recordings you'll hear on their MySpace page were literally recorded in their basement, so they are not the most polished. But, that's part of the allure and you can still get an idea of the high energy and unique sounds these guys are putting out.

Great Songs on Bad Albums

Queen, the Clash, the Who, Bob Dylan and David Bowie are rock royalty. They have all earned "legendary" status, but Rolling Stone reminds us that even the greats have some goofs. The latest Rolling Stone readers poll ranks the "Top 25 Greatest Songs on Bad Albums." You know we love lists, like this and this for example, so I had to give some love to RS for this one.

The top 10 is:

1. Under Pressure from Queen's Hot Space
2. This Is England from the Clash's Cut The Crap
3. Eminence Front from The Who's It's Hard
4. Brownsville Girl from Bob Dylan's Knocked Out Loaded
5. Hallo Spaceboy from David Bowie's Outside
6. Kill Your Sons from Lou Reed's Sally Can't Dance
7. 2000 Light Years from Home from the Rolling Stones' Their Satanic Majesties Request
8. Goin' Home from Neil Young's Are You Passionate
9. Song For Guy from Elton John's A Single Man
10. Don't Look Back from Boston's Don't Look Back

The full list is here. You can argue whether all of these are "bad albums", but there is no doubt they are all great songs.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Disco Biscuits Plug In To New York City

By: David Schultz

One of the forerunners of the electronica influence within the jamband world, The Disco Biscuits have grown from a niche East coast band to join moe. and Umphrey's McGee as enduring veterans of the scene. Since emerging from the Philadelphia college scene in the 90s, The Biscuits have accrued a mighty following solely on the strength of their live performances and the scene surrounding them. Marc Brownstein (bass), Aron Magner (keys) and John Gutwillig (guitar) have formed the core of the band since its early days. Original and longtime drummer Sam Altman left the band in 2005 in favor of medical school. His replacement Allen Aucoin has afforded the Biscuits the opportunity to move seamlessly forward while adding a slightly heavier beat.

Bisco, as their fans affectionately call them, brought their trance fusion dance party to New York City's Highline Ballroom for a pair of pre-Memorial Day sold-out shows. In addition to a pair of Biscuits shows, the Highline hosted on of their first after-hours shows featuring Conspirator, Brownstein and Magner's side project, which also featured an appearance by friend and oftentime collaborator Joe Russo. Friday night's show consisted of two nearly seamless sets heavy on the instrumental jams on which the Biscuits have built their reputation. The soloing, most notably by Magner and Gutwillig, was kept to a relative minimum. Rather than opt for virtuosic individual performances, the Biscuits spent the entire evening keeping the Highline crowd moving with an interesting variety of upbeat grooves.

The Disco Biscuits provide more of a treat for those who are intimately familiar with their catalog. Not only do their keep their set lists fresh, changing them each night, attentive fans can take delight in their penchant for frequently altering how they deliver the songs. Just to keep things interesting, the Biscuits will often invert their songs: sometimes moving the middle section to the lead; other times simply playing the song backwards (the verses and instrumental passages, that is. They don't do it note for note).

For the unfamiliar, the only recognizable tune would have been Magner's melancholic tease of Radiohead's "Karma Police" before a set closing "Spaga." And, if you are new to the Biscuits, don't be misled by the name: it doesn't tell you anything relevant about the band. The Disco Biscuits are not retreading Seventies-era dance licks. If you do go see them, while you might not see anything earth shattering, you will find a band playing an impressive and progressive array of electronica based jams and a welcoming scene in which to enjoy them.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Revealed: The Secret Machines At The Highline Ballroom

By: David Schultz

A few months ago, The Secret Machines quietly announced that guitarist Ben Curtis would be leaving the band he founded with his brother Brandon and drummer Josh Garza. For a trio that works so well together, Curtis' departure might have sounded a death knell for The Machines, right on the verge of their emergence as one of the freshest and most exciting new groups of the new century. Rather then spiral aimlessly in the face of loss, Brandon Curtis and Garza quickly regrouped and began working on new material focusing on the matter at hand and not what might have been. Having already attracted the ardor of David Bowie upon the release of last year's Ten Silver Drops, the Thin White Duke tabbed The Machines to reveal their new lineup and sound as the closing act of his High Line Festival at the newly opened Highline Ballroom. Technically, the Highline show was The Machines' second in as many nights: Curtis and Garza weren't leaving everything to chance, they played a late-night warm up show with substantially the same setlist the night before at The Annex on the Lower East Side.

In Ben's absence, Garza and Curtis brought on two different guitarists, who also contributed some additional keyboards while Brandon played bass. Neither contributed significantly to the much heavier sound they've adopted. Without Ben's incising guitar work, the Machines now focus on Brandon's sonorous keyboards and Garza's bombastic drums. Instead of building on the crisp modern rock found on No Here Is Nowhere and Ten Silver Drops, Garza and Curtis are moving into the sludgy heaviness akin to "Daddy's In The Doldrums." Unlike past Machines shows, the crowd seemed less enthralled by the new material, which lacked the tight hooks and grooves that fueled their success. The differences between the new material was most pronounced during "Lightning Blue Eyes" and the encore of "Sad And Lonely" and "Nowhere Again," which seemed to possess a more energized spirit. The Highline show may indicate a drastic change in musical direction for The Secret Machines; then again, it may be too early to make such a pronouncement.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Nick Oliveri Ready to Rock Ozzfest

Queens of the Stone Age put on one of the best shows I've ever seen in a gym at Towson State University. They flat out jammed for the entire set. Of course, Nick Oliveri was a major force for QUOTSA. Now his "Mondo Generator" have signed with Suburban Noize Records and are set to release a new record, Dead Planet: SONICSLOWMOTIONTRAILS.

The new record is timed to release with Nick and Mondo Generator hitting the road with Ozzfest. Nick is apparently psyched. "I can't wait to sweat and bleed with the Ozzfest crowds! I did the main stage with Queens of the Stone Age in 2000. I remember thinking the 2nd stage was much more intimate," says Oliveri. "General admission, no seats, mosh pits, beer, girls, sun and Mondo Generator will be bringing some loud, fast, heavy, sludge to compliment. Let's get it on!"

No doubt, get it on they will. Recorded by producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Velvet Revolver, System Of A Down) at Dave Grohl's Studio 606 Dead Planet: SONICSLOWMOTIONTRAILS hits stores July 17th.

Yellowcard Readies New Record

Yellowcard is set for a summer release of their new record Paper Walls . The disc hits stores July 17th and is the third in a trilogy of albums that includes 2006's Lights and Sounds and Ocean Avenue from 2003. In addition to putting out the new record, the band will play the 2007 Vans Warped Tour from June 29 – July 19. They also plan to announce additional live dates shortly.

The Jacksonville, Florida based rockers went out west to make the new record. Paper Walls was produced by Neal Avron who did their first two records. While that familiarity made things a bit easier in the studio, this was the first time the band had been in the studio since guitarist Ryan Mendez joined the group during the Lights and Sounds tour. Frontman Ryan Key, who had to undergo some vocal surgery had this to say about the recording: "This album is the sound of five musicians in a room having a great time and writing the music that we love. We feel like the luckiest guys in the world to be able to do this."

Of course, being on a major label will allow their fans to buy the new record twice. A deluxe CD/DVD version of Paper Walls will also be sold that is said to feature "exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of the band, extensive photo gallery and two additional live bonus tracks." Meanwhile you can check out some footage of videos of Yellowcard recording "Paper Walls" in the studio here on YouTube. You can also listen to "Light Up The Sky" here:
Windows Media / Real.

