Friday, August 31, 2007

Justin Jones CD Release Party

If you are in the DC area tonight you will want to get yourself over to the Rock and Roll Hotel to celebrate the release of a new disc by Justin Jones and the Driving Rain. Earvolution alum Heather Huff, who has impeccable musical taste, first brought Justin Jones to my attention when she featured him on the site back in 2004 as an artist to watch in November of 2004. At the time Heather accurately described Justin's debut cd as follows: "Whether you call it alt-country or hillbilly soul, his debut Blue Dreams is a heartfelt collection of story-telling songs delivered with a stunning authenticity."

A year later Justin was cool enough to play our new music showcase at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC and put on a captivating show that had the packed room's full attention. Justin would later followed up his first record with the equally authentic Love Verses Heroin. With the title being somewhat literal, the disc was full of hope and heart break. And, while Jones showed growth as a musician one thing didn't change from the first record. He still delivered "haunting stories with the poise of someone who will be content with his music whether he becomes a star or not."

On the day of his third release, ... and I am the Song of the Drunkards, I believe that is still an apt description of Justin. However, listening to new tracks like "If I'm Wrong" and "Let's Stay Together" will let you know that "stardom" may not be that far off for Jones whether he wants it or not. Like the last record, Drunkards shows Jones moving forward as a musician and songwriter. This could be the record that finally wakes up some of the "bigger labels" that have been asleep at the switch on this guy. Even if it doesn't, something tells me that Jones will continue to hone his craft and get his music out to appreciative fans with or without the help from "the industry."

I'm told Justin may pull out a few surprises tonight so be sure to get out to the Rock and Roll Hotel. And, get their early to see Earvolution's Pawnshop Roses and Gypsy Eyes Records' John Bustine. Doors open at 8:30 and the show starts at 9:30; directions and more info here.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Hilly Kristal Mourned By Stars

Hilly Kristal had nearly as much influence on the American music scene as some of the musicians who graced his famous stage at CBGB. By simply giving a place for NYC area garage and early punk bands like the Ramones, Television, Blondie and the Talking Heads a place to play and grow, Kristal left an indelible mark that spread way beyond those legendary walls on Bowery Street. With his passing, those early bands are remembering the man who gave them so much help in launching their careers.

Debbie Harry issued this statement: "I am very sorry that Hilly is gone. He was a big help to Blondie and to the New York music scene for many years. His club CBGB’s has become a part of New York lore and Rock n’ Roll history." Marky Ramone spent time last night on Sirius radio honoring Kristal with an hour long tribute and issued this statement recognizing Kristal's critical roll in the careers of so many bands: "Hilly was an integral part of the punk scene from 1974 until his death. He was always supportive of the genre and of bands like the Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, and Richard Hell and Voidoids and will hold a prominent place in music history. In an era when disco was the mainstream, Hilly took a chance and gambled. The gamble paid off for both him and for us. We are all grateful to him and will miss him."

Experience Hendrix Tour

For those of us born too late to see Jimi Hendrix play live, there are a couple projects in the works that should give us a close (as possible) approximation to the experience. The Experience Hendrix tour, which last time around was lead by Carlos Santana, is set for a five city run with a remarkable set of musicians.

This year the legendary Buddy Guy (who was also on the first tour) will be joined by feature performers Robert Randolph, Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Special guests are also said to include Robbie Krieger from the Doors, Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones and Mississippi-born guitarist Hubert Sumlin who worked with other legends like Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. A very cool feature will also have the original Jimi Hendrix Experience rhythm section, Mitch Mitchell (drums) and Billy Cox (bass), that backed Jimi at Woodstock. And, if that wasn't cool enough, they'll also be joined by Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon, a/k/a Double Trouble, the from the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan’s band.

This is something I very much hope to catch. Tickets are on sale now for dates in Washington, D.C. (Constitution Hall), NYC (Beacon Theater), Hampton Beach, NH (Casino Ballroom), Atlantic City (Trump Casino) and Waterbury, CT (Palace Theater). And, there is more fun in store for Hendrix fans as The Jimi Hendrix Experience at Monterey, Jimi's debut at the Pop Festival, will be released on DVD on October 16th to serve as a reminder as to why this was such a special artist. While there will never be another Hendrix, it is very cool and importnat that culturally significant music like this lives on for new generations to remind us, and those picking up a guitar for the first time, that musicianship counts. Hendrix had "it" - we can only hope others that follow can even get close.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mp3s, News and Notes

The Arcade Fire is set to take on the dust bowl that can be Randalls Island. The show takes place October 6th, so the weather may be better than for some of the summer shows. The Fire are bringing some friends along for the ride. Wild Light, Les Savy Fav, Blonde Redhead and LCD Soundsystem will share the bill.

You may recall us featuring Demander back in January. The New York trio are still going strong and the buzz will likely only increase this fall as they join both the Hold Steady and Art Brut on the road for a series of shows and then going abroad for some dates with New Model Army. Just before hitting the road the band will release their new cd The Kindness of Ravens on October 2nd. Check out some tunes and get all the tour scoop on their Myspace page.

Mink, the New York based power-gritters, are hitting the road with Perry Farrell's Satellite Party (who we caught in Austin). Sounds like a great matching of high energy bands and worth seeing. Their new self-titled record, produced by Sylvia Massy (Tool, Red Hot Chili Peppers) & Chris Shaw (Dylan, Wilco), came out yesterday. You check out Mink's video for the "Talk to Me" over on YouTube and get the show dates on their MySpace page.

Mp3 Offerings:
They Might Be Giants (new record out now): "Careful What You Pack"
Cannonball Jane (this is not the Adrock remix): "Take It To The Fantastic"
Division Day (starts of good, not sure about ending): "Tigers"
Tim Williams (new record in October): "Novel"
The Hot Springs (another Montreal act to watch): "Headrush"

The Decemberists are hitting the road for what they are calling "The Long and Short Of It" tour. The name refers to the idea that the band will play longer songs on some nights and shorter songs on others. The band will play two nights in each city so seemingly you could go to both shows and see two entirely different sets. Laura Veirs, who appears on The Crane Wife, will open.