MySpace Records Releasing Kyle XY Soundtrack

MySpace Records announced they are putting out the soundtrack to the first season of ABC's "Kyle XY." The disc will include songs from bands featured last season like O.A.R., Cary Brothers, The 88, Earlimart, Mates of State, In-Flight Safety, Irving, Mariana's Trench, and Sean Hayes. I'm a big O.A.R. and Cary Brothers fan, but it seems to me that MySpace ought to be giving more back to the unknown bands that helped make the site what it is. I'd love to see MySpace put its corporate muscle behind a bunch of relatively unknown bands. There are tons that deserve the attention, most of whom have a MySpace account so they'll be easy for them to find!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Keeping The Doors Open: Riders On The Storm

By: David Schultz

A predominant majority of The Doors devotees never saw the seminal Sixties band perform live, their last concert coming well over 35 years ago. Jim Morrison having died in 1971, the bulk of The Doors' present day fans have no meaningful recollection of the band, receiving their most vivid memories from Danny Sugerman books and Oliver Stone movies. Even though permanent injunctions have rendered any touring entity calling themselves The Doors a thing of the past, much bar room debate could still be had over whether keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger fronting a band playing Doors classics while drummer John Densmore sits at home and Jim Morrison rests at Pere Lachaise actually constitutes the legendary band. In cases like this, authenticity is in the eye of the beholder, or more properly the listener. In peddling a glimpse of their legacy as Riders On The Storm, Manzarek and Krieger are lending just enough legitimacy to the venture to avoid being the greatest Doors tribute band ever.

This past Friday night, Manzarek and Krieger rode the Riders into Times Square's Nokia Theater. The specter of Jim Morrison loomed large but the Riders' show is far from two hours of homage to The Lizard King. Instead, Manzarek and Krieger look back on their legacy as one of the bands that helped define the Sixties, neither embellishing nor diminishing the contributions of their mythic friend and lead singer. The instrumental passages retained enough of their authenticity: the skeleton-like Krieger recreated many of his celebrated guitar licks and Manzarek has played the organ solo from "Light My Fire" so many times he can do it with his feet.

Former Fuel singer Brett Scallions had the unenviable and pretty much impossible task of replacing Jim Morrison. Given that American Idol reject Chris Daughtry was considered a suitable replacement for Scallions, replacing Morrison was a task well beyond his skill. The Tennessee born singer's voice and style are better fit for easy-going, mainstream fare, not the weighty, ponderous catalog of The Doors. Even though he hit the right key for "When The Music's Over" and "Spanish Caravan," Scallions sang most of songs in higher register than Morrison, repeatedly failing to hit the deep, rich tones so identifiable with The Doors' music. As everyone in the crowd knew the words to all the songs, Manzarek and Krieger might have been better served just letting the audience sing along instead of subjecting everyone to the preening Scallions.

While Scallions addition to the Riders is a practical necessity, he isn't the only unfamiliar face. Bassist Phil Chen adds an instrument traditionally omitted from The Doors' live shows and Ty Dennis unobtrusively mans the skins instead of John Densmore, who has had artistic and legal issues with Manzarek and Krieger's Doors revival project since its conception as The Doors Of The 21st Century with Cult singer Ian Astbury. The fact that his former band mate's never once mentioned his name from the stage didn't mean that Densmore's influence wasn't felt. Along with Morrison's estate, Densmore's legal efforts have prevented this and pretty much any other group of musicians from calling themselves The Doors, resulting in this current incarnation playing as Riders On The Storm.

In Sam Mendes' Jarhead, a plane flies through the Iraqi desert blasting "Break On Through" into the balmy night. As it flies overhead, Jake Gyllenhaal remarks with disgust, "That's Vietnam music! Can't we get our own music?" Much like the pilots, Manzarek and Krieger are making little effort to offer anything current or interpret anew their well traveled catalog. Manzarek raised the ghosts of The Doors' political past in analogizing the Vietnam era to our current Iraqi conflict before launching into a scorching version of the virulently anti-war "Five To One." The Riders one attempt to offer something of current relevance proved to be one of Scallions better efforts. The Riders one other attempt to bring their music into the present century, a twangy interpretation of "Moonlight Drive," similarly succeeded.

As the show near its end, careening into a closing romp through "L.A. Woman," and an encore of "Riders On The Storm" and, of course "Light My Fire," all of Scallions' shortcomings seemed insignificant. Regardless of the name emblazoned on the marquee, every single person inside the Nokia Theater came to see The Doors. If accomplishing that task entailed a willing suspension of disbelief, it seemed a price most were willing to pay.

Mp3s, News and Notes

American Idol is thankfully winding down its season with Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis battling it out for this year's top prize, the Dollyrots have a new video attempting to tap into the growing American Idol backlash. Check out their Idol spoof "Because I'm Awesome" over on YouTube.

The Donnas have remade the one-hit-wonder classic "Safety Dance." But, apparently their love for the 80s isn't all about the music. The lasses rockin' cover of the song will be broadcast into all of our homes in a VW ad. The ad begins airing June 1st. But, don't call these ladies sell outs. They slugged it out on the club scene for years and if this gets them the mainstream exposure they deserve then good for them! Check out "Safety Dance" on the Donnas' MySpace page.

Earvolution friends Licorice will play the Dynamic Grooves Music Festival this coming weekend in Northville, NY. The show is just one of several summer outings for the band who will also hit the studio to record new material they hope to release in the fall. You can get more info on the Dynamic Grooves fest here.

Mp3 offerings:

The Lodger: Kicking Sand
The Archibalds: Rain and Tunder
Scissors for Lefty: Next to Argyle
Meowskers: Colors That Lie
Dawn Landes: Young Folks (cover of Peter, Bjorn & John)
Hey Lover: Here Comes the Snow
The Honored Guests: Summer Snow

Sirius Satellite Radio announced today a new "Grateful Dead" radio channel. Grateful Dead Radio will feature live performances from the band's own archives, bootleg performances from fans, previously unreleased recordings, and special shows hosted by members of the band. Grateful Dead Radio is expected to launch on Sirius this summer.

Wilco's Jeff Tweedy likes to jam with his son. The Wilco frontman reportedly tests out new tunes by playing them with his 11-year-old son, a drummer, even before the band hears them. Tweedy reportedly says "He's really good to jam with. I get to play a lot of songs with him before the band hears them and you can play with him like you're playing with an adult. So it's pretty crazy." Is this the next Wolfie Van Halen?

The Elusive Genius: Laurie Anderson At The Highline Ballroom

By: David Schultz

Quite some time ago, my friend and his younger brother, a musician in his own right, went to see Van Morrison at Toad's Place in New Haven, CT. After a baffling night of music in which Morrison reportedly failed to enthrall the crowd, my friend's brother refused to admit that Morrison played a lousy concert. Instead, he came to the conclusion that Van Morrison's genius escaped him. If there's a fine line between clever and stupid, the line between genius and pretension is razor thin. Walking that tightrope, performance artist Laurie Anderson brought her genius to the recently opened Highline Ballroom as part of the inaugural High Line Festival.

To the strains of a recorded bit of atmospheric music, Anderson's set began with a light bulb swinging back and forth into a camera with the image projected on a video screen. For the next two hours, Anderson's mix of music and spoken word pieces struggled to match the attraction of the light bulb pendulum. Anderson brings a wit and intelligence to whatever she works upon and her stories and songs are replete with keen observations. Over the course of her Highline set, Anderson sang about bodies in motion, mice caught in traps and discoursed in a short story about being a whore. On paper, much of this work must look quite poetic and lyrical; on stage, it simply dragged, lacking excitement or prophetic wisdom. "Only An Expert" proved an exception: playing in front of a video bombardment of words and phrases, Anderson's politically sharp and concise criticism of the Republican regime set expectations the rest of the set didn't meet.

After opening with a dissertation on birds and the history of memory, Anderson offered a lethargic series of atmospheric keyboards and strings, her band simply providing ambiance and moody background music. Anderson's Highline Ballroom debut had its moments but failed to attain its overly lofty aspirations. The show wasn't quite thought provoking, wasn't exactly spell binding, wasn't extremely witty and wasn't really all that entertaining. But then again, maybe the genius just escaped me.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Hillary Clinton Looks Abroad for Campaign Songs

Many remember the Bill Clinton effectively used Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" as his campaign theme song for his 1992 run. The band even reunited for what was arguably the hippest inauguration ball in history. Now, with Hillary looking to return the family to the White House she's looking for her own theme song and is asking supporters to vote on what song to choose.

But as one Hillary supporter pointed out she's looking outside the U.S. for her musical inspiration. Hillary's short list for song choices includes:

City of Blinding Lights - U2
Suddenly I See - KT Tunstall
I'm a Believer - Smash Mouth
Get Ready - The Temptations
Ready to Run - Dixie Chicks
Rock This Country! - Shania Twain
Beautiful Day - U2
Right Here, Right Now - Jesus Jones
I'll Take You There - The Staple Singers

From the list you have Canada, Ireland, Scotland and England representing half the songs. Maybe that's Hillary's way of signaling to the world that her Presidency will seek to rebuild relationships with allies around the world?

No word on whether any of these acts have approved Mrs. Clinton's use of the songs. Some will recall that Bruce Springsteen famously asked Ronald Reagan not to use Born in the USA when the gipper was found blaring the tune at events. We'll have to wait and see how Hillary makes out with her choice.

Robert Plant to Headline Romanian Live Earth Show

The Live Earth global concerts are set for July 7th and new acts are continuing to be announced for various locations. Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant is set to headline the Romanian Live Earth show.

Plant will reportedly perform in Bucharest to do his part to raise awareness to the issues surrounding climate change. Of course, other super acts like The Police, Madonna, the Beastie Boys, Dave Matthews Band and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are playing at various locales around the world for the cause. Maybe Al Gore is a little hip after all?

White Stripes Announce Surprise Show

We knew the White Stripes are kicking off a new tour this summer, but seems the duo couldn't wait any longer to get back on stage. The Whites announced a surprise gig for tonight in Nashville. The set at the Cannery Ballroom will be the pair's first live show together since December 2005. Tickets were available exclusively through the band's website.

The White Stripes will of course be heading out on a tour where they will try to play in all 50 states in support of their new record Icky Thump. But, before they do they'll hit Europe for a string of shows including the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona at the end of this month.

New Axl Rose Tunes Set for Release?

Guns 'N Roses have been promising their Chinese Democracy record for too long to even comment on anymore. While Guns fans continue to wait, there may be some new Axl Rose music hitting the stores soon after all. Rose's former bandmate Kevin Lawrence from the band Rapidfire told he's trying to deal with Axl's lawyers to release material they recorded together back in 1983.

Lawrence reportedly says he's going to release the material that has been in storage all these years even if he can't reach a deal upfront with Rose. The guitarist is quoted as saying "My attorney has been working with Axl's attorney for some time now trying to come out with a way to release these demos which is acceptable to Axl. Regardless, though, of what he wants, the law states that I can release these at any time and have the full legal right to do so."

No doubt they'll be more legal wranglings over these recordings. Guns fans will be happy that at least someone is putting out new Axl music.

Ozzy Osbourne Supports the Troops

Ozzy Osbourne is a somewhat regular visitor of injured troops who've come home from the war in Iraq. But, Osbourne makes it clear he supports the troops and not the war. He is quoted as saying, "They are all young men who have served in Iraq and they are there with no legs or arms with horrible injuries. Wars have always been started by old men and fought by young guys. And behind this one (Iraq) it was all about oil fields."

Reports also say Ozzy voices his opposition to the war on his upcoming record Black Rain. Of course a read of the lyrics to Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" and Ozzy's "Crazy Train" remind people this is not his first foray into the subject matter.

Elvis Perkins to Play Philly Folk Festival

The Philly Folk Fest is just one of the many gems on the Philadelphia music scene. The festival is in its 46th year and as always will include some great artists from around the world. Elvis Perkins, who dazzled in Austin during SXSW, will be one of the "must see" sets for this year's event. Doc Watson, Mavis Staples, Jonathan Edwards, the Carolina Chocolate Drops and scores of other great acts are also on the bill. Tickets and full lineup for the Philadelphia Folk Festival are available here.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sonic And Smashing: Silversun Pickups At Webster Hall

Silversun PickupsBy: David Schultz

The Smashing Pumpkins reunion seems to be all the rage these days with people eagerly awaiting the Pumpkins new album and tour. While it will be nice to see what Billy Corgan has been up to since Zwan's disintegration, you would be hard pressed to say that the Pumpkins' sound has been missed. Not that the band's era-defining sound deserves relegation to the 90s, it's just been kept alive by the Silversun Pickups. Although the Los Angeles based foursome are no strangers to New York City, their Tuesday night headlining set at Webster Hall may well have served as their coming out party. Like most debutantes, they showed a lot of poise and potential as well as experienced some awkward moments.

On Carnavas, the Pickups first full-length album, Brian Aubert and Nikki Monninger lay down a hypnotic mixture of guitar and bass that sinuously worked the psyche in the same manner as Sonic Youth. Largely in part to a substandard sound system, the Pickups were never able to work those melodies to their proper volume at Webster Hall. Technically sound, songs like "Little Lover's So Polite" and "Lazy Eye" drew fantastic responses without ever hitting the heights of which they are capable. For the most part, the Pickups dug in their heels and perfunctorily ran through a healthy number of the tracks on Carnavas; that they failed to add anything to the live performance hardly served as a detraction.

In contrast to Christopher Guanlao reaching to the heavens, bringing down his drumsticks from as high as he could reach, Joe Lester remained relatively stationary behind his keyboards. They also received occasional jolts of energy from members of the opening act, Sea Wolf: Aniela Perry sat in for a number, energetically rocking out behind her cello and to cap off a three song encore from Pikul, Byron Reynolds brought out a snare and cymbal for the evening's final number.

If the Silversun Pickups sound seems familiar, their voice doesn't. Quite different from his speaking voice, Aubert's scratchy, ethereal vocals give the Pickups an otherworldly quality. If his voice seems unearthly, his demeanor isn't. After noticing an "exuberant" fan that seemed to be jeopardizing the safety and generally annoying everybody around him, Aubert took time between songs to not-so-gently chastise the fellow, mixing political commentary into a simple lesson on etiquette and goodwill towards your fellow man (and woman).

Not so long ago, all the Internet buzz in the world seemed to swirl around the Silversun Pickups. Such attention will age a band quickly, or at least force them to experience their growing pains in public. The Pickups seem to be past that stage and should have the freedom to mature at their own pace, without unrealistic expectations foisted upon them.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Parish Festival: Handshakes & Heartaches

By David Schultz

Released in the tail end of 2006, The Parish Festival's debut album, Handshakes & Heartaches, seemed to slip through the cracks, missing the critical acclaim it deserved. A quirky trio from Davenport, Iowa, The Parish Festival mix an easygoing country sound featuring banjo and fiddle with some jazzy rhythms and a distinctly alt-rock mindset to create a bit of Midwestern cabaret that owes as much to Neil Young as it does to Jane's Addiction.

The Jane's Addiction comparison becomes apparent once Jamey Cummins' starts to warble over Andy Rappel and Ryan Neubauer's syncopated beats. Cummins shares Perry Farrell's ability to get a wavery, near-boozy quality out of his voice conveying both wisdom and vulnerability. He also manages to work in some enjoyable energetic banjo work on the opening pair of tracks, "Handshakes & Heartaches" and "Lullagoodbyes." On "Too Many Wars" and "Song For You," the absence of Cummins' banjo allows Rappel's bass and Neubauer's drums to take on a more central role, giving the band the feel of an expertly honed lounge band. They can also put out some straightforward rock and roll as evidenced by the technically misnamed "Instrumental Track."

New releases come flying onto the shelves (or more realistically onto the Internet) with such rapidity, many fine releases get lost in the onslaught. Search out The Parish Festival's wonderfully fresh Handshakes & Heartaches. It deserves a listen.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Videos, News and Notes

System of a Down bassist Shavo Odadjian will direct the new video for punk legends Bad Brains. The video for "Build a Nation" will feature footage from Bad Brains' upcoming performance at the Sasquatch Festival later this month. Odadjian is quoted saying, "I've been a fan of the Brains ever since I can remember. They are iconic pioneers of punk, not just the music but the attitude. The energy that comes off their stage is like no other." Word.