Natalie Merchant and some friends are banding together to help the homeless. A benefit cd titled Give US Your Poor features new songs by Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Madeleine Peyroux, Sonya Kitchell, Bonnie Raitt, Natalie Merchant, Michelle Shocked, Keb’ Mo’ and others. Merchant even recorded a song written by 15-year-old Nichole Cooper when she was homeless. You can check out a clip from a related documentary here. The record comes out September 25th on Appleseed Recordings.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Uh Huh Her in NYC

So I went to NYC last night to see the Little Heroes and was impressed that when I showed up to the Mercury Lounge the place was so full I couldn't get in until some people emptied out. I could also peer into the bar through the door window and noticed it was full of women. Obviously, I couldn't wait to get inside - for the music, of course. But, when I finally got in, I noticed most of the women were leaving! Now, I'm no Brad Pitt, but I rarely clear a room full of women so quickly. And, it was in no way the Little Heroes fault, who put on a stellar set the very night one of their tunes was featured on the show Army Wives and are themselves worth checking out.

No, the reason many of the ladies were heading for the exits was that Leisha Hailey, who plays the adorable Alice on Showtime's "The L Word" had just finished a set with her new band Uh Huh Her. Being a fan of the show, and Alice in particular, I had to at least say hello. Leisha couldn't have been more a sweet heart who greeted everyone who wanted to say hi. She got a kick of having me, her "token straight guy fan", hanging out and joked that I should bring more next time. Something I intend to do as she was so very cool to talk to and down to earth, even hauling her own gear, which completely impressed me. There was such a lack of any "I'm a star" attitude, and she was so natural, I think that if I didn't already have one, she could be my "best gay"!

Special thanks to Jennifer Weber, Artistic Director of the DecaDance Theatre, for taking this cool pic of me (even though I'm in the middle of saying something!), Leisha and her band mate Camila Grey. Check out Uh Huh Her's tunes on their Myspace page and look back here for a possible interview down the road.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Animal Collective Releases New Video

Animal Collective have cut the first video for their new record, Strawberry Jam, which is due out on September 10th in the Europe and September 11th here in the States. The clip is directed by Timothy Saccenti who has filmed El-P, TV on the Radio, Lady Sovereign and many others.

You can check it out here on YouTube. The Baltimore natives also have a host of tour dates lined up for the fall, including a couple nights at Webster Hall in NYC.

Ferraby Lionheart Ready to Hit the Road

Indie folk rocker Ferraby Lionheart is set to leave L.A. behind for awhile and hit the road in support of his debut record for Nettwerk, Catch the Brass Ring. Before he heads East, Ferraby will make his network television debut on August 24th on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Then the tour kicks off in NYC on August 30th with a cd release party at the Mercury Lounge.

Ferraby then joins forces with New Zealand's The Brunettes (Sub Pop) for a tour that will criss-cross the country. For a preview, you can download "Small Planet" here. You can get a full list of tour dates here.

Slightly Stoopid Tour Dates

Slightly Stoopid are currently co-headlining the "Summer Haze Tour" with G. Love & Special Sauce and Ozomatli. But, the San Diegans will soon breakout on their own to showcase more of their new record, Chronchitis, which debuted at #55 on the Billboard Charts.

The fall dates include:

09/22 @ Coors Amphitheatre, San Diego, CA
09/23 @ The Empire, Sacramento, CA
09/25 @ Indigo Niteclub, Eureka, CA
09/26 @ Midtown Music Hall, Bend, OR
09/27 @ Big Easy Concert House, Spokane, WA
09/28 @ Big Easy Concert House, Boise, ID
09/29 @ Wilma Theatre, Missoula, MT
10/02 @ First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN
10/03 @ Eagles Club, Milwaukee, WI
10/04 @ Canopy Club, Urbana, IL
10/05 @ Clutch Cargos’, Pontiac, MI
10/06 @ House of Blues, Cleveland, OH
10/09 @ Mr. Small’s Tavern, Midvale, PA
10/10 @ Starland Ballroom, Sayerville, NJ
10/11 @ The Town Ballroom, Buffalo, NY
10/12 @ Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, Providence, RI
10/14 @ Higher Ground Ballroom, S. Burlington, VT

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mp3s, News and Notes

If you are anywhere near Philadelphia this week you'll want to drop by the World Cafe Live for the Beta Hi Fi Music Festival, sponsored by Paste Magazine and WXPN. The Squirrel Nut Zippers, along with the Kin, Ruder Than You, the Pawnshop Roses (Thursday night 8/23), Blue Sinatra, Grimace Federation and more are set to rock your socks off. More info at

I meant to post about the soundtrack for The Hottest State awhile ago, but the day I wrote up my mp3s, news and notes post to include it I lost the whole thing and was running late for work so I'm just gettting back around to it (and some of the mp3s below). Anyway, the disc would do Zach Braff proud for its lineup of hip acts as well as old school heroes like Willie Nelson, who never goes out of style. Feist, Cat Power, Bright Eyes, M Ward, Norah Jones and more lend tracks recorded just for the film. You can sample Feist and a few others on the film's myspace page.

State Radio, who we caught with Michael Franti last fall, is readying a new release. Year Of The Crow will come out on their own Ruffshod label on September 18th. They are also embarking on a fall tour, you can get the dates and downloand "Unfortunates" here.

Mp3 Offerings:
New Idea Society (from new record out now): Don't Sleep
Squirrel Nut Zippers: Blue Angel
Pawnshop Roses: Here We Go
Schoolyard Heroes: Dude, Where's My Skin
Sharon Jones (with the Dap Kings): 100 Days, 100 Nights
Junior Senior (mash): Can I Get Low

Andrew Bird, who we also caught at SXSW this year, released a new video a few days ago. If you haven't seen it yet, the video for "Imitosis" is on Andrew's
Myspace page. You can also get a complete list of fall tour dates there, which kicks off September 1st in Seattle.