Jesse Malin finished shooting a video for "Broken Radio," which is a duet with Bruce Springsteen who was also appears in the video. The video was filmed in New York w/Grammy-nominated Danny Clinch (Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam). Jesse will hit the late show circuit this summer and will perform on The Tonight Show w/Jay Leno, Weds June 20th and the Late Late Show w/Craig Ferguson Thurs June 21st. She'll kick off a US headlining tour on June 7th in Pittsburgh, PA.

Video Offerings:
Ozomatli: Live @ The Bat Bar - Austin, TX: Entire Set during SXSW
Pawnshop Roses: Let It Roll
Jesse Malin: Don't Let Them Take You
Rush: Far Cry
Young Galaxy: Outside the City

Michelle Shocked is readying her a live record for release later this summer. The record was recorded during the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in June 2003 and tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe, The Staple Singers and Billie Holiday; set includes traditional spirituals as well as several new original songs. ToHeavenURide, is scheduled for an August 21, 2007 release.

Philadelphia's Brothers Past are taking their new drummer out for a spin on the road. You'll recall the band scored lots of accolades for their This Feeling's Called Goodbye record, including a Jammy nomination for Album of the Year. The band has been doing some shows with Umphrey's McGee and will play a home town show this Saturday at the World Cafe Live as well as scooting out to Illinois next week for Summercamp with Umphrey's, Keller Williams (WMD'S), Les Claypool, Medeski Martin & Wood and many others.

Paul McCartney will release his entire solo catalog digitally. The "vinyl" era star will bring his music to the 21st century as EMI will put all the McCartney solo and Wings records out on "all digital platforms." Can the Beatles on iTunes be far behind? McCartney releases his next studio album Memory Almost Full on June 4, 2007.

We Are the Fury Ready Debut

We Are the Fury graced us by headlining our SXSW day party at Emos this year and put on a great show. Now the band is ready for their debut record to hit stores next week. But, you don't have to wait until next week to hear it. You can stream the new record now in its entirety here. Venus hits stores May 22nd.

The band will celebrate the release with a couple of club shows in their hometown of Toledo, Ohio and take off on a brief club tour before joining the Warped Tour for the summer.

New Flaming Lips Live Video

The Flaming Lips have a great reputation as a live act. However, this new video for "She Don't Use Jelly" posted on YouTube by their record label doesn't quite do them justice. As they band notes in a Myspace bulletin the sound is very compressed, but you can tell the crowd is having a great time at the show.

The video will appear on a live DVD due out in July that documents a show in their homestate of Oklahoma.

Bob Dylan Tops Worst Album List

Bob Dylan is a musical legend and no doubt deserves the title. But, the folks at Rolling Stone point out that even the greats put out a dud record once in awhile. And, that is particularly bound to happen when you've had a career as long as someone like Dylan. But, he's not the only one according to Rolling Stone.

Here are the Rolling Stone 10 Worst Albums by an Awesome Act:

1. Bob Dylan - Down In the Groove
2. Rolling Stones - Dirty Work
3. David Bowie - Tonight
4. Van Morrison - Beautiful Vision
5. The Clash - Cut the Crap
6. Neil Young - Old Ways
7. Van Halen - Diver Down
8. The Who - Face Dances
9. Elvis Costello - Mighty Like A Rose
10. Red Hot Chili Peppers - One Hot Minute

I'm not going to get into agreeing or disagreeing with the list except to say that I do agree with the designation that these are all awesome acts. As for the merit of the list, I'll leave that for you to decide.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Patti Smith: Twelve

Patti Smith TwelveBy: David Schultz

There are certain things you can expect from a Patti Smith album: the irascible, well-spoken singer/poet has always infused a sense of politically charged, literary quality wordplay into her work. On Twelve, the New York punk legend deviates from her modus operandi, recording a selection of covers from the classic rock oeuvre. Smith is no stranger to recording songs made popular by other artists. On Horses, her 1975 revelatory debut, she made her bones with transcendent covers of "Gloria" and "Land Of A Thousand Dances," turning the innocent Sixties classics into foreboding mantras of discontent.

Smith doesn't give Twelve's twelve covers the Patti Smith treatment, offering renditions of relatively little transformative value. For every song like "Gimme Shelter" that benefits from the wizened weariness of her voice, there are two, like "Midnight Rider" and "White Rabbit" that only serve to answer the question of what they would sound like if Smith recorded them first. The thematic strain of "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" fits within Smith's worldview, but her rendition is so upbeat, it sounds like she's on Prozac. A handful of the tracks are straightforward covers, which seems lazy in the hands of someone of Smith's caliber. Others like Stevie Wonder's "Pastime Paradise," a song long co-opted in the mainstream by Coolio, are forgettable. The lone highlight is her interpretation of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." By slowing down Cobain's celebrated guitar riff to a leisurely loll on the banjo, Smith replaces the song's immediacy with a soulful mien.

Smith keeps Twelve focused squarely on the music; the one politically tinged cover being "Changing Of The Guard," a Bob Dylan Street Legal obscurity. In remaining true to her material's original spirit, Smith has crafted some fine songs. However, for someone of Smith's interpretive ability, Twelve represents a wasted opportunity for invigorating some long-played classics with a adrenalin shot of creative energy.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Prince Sells Out London Gigs

Just days after announcing his London residency, Prince has been elevated to the throne of the city's musical king. Prince sold an incredible 140,000 tickets for seven shows in under a half an hour after the tickets went on sale. Reports say that promoters have decided to add another eight shows at the same venue. Tickets are now on sale, but are not expected to last long.

Prince is also expected to play some smaller UK venues after the Millennium Dome shows. There's no doubt that purple reigns in the UK.

Lollapalooza Going Global?

Perry Farrell is looking to possibly take his Lollapalooza show back on the road after being in a static location that last few years. When Farrell founded the festival, Lollapalooza started off as a successful traveling show, but sputtered when it returned from a a six year hiatus. After the 2004 tour was cancelled due to low ticket sales, Lollapalooza set up shop in Austin for a year before landing in its current location in Chicago. The home base approached seems to have worked and the festival has returned to being one of the biggest in the U.S. However, Farrell apparently is growing restless.

Farrell looked reinvigorated during this year's SXSW festival, performing a surprise jam with Tom Morello and Slash as well as leading his Satellite Party in a triumphant set at Stubbs. That energy has Farrell reportedly thinking of taking Lollapalooza international.

He tells MTV News, "I'm going to look to take it global. I want to put together an event around the world in the next 10 years that will refashion, redress and transform. I like the idea of being outdoors. It's something I'm looking into now, and if it happens, it will happen quick. That's my ambition."

For now Lollapalooza remains in Chicago. But, don't be surprised if you don't at least see a UK version popping up soon as the outdoor festival is staple of the UK and European music scene.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Arcade Fire Burns Through The United Palace

By: David Schultz

Idealistically, the United Palace makes an idyllic locale for the Arcade Fire's return to New York City. As they tour the country in support of Neon Bible, their recently released sophomore effort, the Canadian indie-rock sensations have been selectively choosing venues that reflect the album's introspective themes. A converted movie theater that serves as the home of the United Christ Church, the Palace's ornate trappings seem to be a match made in heaven for Win Butler, his wife Regine Chassagne and the rest of the Arcade Fire. Realistically though, the United Palace is Manhattan's third biggest venue and Arcade Fire are one seriously hot band.

Even though it was just three months since Arcade Fire played five sold-out nights at the Judson Memorial Church as a prelude to Neon Bible's release, it seems like eons ago. Since then, the artsy rockers have had the album skyrocket to the top of the charts, destroyed an unsuspecting acoustic guitar on Saturday Night Live and generally begun their trek towards worldwide domination. Once the little Canadian band that could, they are now on the verge of becoming a full-blown rock and roll sensation. It's a milestone they seem quite ready to achieve.

As Arcade Fire's fame grows, so does the size of the venues needed to house their expanding fan base. Expectedly, some growing pains are evident. With intimacy becoming a scarce commodity, the Arcade Fire have put together a visual show that remains true to their nature: high in subtlety and low on spectacle. The same quirks that seem adorable in smaller venues take on a different scale in a larger arena. Instead of getting a modest ovation, some of the more endearing tricks, like Richard Reed Parry and Tim Kingsbury's penchant for singing through a megaphone or grabbing a stray snare drum and heading to the front for a second or two, went primarily unnoticed. The modest horn and string sections aren't getting lost in the mix, but they are sometimes getting lost on the bigger stage. One benefit to having more room is that they can thrash around with the best of them.

The serious multi-tasking of the various band members continues to be an Arcade Fire trademark. At times, a scorecard would be helpful: rarely will Tim Kingsbury, Richard Reed Parry or William Butler play the same instrument twice. The constant reshuffling made for some awkward pauses between the songs which Win Butler did his best to cover for with some limpid banter. The uber-efficiency even carries through to the string section: on "Keep The Car Running," Sarah Neufeld, wearing a set of hot pants that would make Itzhak Perlman blush, played violin, jangled a set of bells and sang backing vocals.

The humble little musicians from Quebec are quickly becoming veritable rock stars. Regine Chassagne may be cute and tiny but she more than holds her own with the band's boys club. Early in the set, Chassagne moved center stage for "Haiti" striking rock star poses and showing a deft aptitude for voguing. Chassagne's voice has a bit of a sassy lilt that carries well and gives the Fire a different dimension from Win Butler. Like any good married couple, they have figured out a way to make the differences work: their contrasting voices and styles tying together the otherwise disjointed "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations."

"Neon Bible" and "Windowsill" avoided the death knell that often greets quieter material in spacious venues. When the band got quiet, so did the audience; a startling rarity for any concert. "Windowsill," which saw Chassagne jump behind the drums, provided the night's most spectacular moment. With the song slowly building to its climax and Butler's vocals becoming increasingly more anxious and emphatic, they not only had the crowd enraptured, they got a few New Yorkers to cheer lyrics about not wanting to live in America any more. When you're inspiring your fans to denounce their nationality, you're laying down some seriously powerful shit.

The most ecstatic reactions were reserved for material from Funeral, the band’s breakthrough debut. Coming out of "(Antichrist Television Blues)," featuring Jeremy Gara's urgent drumming, they finished their main set with a phenomenal romp though "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" that had frat boys throughout the crowd jumping like excited teenage girls. Showing a knack for arena theatrics, they closed the song with a Sgt. Peppers-esque crescendo which Win Butler led into "Rebellion (Lies)" before it could fade. As the band churned through the Funeral classic, Butler, who seems to be gaining more frontman charisma as time goes on, jumped into the crowd, belting out the majority of the song amidst the crowd in the front of the audience that gleefully chanted along with the chorus. Butler's antics distracted the crowd from one of his bandmates, possibly Kingsbury, attempting to duplicate Nirvana's Krist Novoselic's MTV Awards blunder, nearly braining himself with a boisterously tossed snare drum.

The band's continued commitment to their fans remains impressive: their effort to battle scalpers goes beyond the simple lip service paid by most artists. For the Judson shows earlier this year, no physical tickets were issued, leaving nothing tangible for scalping. At the Palace, tickets could be obtained for all but the first 15 rows. Anyone seated close to the stage was immediately ushered into the arena after claiming their tickets. Going beyond the live attendance, the band announced that a portion of the gate would be donated to Partners In Health to assist with medical treatment in Chassagne's home country of Haiti.

Likely owing to Win Butler's better health, The United Palace show was considerably longer than any of the Judson outings, even without including surefire crowd pleasers like "My Body Is A Cage" or the anthemic "Wake Up." They would perform the two songs the next night, giving security a bad case of deja vu from The Stooges' show last month by bringing the crowd onto the stage for "Wake Up." Like most milestones for the band, they are quickly overshadowed. Arcade Fire's two sold-out United Palace shows were but a prelude to their Wednesday night debut at Radio City Music Hall, where curator David Bowie slotted the band as the opening artist of May's High Line Festival. Having sold out New York City's second and third largest venues in a matter of days, Madison Square Garden looms large on the horizon.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Arctic Monkeys: Favourite Worst Nightmare

Arctic Monkeys Favourite Worst NightmareBy: David Schultz

The main thing keeping the Arctic Monkeys new album, Favourite Worst Nightmare, from being one of the fresher releases in years is that they've done all this before. Were it not for Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, their 2006 breakout album that transformed the Arctic Monkeys from cocky Sheffield teenagers to an International sensation, the manic energy of their latest release would be all the rage. Oh well, you can only invent the wheel once.

A bit more polished then their debut, Favourite Worst Nightmare benefits from the confidence gained from their success as well as from a maturity that's probably to be expected for any band just emerging from their teens. Although the Monkeys have gained a bit of finesse, they sound like they are fighting against the ill-fitting suit of adulthood rather than embracing it. Right from the outset, they recapture their familiar vibe, with Alex Turner and Jamie Cook firing out Dick Dale-style rumbling guitars over Matt Helders pounding beat on the album's opener "Brianstorm." Although they aren't as brash and slightly less cocky than a year ago, the are equally as witty as still sound like they're running from one club to the next.

Smartly, the Monkeys aren't messing with their successful formula. However they are trying a few new things. Turner and Cook's jumpy guitars and the Monkey's signature propulsive beat are still there, but whether it's the funky little beat underlying "Balaclava" or the refined punch of "This House Is A Circus," there's something a little extra. On moodier numbers like "Only Ones Who Know" and "505," Turner sounds more bored than contemplative, though that may be the point.

The English press tears down bands with the same fierce intensity they use while hyping them as the next greatest thing. Even before releasing Whatever People Say I Am, the Arctic Monkeys benefited greatly from the excitement generated by the media. Now that they have everyone's attention, with a solid release like Favourite Worst Nightmare they're making it harder to knock them off the pedestal they've been placed on.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Mp3s, News and Notes

My Morning Jacket is set to give a thrill to some young musicians as the band revealed plans to bring the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra onstage at this year's Lollapalooza performance. MMJ previously jammed with the orchestra, which contains musicians as young as seven years old, last fall. Frontman Jim James is quoted as saying, "It is hard to even think of them as youth. Their playing is so grown-up and professional. They hit with diamond-like precision." Should be interesting to see!

Prince has been holed up in Vegas performing on the strip, but his Purpleness will leave Sin City behind later this year for a string of 21 dates in London. Prince is set to begin his London "residency" on August 1st with a seven night stint at the O2 Arena, but is reportedly going to hold many of the other 14 shows at smaller venues around London.

Jack White says the White Stripes are sticking together and that Icky Thump is not their last record. White apparently is growing tired of being asked if he's leaving Meg behind. He's quoted as saying " "We get asked all the time, 'How long do you think it's gonna last?' I'd venture to say that in 90 per cent of interviews, someone has asked us, 'Is this the last record?' It's almost as if people want us to stop! "Then The Raconteurs came along and people thought, obviously, we're done. But then with this new album people are saying The Raconteurs are done. That was a side project!"

Since I'm obviously biased, I'll be looking for others to tell you about the
Pawnshop Roses in the coming weeks and months. DigPhilly has the first preview of Let It Roll: "Philly's Pawnshop Roses offer up a fine testament to downhome Americana on their debut album." You can read the rest of the review at Important Pawnshop Roses dates: regional cd release party tomorrow night at the Trocadero Theater, national digital release party June 8th at Milkboy Coffee and the international digital relase is set for July 30th.

Mp3 Offerings:
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Love Song No. 7
Licorice w/ DJ Logic: In a Silent Way / What's Your Status in London
The Clientele: Bookshop Casanova
Astrid Swan (covering The Killers): When You Were Young
The Basement: I Just Caught A Face

Tori Amos is set to give musical theater a try. BuzzSugar has the scoop and has a Tori Amos giveaway contest going. The red headed songstress also recently shared a nice moment with the PS22 Chorus in New York City by leading them in a performance of "Father Son."