Marco Benevento: Live At Tonic

By: David Schultz

In the summer of 2006, keyboardist Marco Benevento, along with drummer Joe Russo, boosted their collective renown over a whirlwind summer tour with Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon before trekking the country on their own fall tour in support of their sterling sophomore album Play Pause Stop. Once the world slowed down for the pair more familiarly known as The Duo, Benevento took to the stage at the now-defunct Tonic for a month long residency spanning five Wednesday night performances. Only one evening featured Benevento solo; the rest, though focused upon the inventive keyboardist, included notable contributions from his many friends. Mike Gordon sat in for an evening of Benny Goodman music; Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey’s Reed Mathis and notable session drummer Matt Chamberlain sat in for a night; the estimable skills of Joe Russo, Bobby Previte and Mike Dillon gave rise to drum night and Ween’s Dave Dreiwitz and Claude Coleman joined with trumpeter Steven Bernstein for yet another intriguing pairing. Live At Tonic culls three hours worth of the residency’s most sparkling moments, which per Benevento’s design, were intended as completely improvised and off the cuff evenings of music.

Bucking the bootlegger tendency for chronological accuracy, the cuts are spread liberally throughout the set’s three discs, jumping freely between the various shows. When playing with Russo in The Duo, Benevento typically surrounds himself with a menagerie of keyboards and synthesizers. For the Tonic shows, Benevento primarily kept to the piano, which bent pliably to his will. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music, the wide-ranging material captured on Live At Tonic showcases his exceptional aptitude for jazz and avant-garde as well as his prodigious talent for captivating an audience.

When not engaging in experimental, improvisational exercises, Benevento deftly crafts gorgeous piano melodies whether it's on his own creation, “The Arrival of Greatness,” an interpretation of Thelonious Monk’s “Bye Ya” or lush versions of Pink Floyd’s “Fearless” and Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better.” The many guests aren’t relegated to supporting roles: each brings something forth from the versatile Benevento. The clockwork pacing of “The Weathermen” bristles with staccato and Previte, Russo and Dillon’s brisk percussion; on “Executive Session,” Benevento engages in a fine bit of interplay with Bernstein and he attacks “Gimme Some Lovin,” with a loose and freewheeling joie de vivre. Live At Tonic also does a fine job of capturing Benevento’s always enthusiastic audience who provide the vocals on the Spencer Davis classic and, upon Benevento’s relentless urging, provide beer bottle percussion for a swinging cover of Benny Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing.”

Benevento’s Tonic shows epitomized the spirit of the now defunct nightclub and Live At Tonic serves as a fine testament to the adventurous spirit of the venue that remained a haven for new and experimental music right up to the moment it closed its doors with Marc Ribot chained inside. The set also memorializes a remarkable residency featuring an astonishingly creative musician exploring his musical boundaries and taxing his improvisational capacities to create some truly unforgettable performances.

Van Halen Sells Out, Adds More Dates

Well David Lee Roth was right. People do want to see an original Van Halen reunion. No doubt tonight Roth is smiling like a cheshire cat with the news that the initial Van Halen shows in Charlotte, Detroit, Toronto (2 shows), Chicago (2 shows) and Philadelphia all sold out. Now, they have added another show in Philadelphia and Detroit as well as a Washington, D.C. stop.

Tickets for the DC show go on sale this Friday, August 24th. In addition, tickets for the October 30th show at Boston’s TD Banknorth Garden go on sale this Saturday, August 25th. Of course, if you have the big bucks you can pay for a VIP package and get yourself a backstage tour. Maybe you'll even get to down some iced tea with Dave!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Pete Doherty From Zero to Hero?

Pete Doherty has had more than his share of bad publicity in recent years. Now, Pete is in the news for something non-Kate Moss and non-drug related. Reports have Doherty and his Babyshambles band mates coming to the rescue of a car crash victim.

WENN says that Doherty and crew witnessed an accident and quickly moved in to help a man from an overturned car. The car was reportedly pouring smoke from the crash, but that didn't deter the lads who had just been at the V Festival in Essex on Saturday. I say good for Pete for getting some positive press. The next step for Doherty is to once again make headlines for his music. Fans can only hope.

Moby Marketing Remix

With the decline of cd sales and a changing music industry landscape, even established artists have to constantly find new ways to get their music heard. Moby has been on the cutting edge of new music for some time. But, he's also been ahead of the curve when it comes to marketing.

Moby's music has been heard in seemingly countless commercials over the years and he was way ahead of the Web 2.0 interactive curve when hid single "Everytime You Touch Me" included a remix by the winner of a competition - way back in 1995. Now, Moby is utilizing the growing video game medium as a way to reach more ears.

Moby has remixed 3 songs that appear in the game "BioShock." But, if you're not the gaming type you can check out "Wilde Little Sisters" here: Quicktime / Windows.

Is Dirty Harry the Next Amy Winehouse or Lily Allen?

Dirty Harry is being hyped as the next UK "femme fatale" to take America by storm. The question to be answered is whether she'll live up to the hype. Or, in this case, it may be best if, at least in some ways, she doesn't.

It is a publicist's job to help build buzz by comparing a new artist to established acts to give people a frame of favorable reference from which to view the new act. Even the most cynical of people can be persuaded to give a look or listen if told that so and so is the next big thing and they sound like [your favorite hip band]. I think that is an acceptable practice and do it myself all the time. However, one must be careful in deploying that strategy.

I recently received an email touting the musical stylings of a new British "siren." The next big sound that I had to hear was the "the jungle-cat growl of London-transplant Dirty Harry." Seriously, that was what they said. But, that type of cheesey line is normal. Publicists treat most of us like we're a bunch of ten year olds ready to jump on what they say is the latest craze simply because they tell us too. So, by now, I'm used to the "OMG! this is sooooo great" pitch style. No, the worst offense by this publicist was committed in the first line of the pitch by inviting us to compare Ms. Harry to both Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen, primarily because of their country of origins.