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation says the "March 2007 decision by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) to more than double the rates that webcasters pay to stream music over the next three years will have a disastrous effect on Internet Radio" and that a "careful review of the CRB decision reveals that not only is this rate increase unfair and undeserved, but it reflects a fundamentally broken system for determining copyright royalty rates." The ITIF will present a forum tomorrow in Washington DC to offer an "alternative to the current system which would allow copyright owners to establish fair and competitive rates for their music." Information on the event can be found here.

The Nightwatchman: One Man Revolution

Tom Morello NightwatchmanBy: David Schultz

No one has ever accused Tom Morello of being shy. Charismatic singers may have fronted Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave but Morello's voice has never been far from the surface. As The Nightwatchman, his political folk alter ego, Morello gives his own distinctive voice to his high-minded, populist idealism and keeps alive the belief that one man with a guitar can bring about social change. On One Man Revolution, his solo debut, Morello doesn't offer many solutions to the social woes and political inequities he chronicles, but he does let those in charge know he's watching, acutely observing and taking really good notes for future reference and karmic retribution.

One Man Revolution is essentially Morello and his guitar, in The Nightwatchman's world, the revolution will not be amplified. Although he derives the melody for "The Road I Must Travel" from Irish rebel songs, for the most part Morello keeps the guitar simple, letting the lyrics and message carry the day. When the righteous indignation flows, Morello's at his best: on "Let Freedom Ring," he channels Springsteen's pensive side and on "Union Song" he rowdily gives voice to the working man. His efforts at campfire think pieces like "Battle Hymns" and "The Garden Of Gethsemane" come across as listless, especially when set next to the fiery, passion of "House Gone Up In Flames" and "Flesh Saves The Day."

Morello's deep voice has a warm, somewhat comforting quality, like that of a strong protector; were he not on your side though, it would be quite menacing. In adopting his Nightwatchman persona, Morello hasn't sacrificed his ability to turn a powerful phrase, a hallmark of Rage Against The Machine's better moments. On "Maximum Firepower," he sums up the theme of One Man Revolution in a simple maxim, "if you take a step towards freedom, it will take two steps towards you."

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Ted Leo Live at Webster Hall

By: Rinjo Njori

America's most overlooked hit maker Ted Leo headlined Webster Hall this past Saturday on what was his final US date before heading for an overseas tour. Ted Leo's music for a little over a decade has centered around the more accessible elements of late 70's inspired punk fused with elements of rock and hardcore. Leo looks the part as well. Saturday night he looked every bit the son of Joe Strummer and Paul Weller, only from New Jersey not Surrey, England. Sporting Doc Martens, white jeans, and a red "fore arm" band, Ted Leo resembled a less grizzled Joe Strummer dismissing his world music influences and remembering how great the Jam and the '77 era Clash are thirty years later. His backing band, The Pharmacists, consisted of Chris Wilson on drums (looking every bit like Mick Fleetwood), Chris Lerner on bass (looking every bit like Trouble's Eric Wagner/ Wolfmother's Andrew Stockdale), and James Canty shadowed in second guitar (perhaps Living with the Living's producer Brendan Canty's brother).

The night opened with "Sons of Cain" from his latest album Living with the Living and ended with an abbreviated encore of Stiff Little Finger's "Suspect Device" which appeared on Sharkbite Sessions. In between he managed a cover of Chumbawumba's "Rappaport's Testament", delivered a groove heavy version of "Old Souls Know", and eliminated the vocal overdubs on his signature song "Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone" which makes the live version both invigorating and maddening.

As expected a good portion of the show contained material off Living with the Living. Despite the dark lyrical content of "Colleen", the song live is a power pop gem. "La Costa Brava" sounds better live and hints at what kind of great rock songs Leo is capable of writing. "The Unwanted Things", a straight up dance hall/ dub reggae song, might appear out of place but it served as a buffer to the mostly up tempo set and worked especially well with the older material. The crowd had to endure my least favorite experimental tracks from Living, "Annunciation Day/ Born on Christmas" and "Bomb.Repeat.Bomb". The latter was actually weaker live despite Leo's last minute request to tweak the vocal monitor. "Bomb.Repeat.Bomb" is basically two songs melded together for no good reason. Judging the crowd's reaction clearly I am in the minority. This made me yearn for the all to short "Army Bound" and "Bottle of Buckie". "Me and Mia" and "Angels Share" were the only songs from Shake the Sheets. The former appearing surprisingly early in the set, but luckily Leo's material is strong enough to play all the "hits" first. Tyranny of Distance and Hearts of Oak suffered similar fates on the set list. Thankfully the only way this impacts the show is your desire to go home after the show and listen to more Ted Leo.

The great thing about Leo's music in general is that the riff and his vocals are enough to carry the song. Lerner, Wilson and Canty would often jump into the song well after they began. Not to diminish their role or their contribution, but the songs are that good. Where Wilson took the time to rest up, Lerner's downtime seemed like a guy who posturing. From my point of view Canty was in the shadows and only noticeable if you looked for him. This was surprising since Webster Hall has more than enough stage to accommodate a four piece band. Perhaps it was fear of a shock from Leo's wire from his guitar to his amp that kept him in the shadows or the lighting.

Leo spared the audience of any in between song banter for most of the set. Webster Hall, it was pointed out, has a 10 PM stop time on live shows. When he did engage the audience he was quick witted, self deprecating, and taking on the regional debate of Staten Island vs. New Jersey (which one don't you want to be from?). He wisely refused to perform his Kelly Clarkson cover, "Oh no, you don't want me to play that." Setting the record straight on why he doesn't drink beer - he said is not straight edge, but extremely careful with his "girlish figure." Then a quick role call on what was happening after the show: Daniel Higgs of Lungfish playing at the Mercury Lounge or Murphy's Law on Staten Island? After digging himself a self described "hole" it was back to the music.

Ted Leo and The Pharmacists live erases any of the faults that come off on their recorded material. For ninety minutes they delivered a great show and displayed the range of influences that could easily fuel a musical career for the next twenty years. The songs are sharper and more focused. Except for misqueue on "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?" the band didn't waste a riff or beat. Leo's vocal's were clear and lively. For those fans who followed him for the last decade or so, they couldn't be disappointed. He might not have busted out any Chisel covers, but I suspect we could wait another decade without that happening.

Monday, May 07, 2007

moe. Hotta, moe. Betta: moe. At The Highline Ballroom

By: David Schultz

In a perfect world, moe. would be one of the biggest bands in the world. While many of their brethren within the jamband world burned brightly and faded away, the five-piece band from upstate New York, have endured to become one of the most venerated acts on the concert scene. While mainstream renown and acclaim have not found their way onto moe.'s doorstep, they have fashioned a verdant niche within the jamband nation. Since self-releasing Fatboy in 1992, they have seven more studio albums to their credit, including one holiday album; six live albums, four as part of their popular Warts And All series and founded three annual concert festivals. Lou Reed may have been tabbed for the opening night of New York City's newest venue, The Highline Ballroom, but with a five night run spanning Wednesday to Sunday night, moe. got the privilege of truly breaking it in.

In an era where any multiple show run gets deemed a residency, moe. has avoided the term for their Highline stint, even though the appellation would be apt for their moe.rathon. But for relinquishing the stage to Fishbone for their Thursday night encore, moe. kept the focus of their shows on themselves and their music. The band can go in many different directions but at the core, the formula remains the same: Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey make a potent guitar duo, often finishing each other's riffs; Vinnie Amico and Jim Loughlin offer dual percussion with Loughlin offering up Zappa-worthy vibe passages and Rob Derhak anchors everything at center stage with his bass.