Last fall, or even very early this year, that probably would have been a "money" pitch. Both Winehouse and Allen were hot. Both of these "stars" were promoted hard in the British tabloids, and of course, because of the constant repetition of their names in the UK press, which is where much of the U.S. media gets the underlying nuggets of celebrity news from corporate aggregators located there, the U.S. celebrity sheets and sites began "reporting" on the pair as if they were as big as the Beatles before most in the States really had a chance to listen to their music and, more importantly, before the two ladies had a chance to establish themselves as performers ready to jump to the international stage. Now only months later, their stars have tarnished because despite both putting out decent records, neither have proved ready for prime time when it came to performing live - the hallmark of what makes a real musician earn Beatles-type hype.

I'm not saying they are incapable of performing well live. I just think both would have benefited from a slower rise to the top if they were allowed more time to hone their stage craft and become more comfortable performing live over time before increasingly larger crowds (see Grace Potter for how it's done). Now, the "buzz" on each is that they are notorious concert cancellers.

Winehouse had already began building a reputation for missing shows and is now the subject of tabloid reports placing the rehab singer in a real rehab while missing a string of U.S. tour dates. And, Lily Allen just cancelled a U.S. tour for reasons that might not be completely her fault. But, this isn't the first time she's cancelled dates either. Reports had her cancelling shows earlier this year because she was "tired" and not performing as well as she wanted too, or something like that. It seems to me that neither were ready for the grueling pace of the road when you are elevated to the status of a "big time performer." I believe that if these ladies were less hyped and allowed to progress at a more traditional pace they'd have fewer musical problems than they do now. All of which, brings us back to Dirty Harry. For her sake, I hope the comparisons to Allen and Winehouse don't bear out to be too similar - at least in the tabloid sense - and stop at their shared geographic history.

Mp3: Dirty Harry, "Frayed at the Edges"

Sixx: A.M.: The Heroin Diaries

By: David Schultz

Nikki Sixx’ defiant ability to survive deadly heroin overdoses was just one facet of Motley Crue’s decadent mystique. In conjunction with the release of The Heroin Diaries, consisting primarily of Sixx’ mid-Eighties’ journal entries, the resilient bassist has recorded an accompanying soundtrack with his latest group, Sixx A.M. Along with guitarists DJ Ashba and James Michael, Sixx conjures up a score of sludgy beats and middling hard rock riffs in an uninspired effort to give depth to his reflection on his addictions.

Hopefully Sixx’ written journals are more perceptive than the thoughts and observations expressed on the album. If not, Sixx’ near death experiences and withdrawal ordeals gave him absolutely no meaningful insight. Giving an idea of what Judy Blume’s Tales Of A Fourth Grade Heroin Addict might read like, Sixx relates his feelings and observations with shallow depth and lazy introspection. His uninteresting tale is also not a cautionary one: Sixx seems to look back on his drugged out days with a slight fondness, showing little regret as his addictive habits didn’t cost him anything. John Lennon conveyed more with one scream in “Cold Turkey” then Sixx does with an entire album.

In the absence of any interesting music, Sixx A.M.’s The Heroin Diaries could be neatly summed up in one sentence: being on heroin, not so good; off heroin, better. It’s unlikely you needed Nikki Sixx to tell you that.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Robert Randolph and the Family Band Are One Classy Bunch

Last Friday Earvolution's Pawnshop Roses were invited to open up for Robert Randolph and the Family Band. Often an opening act can feel a bit like a motherless child when playing before a big act like Robert Randolph. But, that was not the case with this group. Not only did the Pawnshop Roses get a full sound check and proper backstage treatment, Robert and each member of the band took time out to say hello to the band.

The fans were equally warm. It is not easy to sit through an opening band when you've paid to see the headliner. But, the fans quickly let the Pawnshop Roses know they had their ear and gave them a proper welcome and remained not only attentive, but grew more enthusiastic as the Roses went further into their set. It seems the class of Robert Randolph and the Family Band has rubbed off on their fans as well.

Benzos: Branches

by Rinjo Njori.

From the moment I put on this disc, how long did it take before the bells and whistles (or was synths and pianos?) were going off in my head? About sixty seconds passed before I started thinking Thom Yorke’s solo album, Muse, Radiohead, Siberian and a host of other bands that Benzos sound similar too. There is even a little Style Council and Police thrown in for good measure. What surprised me was that the dark imagery and the bands "look" was more similar too outcasts from the Deep Elm catalogue or second stage rejects from Sounds of the Underground. Instead Benzos, who obviously derive their name from the family of tranquilizers, joins some of the foot soldiers in reestablishing "indie rock" and make considerable headway during the course of the journey.

"Sell This Thing" opens the album and can't help but be compared to Thom Yorke's "The Eraser". Benzos wisely chose to liven up the delivery, but fall far short of giving their own song the swift kick which it needs. The title track fades nicely into the instrumental "Portland", displaying a nice mix of new, recent and classic alternative rock. Another instrumental, "Life", takes a similar approach with "robot" noises spending equal time with piano before fading into the deliberate "Hurt Everybody". At this point Christian Celaya sounds exactly like Muse's Matthew Bellamy. This song is far superior to the other tracks on the album. Other than the bass solo laced throughout the song, the instruments blend perfectly and the backing vocals seem void of imperfection. Whereas most of the other songs on the album feature one dominating instrument at a time.

Benzos Branches won't change the world or change the collective consciousness in that effortless Radiohead way. Nor are they going to hit you like a ton of bricks with an epic song like Muse. More likely they are one of the select bands helping reestablish modern indie music while never leaning too far into electronica or the traditional trappings of rock. Not everyone can be a leader, but Benzos prove that you can certainly aspire to inspiration.

Metal Machine Music To Get Live DVD Release

Metal Machine Music remains Lou Reed's most divisive work. Released in 1975, the double album consisted exclusively of an endless barrage of feedback and formless electronic noise. Although it originally remained in the racks for only three weeks, the debate over its meaning lived on. The common consensus was that Reed submitted the unlistenable tapes to RCA as a form of protest and, calling Reed's bluff, the label released the album. Although predominately reviled, the album had its admirers: Victor Bockris hailed it as the ultimate concept in punk and Lester Bangs raved about its "sick, twisted, dunced-out, malevolent, perverted, psychopathic integrity" and, although not entirely serious, would later refer to Metal Machine Music as "The Greatest Album Ever Made."

As the avant-garde is prone to do, they embraced the atonal and abrasive release as visionary. Notably, Berlin's 11-piece Zeitkratzer brass and string ensemble, directed by Reinhold Friedl, adapted Metal Machine Music as a neo-classical work., much to the iconoclastic guitarist's delight. On St. Patrick's Day in 2002, Reed joined the Zeitkratzer at the Berlin Opera House for a rare performance of his baffling opus.

As this whole scenario defies belief, it was recorded for posterity. On September 4, Asphodel Records will release the DVD, begging the question of whether MMM is truly misanthropic or possibly the missing link.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Nightwatchman's Call To Arms

AT&T are being called out by Pearl Jam and Tom Morello for their apparent censorship of anti-Bush statements from their Blue Room webcasts.

To the tune of "Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)," Pearl Jam inserted some verses critical of our current President into their Lollapalooza performance of "Daughter." However, the Pink Floyd segue was conspicuously missing from the webcast. "This, of course, troubles us as artists but also as citizens concerned with the issue of censorship and the increasingly consolidated control of the media," says a statement on the grunge icons' Web site. "AT&T's actions strike at the heart of the public's concerns over the power that corporations have when it comes to determining what the public sees and hears through communications media."

To highlight the issue, Pearl Jam has posted both the Blue Room webcast and the raw unedited footage on their site.

According to Tom Morello, the telecommunications giant has experience in this type of selective broadcasting, deleting his expressions of disgust for George W. Bush and his administration from their Bonnaroo webcast of his acoustic Nightwatchman set. However, he needs your help in proving it. In order to rebut AT&T's denial of censorship, The Nightwatchman (yes, he still refers to himself in the third person) needs a captured stream of the webcast and is in search of a fan who recorded the performance from AT&T's feed.

If you can help The Nightwatchman, please let him know through his myspace page.

Van Halen Tour Dates

I still recall listening to the short lived David Lee Roth radio show and hearing Dave first predicting, then practically begging for, the inevitable Van Halen reunion of the original members. And, of course, there were all the "confirmed reports" in the spring that the tour was on, but you'll recall Earvolution had the early scoop that those early reports were not so "confirmed" as the headlines made them out to be. But, now it looks like this announcement is real and the Van Halen brothers will reunite with Roth. Of course, this being Van Halen this won't be a complete reunion. Bassist Michael Anthony is not going to tour and is basically out of the band. Eddie Van Halen's son Wolfie will take over those duties. Anthony was much more integral in the group than he is typically given credit for, including some great harmony vocals, so it'll be interesting to see how Wolfie stacks up.

So, after months of maybes, here are the Van Halen tour dates:

Sep. 27 Charlotte, NC Charlotte Bobcats Arena
Sep. 29 Greensboro, NC Greensboro Coliseum
Oct. 01 Philadelphia, PA Wachovia Center
Oct. 07 Toronto, ON Air Canada Centre
Oct. 10 Cleveland, OH Quicken Loans Arena
Oct. 14 Indianapolis, IN Conseco Field House
Oct. 16 Chicago, IL Allstate Arena
Oct. 18 Chicago, IL United Center
Oct. 22 Auburn Hills, MI Palace of Auburn Hills
Oct. 24 Minneapolis, MN Target Center
Oct. 26 Kansas City, MO Sprint Center
Oct. 28 St. Louis, MO Scottrade Center
Oct. 30 Boston, MA TD Banknorth Garden
Nov. 03 E. Rutherford, NJ Continental Airlines Arena
Nov. 13 New York, NY Madison Square Garden
Nov. 20 Los Angeles, CA Staples Center
Nov. 23 Glendale, AZ Jobing.Com Arena
Nov. 25 San Diego, CA Cox Arena
Nov. 27 Sacramento, CA Arco Arena
Nov. 29 San Jose, CA HP Pavilion at San Jose
Dec. 01 Portland, OR Rose Garden
Dec. 03 Seattle, WA Key Arena
Dec. 05 Vancouver, BC General Motors Place
Dec. 09 Edmonton, AB Rexall Place
Dec. 11 Calgary, AB Pengrowth Saddledome

There is bound to be plenty of theatre, comedy, drama and somewhere in all that there is likely some good rock and roll left in these boys that is worth seeing. Van Halen tickets go on sale Saturday, August 18th.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Can I Get A Witness: The Black Crowes Play Central Park

By: David Schultz
Photos via Flickr.

In response to the critical bent towards describing a band as over or underrated, Chuck Klosterman once created a top ten list of bands that were rated correctly, deeming The Black Crowes one of the most accurately rated bands of all time. Notwithstanding his subtle (and humorous) disdain towards the subjective analysis inherent in the proper “rating” of any act, Klosterman’s assessment of the Crowes is a fair one: their successes have never been blown out of proportion and their missteps are rarely glorified. Shake Your Money Maker, their 1990 debut, crackled with life and wedged open the door that grunge rock ripped off the hinges a year later. They even "stole" Otis Redding's “Hard To Handle” in much the same way Aretha stole “Respect.” Even though they weren't able to sustain their early 90s momentum past their third album, Amorica, the Crowes persevered through numerous personnel changes and a fading relevance, hastened by their 2001-2005 hiatus, and maintained their status among the best on the live circuit. With a new album in the can and a summer tour in full swing, Chris and Rich Robinson brought The Black Crowes’ sweaty brand of earthy blues to the humidity drenched environs of Central Park for an early evening show as part of Summerstage's increasingly hip and diverse lineup.

A throwback to the smoky, hazy days of Seventies-era arena rock, Black Crowes shows have become nothing less than rock and roll revivals complete with Chris Robinson urgently preaching his songs with an impassioned sincerity to an audience of believers that long ago downed the Crowes’ Kool-Aid. As for myself, I always find it fun when the Crowes come to town: I tend to give every long haired, hippie-bearded street walker a second glance on the offhand chance that Chris Robinson might be wandering the streets in a befuddled daze.