Over the course of Wednesday night's two lengthy sets, moe. explored certain musical themes, segued on to different ones only to come back and explore the original theme some more. With Loughlin's percussion highlighting the opener, "McBain," moe, returned to the song during both sets, also moving in and out of "Y.O.Y" and "Brent Black" They also showed a versatile range without becoming wildly schizophrenic. moe.'s first set featured the reggae-tinged "Seat Of My Pants" and "Akimbo" which contrasted with the heavy psychedlia of Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive." They also experimented with new styles: on "Down Boy" they worked in some subtle hip-hop beats and Garvey credibly and unironically delivered the rap-style verses without registering on the unintentional comedy charts. Amidst a considerably funky bass solo from Derhak and an upbeat percussion-fest by Amico and Loughlin, moe. worked in newer songs from their latest album, The Conch, with old favorites like "Sensory Deprivation Bank."

An inherent difficulty in reviewing any show from a band that changes up their set list each night is that the show you write about will unlikely ever occur again. moe.'s Wednesday night set list wasn't one of my favorites. However, it illustrated one of the finest qualities of the band. Regardless of the set list, moe. puts on a first-rate show. Even if the songs aren't to your individual liking, it's simply a trifle. The ingenuity with which moe. creates their songs and the skill with which they play them are the true centerpiece of any of their shows. Favorite or even familiar songs will be a bonus, but the true attraction of moe. is five fine musicians at work.

Friday, May 04, 2007

A High Time At The Highline: Lou Reed Opens New York City's Newest Venue

By: David Schultz

The High Line, an elevated section of abandoned railroad tracks located on the west side of New York City, has become a lightning rod for the revitalization of an entire neighborhood. At the same time that the tracks are being refurbished into an elevated park and many new buildings are being constructed, the neighborhood is also undergoing a cultural Renaissance of sorts. One of the focal points of the area's artistic reawakening, the Highline Ballroom, opened this past Monday and will host multiple performances during this month's First Annual High Line Festival. David Bowie, the Festival's inaugural curator, followed through on his promise to bring a diverse group of musicians to New York City for the occasion, securing performances personal favorites like The Secret Machines, Laurie Anderson, Air, The Polyphonic Spree and the Arcade Fire.

The Thin White Duke may not have had a hand in selecting Lou Reed to open the new venue this past Monday night, but if he did, a finer selection could not have been made. Dating back to his days with the Velvet Underground, Andy Warhol and the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, Reed and his literary body of work are as intrinsically tied to New York City as James Joyce's to Dublin. With other notable Manhattanites like Richard Belzer, Paul Shaffer and Laurie Anderson in attendance, the prototypical New Yorker consecrated The Big Apple's newest stage as only he could - with attitude, lots and lots of attitude.

In contrast to the earthy, lived-in concert halls that are rapidly disappearing from the New York concert scene, the Highline Ballroom is a sleek, upscale nightspot. With top shelf bars and relatively frou-frou menus of mixed drinks and haute cuisine, the Highline apparently expects to be catering to an elite group of concert-goers. The surroundings made an odd but not unfamiliar setting for Reed: the iconoclast has a penchant for playing atypical venues like the staid Town Hall or former hip-hop mecca Crobar. The honor of opening the Highline comes on the heels of recent accolades bestowed upon him by Syracuse University, his alma mater, who not only awarded the singer the George Arents Pioneer Medal For Excellence In The Arts but also founded a creative writing scholarship in his and mentor Delmore Schwartz' name.

The notoriously cantankerous singer wasted no time making his first impressions known, interrupting his second song, "What’s Good" to scathingly bark disapproval over his sound monitors and the smoke machine. Reed reserved his praise and admiration for his band, which consisted of several familiar faces: Mike Rathke on guitar, Rob Wasserman on stand-up bass and Jane Scarpantoni on cello. In lieu of Fernando Saunders, Reed's longtime cohort, or a drummer, Steve Hunter, who rejoined Reed for last December's Berlin concerts, played the role of Reed's onstage foil.

Reed's performance highlighted his penchant for poignant urbane poetry. Bracketing his set around songs from Magic And Loss, his 1992 contemplation of mortality, Reed seemed uninterested in tackling material from his influential Velvet Underground period or Seventies solo catalog. With the exception of "The Last Great American Whale," Reed built his set list from the post New York period of his career. It made great fodder for true-Lou fans but probably proved bewildering to the non-obsessive; Reed hardly played anything that could be traditionally considered "a hit." As to be expected from any Lou Reed show, the headstrong singer followed his own muse with mixed results. Updated renditions of "Trade In" and "Sword Of Damocles" worked splendidly, an overwrought "Ecstasy" meandered and an electronic-based reworking of Songs For Drella's "Faces And Names" went bewilderingly awry.

For the most part, Reed played a restrained set interrupted by short staccato blasts of guitar, usually from Hunter. The sparse arrangements brought Reed's lyrics and everyone's musicianship to the forefront, but oftentimes lacked a cohesive consistency. John Zorn, another icon of New York music scene, joined Reed near the close of his two hour set and provided the proper spark. The two New York titans first played together at the 20th Anniversary celebration of the Knitting Factory and, at the Highline, recaptured the same chemistry that worked so well last March. Blending perfectly with Scarpantoni's cello, Zorn's saxophone played perfect counterpoint to Reed's guitar on "Magic And Loss" and lovingly filled the gaps on "Rock Minuet."

Time Out magazine recently ranked The Velvet Underground atop their list of the Top 50 New York musicians of all-time, describing them as "the ultimate New York band." If the Velvets were the ultimate New York band, Reed is the ultimate New York musician. Even though Okkervil River played the Highline's first notes, tabbing Lou Reed to break the champagne bottle on the Highline's newly christened hull nicely bridged the gap between different generations, uniting them all in the name of New York rock and roll.

As Easy As A B C

As previously mentioned here, the Red Hot Chili Peppers will be playing a charity gig with Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder and others this Saturday night at the Henry Fonda Theater in Los Angeles, CA. The concert will raise money for the Silverlake Conservatory Of Music, a local non-profit agency that was co-created by Flea, the Red Hot's bassist. In addition to benefiting from the show, students from the conservatory will also perform at the gig and proceeds from it will go towards scholarships and enlarging a summer camp project.

They aren't the only ones thinking about the kids. In announcing a 14 city United States tour this summer, Hootie & The Blowfish are requesting fans bring school supplies to the arena which will be donated to disadvantaged schools. Lesson 1 to be learned from this announcement: Hootie & The Blowfish are still together???!!!

For others though, charity begins with action. Bringing the music to the kids, Bob Dylan has taken to serenading his grandson's kindergarten class in Calabass, CA. Demonstrating a deft proclivity for rock criticism, the tots described Dylan as "a weird guitar guy" who plays "scary songs."

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Mp3s, News and Notes

Rage Against the Machine created the expected furor at Coachella last weekend and the Drudge Report seems intent on fanning the flames of controversy. Zach de la Rocha called the Administration "war criminals" and suggested that some be "tried, hung and shot(video here)." Drudge has been featuring a link on the issue ever since, to signal a posturing opportunity for his brethren. Zach apparently has great faith in the First Amendment. However, I won't be surprised in these guys end up in Guantanamo Bay.

My friends The Swear down in Atlanta are set to record new material with producer Ted Niceley. You'll recognize Ted from his work with Fugazi and he's also worked with Girls Against Boys, Tracy Bonham, Dead Milkmen and Tripping Daisy. The new recordings will be a part of The Swear's second album, set for release in fall 2007. The band has already tracked three songs for the record with producer Jeff Tomei (Smashing Pumpkins, Jerry Cantrell). Once recorded, the album will be mixed by Girls Against Boys' Eli Janney, known for his recent work on albums by Garbage, Secret Machines, Ryan Adams, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!, James Blount and The Rapture. Keep your eyes and ears out for that one.

Downtown Records have been on a roll lately with a slew of great acts including Gnarls Barkley, Cold War Kids and Art Brut. Now they've signed a young Philadelphia soul singer Kevin Michael. BuzzSugar has the scoop.