The carousel of revolving guitarists, bassists and drummers has resulted in the Robinson brothers pretty much equaling the Crowes, with the current incarnation of the band including guitarist Paul Stacey, bassist Sven Pipien, keyboardist Alan MacDougall and original drummer Steve Gorman. The lineup may change periodically and the set lists change nightly but the fervent zeal and spiritual performances stay constant. Chris Robinson remains a consummate frontman, strutting and preening between the drums and mike stand like a coordinated version of Joe Cocker or more appropriately a groovier Mick Jagger. Dramatically lower key than his charismatic brother, Rich Robinson fulfills many roles and remains the heart that pumps the band’s lifeblood. Over the course of the night, Rich came forward to lend some vocals to “Jealous Again,” stepped up for some blues-based guitar solos and also faded into the background, playing rhythm guitar while Stacey handled lead.

Although their upcoming album, their first in more than six years, is in the mixing and mastering stage, the Crowes’ drew heavily from their marvelous 1992 sophomore effort, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, with “Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye” and “Black Moon Creeping” being the only original songs omitted from their Summerstage set. With a spectacular rendition of “Soul Singing” constituting the only post-1994 offering, the Crowes spent the evening diving deliciously into the past. Their devoted fan base, well versed in all things Crowes, didn't seem to be expecting anything different and I suspect they would be disappointed if the Robinsons didn't give them a substantial dose of nostalgia.

The Crowes usually make their New York appearances memorable ones. In March of 2005, the resurrected band confirmed their return by taking residency at the Hammerstein Ballroom for an unforgettable week of comeback performances. In addition to having everyone dress up in white for a Good Friday celebration, they reinvigorated their entire catalog and after hearing many of their latter-day songs live, Lions and Three Snakes And A Charm make more sense. (By Your Side still remains inexplicable). For their return, they paired up with the North Mississippi Allstars and Trey Anastasio to kick off 2006 at Madison Square Garden loading their second set with Zeppelin covers and a lengthy version of “Hard To Handle” with Anastasio lending a helping hand (er, guitar).

Other than making their first appearance in Central Park, there was nothing historic about the Rumsey Playfield gig. Luther Dickinson made a special, if not exactly unexpected, midshow appearance. A friend of the Crowes who has played often with Rich Robinson in Circle Sound and who in Chris Robinson’s words is “all over the new album,” Dickinson joined in on “Downtown Money Waster” and an extended “Thorn In My Pride” which saw Gorman blow the amps in the middle of his drum solo.

The Crowes are at their best when they focus on seeking deliverance from the existential despair brought on by life and women, not entirely in that order. In a set abbreviated by the nefarious Parks Department curfew, the Crowes worked a Zeppelinized blues version of “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” into “My Morning Song” and during “Sometimes Salvation,” Paul Stacey ripped off a guitar solo that drew impressed grins from Pipien and Chris Robinson. The Crowes have a number of immediately recognizable guitar riffs and the opening three notes of “Remedy” remain their surest way to pop the crowd; the lackluster presence of the two back-up singers justified by their mighty contribution to the tune.

The Crowes return to New York for a pair of late October shows at The United Palace. With Ryan Adams & The Cardinals playing the Hammerstein Ballroom and Dweezil Zappa bringing his Zappa Plays Zappa revue to the Beacon Theater in continuation of his father’s Halloween tradition, October 31st will have a frightening amount of fine concert options.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Robert Randolph & Pawnshop Roses Hit Dewey Beach

The amazing Robert Randolph and the Family Band will light up the Bottle & Cork in Dewey Beach, Delaware and Philadelphia's own Pawnshop Roses will open the show. I hear it may be sold out, so call the club before you head down to see if there are still tickets.

If you haven't caught them yet (or are very new to this blog!), the Pawnshop Roses join bands like the Drive By Truckers, Kings of Leon and others who have led the resurgence of Americana rock the past couple years in getting back to basics with one foot in the present and one foot in the good old days of album rock. You may recognize them from winning the YouTube Underground Contest for Best Live Video and appearing on Good Morning America, where they will always be known as the band that got Diane Sawyer to say "It Gets So Hard" on live tv.

Since then, Earvolution Records put them in the studio for their first full length record Let it Roll, an Americana rock gem produced by Pete Donnelly of the Figgs (Amos Lee/GLove), with a couple song co-arrangements by noted alt-country artist Tom Gillam. Jonn Savannah (Van Morrison, Joe Cocker, Squeeze) sits in for a couple tracks on piano, including the Jayhawks' influenced "Here We Go" (free mp3). Distributed by HomeGrown Music, the record is in select stores this week and available internationally via iTunes, Urge, etc. The band quickly lept into Home Grown's top seller list alongside big names like Spearhead, Xavier Rudd and more.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Rollin' On The River With U-Melt

By: David Schultz

In the never ending quest to offer fans a new and different concert experience, promoters have begun to reach beyond the physical limitations of staging a show on dry land. The past few years have seen the rapid growth and proliferation of “rock cruises,” in which a boat full of fans take a luxury liner to sunny locales with bands like Styx, Big Head Todd & The Monsters or the Dave Matthews Band acting as the in-house entertainment. The cost of the venture typically depends on the desired level of comfort, but you can expect to spend a minimum of $1200 for your accommodations.

Like any grand successful idea, it will be adapted on a smaller scale. With an abundance of New York City river space at their disposal, Rocks Off Concert Cruise Series and NYC Rockin' The River Cruises (formerly the NYC Blues Cruise) provide the locals with a near nightly excuse to act like a tourist and take a scenic trip that typically mirrors that of the famed Circle Line. If you can get past the waves that constantly rock the ship, the frugally priced excursions provide a close-knit venue to see a performance. If you've ever had a desire to meet anyone in the band, the boat trips provide your best opportunity: without a lifeboat or water wings, they aren't going anywhere. Seaworthy as they might be, the boats being used for these trips aren't decorated to the nines. More utilitarian than anything else, the boats’ stripped down, bare bones interiors with small bars stocked with beer and inexpensive liquor turn the vessels into floating fraternity basements.

The summer boat show schedule usually has a healthy smattering of jambands. Although the East and Hudson Rivers don’t provide the liberal lawlessness of International waters, the rules on board are a bit less strict than your typical indoor venue. Unless you are from out of town, the band is going to be the main attraction of these shows as the route taken doesn't vary. Travelling up each river and seeing the Statue of Liberty from New York Harbor one week dilutes the thrill of doing it again the next.

Not being aquatic, (I love the beach but dislike going in the ocean), it takes something special to get me to leave the shore. Last week such an event occurred as U-Melt took over the Half Moon for their annual summer boat show as part of Rocks Off’s slate of summer shows. Aware that late-arriving fans would be out of luck, U-Melt held the boat on the dock as long as they could. Since a couple were coming in from Alabama (maybe Arkansas), they waited as long as possible so they wouldn't be left behind. It was the micromanagement version of caring about their fans.

Due to the delayed departure, U-Melt took to the stage and launched into “Escape” just as the Half Moon cleared the dock. Sharing the waters that night with another cruise playing host to The Popper Project and DJ Logic, the U-Melt cruise offered its own unique sights and sounds. An “Elysian Fields” at the foot of the Statue of Liberty made for a wonderful photo opportunity as did U-Melt playing in front of their name spelled out in glow sticks and a “Jacob’s Ladder” nestled into “Clear Light” saw guitarist Rob Salzer deftly work a wah-wah pedal while the waves did their best to knock him off balance. With sound and solid footing at a premium, U-Melt put on an impressive display of musicianship. Each time I see them, Salzer, keyboardist Zac Lasher, drummer George Miller and bassist Adam Bendy seem a little tighter and little more cohesive. Their stamina also remains impressive: except for a short intermission, U-Melt played right until the boat returned to shore, finishing up “Schizophrenia” as the dockhands began securing the ship.

Before they swing through the Southern States on a late summer tour, U-Melt are busily constructing their own live-in recording studio in Brooklyn. Unsurprisingly, they are quite excited about the potential of the place. The Haight-Ashbury scene thrived on such proximity and we are all thankful that somebody hit record while Bob Dylan, Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson and the rest of The Band were noodling around up in Woodstock reinventing themselves while Dylan recovered from his motorcycle accident. For those who remained landlubbers, U-Melt’s next scheduled appearance in New York City will be their annual New Year’s Eve after-hours show that customarily starts at the same time most parties start winding down. Moving into a bigger room with each upcoming year, U-Melt will kick off 2008 at Manhattan’s newest venue, the HighLine Ballroom.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Farm Aid Announces Lineup

Farm Aid announced the lineup for their first ever benefit in New York City, which will take place September 9th on Randall's Island. Joining founders John Mellencamp, Neil Young, Willie Nelson and their fellow board member Dave Matthews will be The Allman Brothers Band, Counting Crows, Matisyahu, Guster, The Derek Trucks Band, Warren Haynes, Supersuckers, The Ditty Bops, Montgomery Gentry and Tim Reynolds. Plans are for Mellencamp, Nelson, Young, Matthews & Reynolds and the Allmans to play full sets.

Farm Aid can trace their genesis to Bob Dylan's off-the-cuff comment at Live Aid. To the rumored anger of Bob Geldof, the always outspoken singer suggested that perhaps some of the money raised could be given to American farmers to help pay off their mortgages. The original Farm Aid, held in Champaign, Illinois, featured such varied acts as Lou Reed, Don Henley and the first performance of the Sammy Hagar led Van Halen. The 2007 all-day event will be the organization's 21st benefit since 1985.

The Bohemian Troubadour: Alejandro Escovedo At The Mercury Lounge

By: David Schultz

You have to find Alejandro Esocvedo. Sad as it is to say, it is unlikely his music will be brought to you. A musician’s musician, Escovedo occupies that all-too-populated realm of the musical pantheon that exists outside the attention of mainstream press and radio. For many, Alejandro Escovedo’s biggest claim to fame might be the fact that he is former Prince acolyte Sheila E’s uncle. Appreciated by adult alternative radio and worshipped by free form radio and listeners willing to accept music that escapes genre classification, Escovedo’s artistic take on rock and roll combines the frank openness and eloquent passion of the great singer-songwriters, the rambunctious energy of raunchy punks and the Tex-Mex, Doug Sahm style of alt-country rock. If Leonard Cohen and Neil Diamond can rock, well so can Alejandro Escovedo. For his return to New York City this past Friday night, Escovedo opted against a return engagement at Carnegie Hall in favor of an intimate gathering at the Mercury Lounge.

Escovedo’s band, or orchestra as he refers to them, perfectly suits his ability to blend empathetic ballads with some nifty electric guitar work. The remarkable string section, comprised of violinist Susan Voelz and cellists Matt Fish and Brian Standefer bring depth and feeling to Escovedo’s more contemplative songs. With the strings providing plaintive melodies, Escovedo offered songs that sound like more intricate versions of Lou Reed’s meditative material. Less detached than Reed, Escovedo doesn't remain as emotionally dry and he has a much more harmonious voice than the oft-monotone former Velvet. An aging punk rocker, Escovedo ended a good number of his songs playing urgent rhythm guitar over David Pulkingham’s skillful leads, the imprimatur of his Austin, Texas roots stamped proudly upon the results.

Escovedo previewed “Sister Lost Soul,” “The Nuns Song” and “Sensitive Boys,” new songs he’s written with Chuck Prophet for an upcoming album. He gave each of the songs a little introduction and even though he seemed slightly sheepish at presenting tunes which he claimed were works in progress, they had a fine, finished quality to them. The majority of his set featured upbeat classics like “I Was Drunk” and he closed with a raucous version of his randy “Castanets,” a song Escovedo recently returned to his repertoire after removing it in protest after learning George W. Bush had it on his iPOD.

Able to offer credible versions of Ian Hunter’s “I Wish I Was Your Mother” and The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” Escovedo opted for the former, playing a stripped down, touching offering without bass or drums. To close the night, guitarist Nick Tremulis leapt to the stage for a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Beast Of Burden” With Tremulis and Escovedo sharing verses, the song took on a subtly homo-erotic vibe which disappeared when Escovedo gave Tremulis his guitar and left the stage allowing Tremulis and Pulkingham to finish the night with a flurry of guitars.