Mp3 Offerings:
The Clutters: 9999 Ways to Hate Us
We Are Standard: On the Floor
Born Ruffians: Knife (Grizzly Bear cover)
Astrid Swan: They Need You If They Think You Love Them
Land of Talk: Speak to Me Bones

Mott the Hoople frontman Ian Hunter will tour the U.S. in support of his Yep Roc Records release Shrunken Heads. The album is due out May 15th and Ian's first studio recording since 2001's Rant. The record features Wilco's Jeff Tweedy on backing vocals on three tracks as well as an who's who in backing musicians including Soozie Tyrell (E Street Band violinist), Steve Holley (Wings, Joe Cocker), Graham Maby (Joe Jackson, Natalie Merchant, Joan Baez), Jack Petruzzelli (Rufus Wainwright, Joan Osbourne), James Mastro (John Cale), Andy Burton (the dB's) and Andy York (John Mellencamp).

Britney Spears returned to the concert stage last night for the first time in years. The pop tart graced her fans for all of 15 minutes. Some say she didn't even actually sing. Some show goers even paid up to $125 for tickets. But, despite the disappointing short set, the short skirt and Go Go Boots did look nice, at least until you can no longer keep Kevin Federline from popping into your head. No news yet confirming additional tour dates for Britney.

One Man Wonder: Willy Porter At The Canal Room

By: David Schultz

Just over a year ago, Willy Porter made a formidable opening act for Toad The Wet Sprocket's Glen Phillips at New York City's luxurious Canal Room. Last week, the friendly Wisconsin guitar wizard returned to the TriBeCa haunt as a headliner, bringing his distinctive mix of guitar theatrics, heartfelt lyrics and a compellingly entertaining storytelling style. An expert in more guitar styles than most people could probably name, Porter makes the guitar an extension of his soul, bending it to his will, strumming and plucking with impressive dexterity. His acoustic guitar instrumentals are simply a wonder to watch, with both hands fluttering up and down the neck of the guitar, Porter creates a double guitar effect that audio will not do justice.

Porter's engaging personality, which is the same on stage as off, adds a charming element to his shows. Instead of relying on his prodigious guitar skills, Porter illuminates many of his songs with anecdotes about their origins or introduces them with a road story told with expert comedic timing. Taking the stage alone, Porter played a couple instrumentals, and a beautifully rendered "Paper Airplane," before Dave Adler, longtime member of the Willy Porter Band, joined him on keyboards. Adler allowed Porter to add nice instrumental flourishes to the conclusions of "Available Light" and "Moonbeam." For his finale, Porter concluded with his fractured take on "A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood," the theme from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. Using a looping machine and his finely honed domestic observational skills, Porter goofily danced around and did some modified calisthenics while turning a cacophony of sound into a funky urban beat.

Porter's improvisational skills go beyond being able to craft a tune, extending into the realm of mental gymnastics that rival the best improv comics. Making a tune up on the spot, inserting topics and themes suggested by the audience has long been a staple of Porter's live shows. He could easily stall for time with some nifty guitar work, but he rarely does. On this night, he worked various random subjects into an impromptu song about former Mayor Giuliani's clean-up of New York City.

Porter inspires openness from his fans as they bring out of him; it's not uncommon for someone to simply start asking him questions between songs. When one such inquisitive fan started posing questions about "One More September," his heartwrenching post-September 11th ballad, Porter joked about not realizing it was time for the question and answer portion of the evening. Ever the consummate performer, Porter not only answered the question but went off his set list and playing a touching rendition of the sentimental favorite.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Mp3s, News and Notes

Guns 'N Roses found themselves at the receiving end of a lawsuit. No, fans aren't suing for "pain and suffering" from the emotionally distressful long wait for Chinese Democracy to appear. According to TMZ, Axl and crew are being sued for over $100,000 by a logistics company that say they are owed money for work on Guns' last tour. Mere chump change...of course, any money in Axl's pocket is chump change.

The Spiderman 3 soundtrack is out with tons of original music. Snow Patrol, Wolfmother, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Flaming Lips, Jet and The Killers all contribute. You can get a free listen to the whole thing here via Qucktime or Windows.

The Shins self-made "rockumentary" All Eyes on the Shins will screen at this year's Silver Lake Film Festival. The self-portrait, which received some help from fans via YouTube, will appear next to other rock documentaries including the Silversun Pickups and the Cold War Kids.

Mp3 Offerings:
The Teeth: Yellow
The Teeth: Ball of the Dead Rat
The High Strung: What a Meddler!
The High Strung: Maybe You're Coming Down With It
Drowning Pool: Soldiers
Forrow in the Dark w/ David Byrne: I Wish

KT Tunstall is readying a new album for the fall. KT's new disc Drastic Fantastic is set for a September release. For the project KT enlisted producer Steve Osbourne (U2, New Order, Happy Mondays), who also produced her smash Eye to the Telescope. The album was mixed by Michael H. Brauer (Coldplay, The Rolling Stones, My Morning Jacket).

A Scene Grows In Brooklyn: Grace Potter & The Nocturnals At Southpaw

By: David Schultz

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals are slowly changing whatever rules are supposed to apply to the anarchic world of rock and roll. In Austin, they performed a true but "illegal" encore while the venue staff tried to shut down the stage, at last year's Jammy awards, the lovely lead singer celebrated the band's New Groove Of The Year award by stealing the spotlight from Steve Kimock and Joe Satriani on a smoldering cover of "Cortez The Killer" and last week, they enticed this Manhattan based writer to abandon his "no Brooklyn" policy to come see them perform in the County of Kings. After playing a free show at Grand Central Terminal for the second year in a row as part of the Green Apple Music & Arts Festival, Grace & The Nocturnals migrated to the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, New York for a midnight show within the earthy confines of Southpaw.

In every sense of the word, Grace Potter is evolving into a true rock star. While on the Southpaw stage, the audience hung on her every word and focused on her every movement. Even when she's working the room blue, cursing a bit like a longshoreman, all she has to do is flash her innocent winsome smile and she's once again everyone's All-American girl. Don't be misled though, beneath Potter's girl-next-door sweetness lies a lusty soul which found expression this night in the lyrics of "Treat Me Right" and "Watching You." Plus, there may be few sexier sights than Potter shaking a tambourine while Scott Tournet (guitar), Brian Dondero (bass) and Matt Burr (drums) lay down a tightly-mixed jam for her and the rest of the crowd to get their groove going. A mid show run through "Stop The Bus" provided a microcosm of the group's dynamic: Dondero worked the lower registers, walking through some intricate bass lines, Tournet played on the higher ranges and Burr plowed the beat through the middle.

With Potter starting the night at her keyboards, (she plays a mean Hammond organ as well), they opened with a cover of Neil Young's "Tonight's The Night," subtly enhancing the song with their own personality to make it more of an invitation to fun than a cautionary drug abuse tale. From there, the ninety minutes featured material from their upcoming album This Is Somewhere, which will be released August 7th. "Mr. Columbus" and "Ah Mary" (which has a nicely understated socio-political subtext) continue the rootsy vibe they explored on their debut album, Nothing But The Water, but "Apologies," a saccharine ballad more apropos for pop radio, falls flat, especially given what GP&TN are capable of delivering. Refusing to beat the warhorses that have become staples of their live sets, the band gives them new life, best exemplified by their smoking rendition of "Nothing But The Water." Potter's impressive a capella plea that opens the song remains untouched, but they've turned the Southern gospel-blues tinged section of the song into a framework for a bluesy jamming featuring nice soloing, including Burr nicely working a drum "duel" with the handclaps of the audience.

Potter's name may sit above the ampersand but this isn't solely her show. With each performance, Scott Tournet develops into a more intriguing guitarist, finding great success by exploring the limits of where their songs can go. When Potter comes out from behind the organ and picks up her guitar, she seems to delight in getting right in Tournet's face, pushing him on. There's a slight edginess to many of the songs and The Nocturnals brilliantly tease out the slight undercurrents of tension lying beneath. As the future seems to looking quite rosy for the Vermont foursome, let's hope they don't lose that edge.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!