I must confess that before Friday night’s show, my breadth of knowledge about Escovedo was limited to having once heard his live version of “Gravity/Falling Down Again” (which teases Lou Reed’s “Street Hassle”) many years ago on Vin Scelsa’s Idiot’s Delight and the moderate airplay WFUV gave “Arizona” when The Boxing Mirror came out. Based on that small sampling of Escovedo’s material, which really is just the tip of the iceberg that is Escovedo’s back catalog, I was expecting an overly serious-minded “artiste” to take the Mercury Lounge stage. Escovedo’s relaxed sense of fun and ability to tap into the emotional elements of a song while not forgetting the ecstasy of a three-chord guitar assault made his seventy-five minute set seem all that much shorter. With my appetite whetted, I have begun to remedy the dearth of Escovedo’s music from my collection.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals: This Is Somewhere

by Jeff Davidson

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals have built a rabid following over the last few years by 1) mastering their instruments, 2) writing great songs and 3) delivering blistering live performances. No flukes, karaoke contests or gimmicks here - this band has earned their place in the spotlight through hard work and sheer talent. Now, with the release of their third record, This Is Somewhere, the band looks to take things up a notch and expand upon their already impressive body of work.

It is often difficult for early fans of a rising band to accept the growing awareness of what up to now was in some ways their little secret. But, on This is Somewhere, Grace and crew (Scott Tournet on guitar, Bryan Dondero on bass and Matthew Burr on drums) manage to strike the balance of holding on to those who have been with them for a few years while simultaneously opening their arms to new fans to join the party. Produced by Mike Daly (Whiskeytown), the record hints at the fire the Nocturnals deliver on stage while also highlighting the band's efforts to stretch themselves from a songwriting perspective.

"Ah Mary" starts off the record showcasing Potter's sensual coo, but quickly explodes into an energetic rocker that lets people know why this band has built such a vaunted reputation for killer live shows. "Stop the Bus" isn't new to fans who've been coming out to see the band in the past year or so and is another one of the great tracks on the record that serves as a nod to those who have been along for the ride for awhile.

Having conquered the live arena, "Apologies" is one of the songs where the Nocturnals look to build their repuations as studio musicians. The ballad is a carefully crafted song that may cause some pause among early adopters, but is radio gold and will no doubt bring new ears to the sweet sounds of Ms. Potter and friends. "Ain't No Time" and "Mr. Columbus" are also evidence that the Nocturnals are much more than just an amazing jam band (not that there's anything wrong with that!) and are further indications that they are growing musically in a direction that should be palatable to their core audience while writing songs within a more traditional structure.

"You May See Me", "Lose Some Time" and the raucous "Here's to the Meantime" explore various facets of life, love and relationships. But, given this is Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, do so with a soulful grit instead of the typical gloss that tempts and traps many artists who write about these well covered topics. "Mastermind" and "Falling or Flying" are my least favorite tracks on the disc. However, the disc is such a strong and complete record that this is like saying the whip cream is the least favorite part of my sundae as I devour the whole thing. Not that I'm saying these songs are fluff, it's just that on a record full of "9s" and "10s" a tune or two in the "7" or "8" range may get lost in the crowd.

"Big White Gate" closes out the disc revealing Potter's gospel roots that were so apparent on Nothing But the Water and like the title track of that record, will no doubt become a concert favorite. Like most greats, Potter will remind you of top singers from the past while staking her own claim as a unique voice both worthy of - and difficult to do justice by - those inevitable comparisons. While Grace is impressively proficient at guitar and works her Hammond B3 as good as anyone, her voice is the instrument that lifts this song, and much of the record, to special heights. However, a careful listen informs even an undiscerning ear that this is a team effort.

This Is Somewhere accomplishes what the band has set out to do by forging their individual gifts into a collective force that poises them to be one of the breakout acts of 2007. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals make somewhere a great place to be. Get here as fast as you can.

Lee Hazlewood (1929 - 2007)

Have you seen the sun?
It still hangs in the sky.
Have you seen the birds?
They still know how to fly.
Have you seen the rivers?
They still float to the rim.
Have you seen the old man?
He knows all about them.
And have you seen the lovers?
They still pray for the dark.
Have you seen the kennels?
They still sleep in the park.
Have you seen the mountains?
They still hug the snow.
And have you seen the old man?
He's ready to go.
And his tongue,
his tounge tastes forever,
and his mind wonders
what forever will bring.

Arrested Development: The Police Return To Madison Square Garden

By: David Schultz

Reunion tours are bittersweet affairs. On one hand, there’s the thrill of reliving a part of your youth by seeing a band you thought would never play together again; on the other, there's the disquieting feeling that occurs when you reflect on how much you've aged between the two shows. Twenty-one years ago, in the summer before my senior year of high school, I saw The Police close the Amnesty International benefit from the prime vantage spot of two rows from the top of Giants Stadium. Other than being two decades older, not much has changed for Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland: they can still sell out arenas and stadiums at a breakneck pace. As for me, but for the intervention of a couple friendly corporate real estate lawyers, my seats for The Police’s return to Madison Square Garden would have been in the same row as they were in high school. I guess the more things change, the more they really do stay the same.

I've always been struck by the depths of the infatuation The Police - well, mostly Sting - inspired from women. Even as far back as elementary school, I can remember one girl being so obsessive in her Sting worship that to disparage him in her presence brought a response as furious as that normally reserved for collection agents and angry girlfriends. Usually bands that receive that type of reaction from women lose all of their male fans but The Police were that rare breed that could attract rabid fans of both sexes. Regardless of whether the music struck your fancy, women lusted after Sting and men were willing to overlook the drooling in order to rock out to songs about blow-up dolls and the identifiable emotional angst of losing one girl and not being able to get next to another.

In addressing the sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden, Sting noted that it had been nearly thirty years since The Police first came to New York City to play the now-defunct CBGB. Back then, the bohemian surroundings of Hilly Kristal’s club provided the perfect venue for the London trio’s heady mix of ska rhythms, punk beats and surly attitude. As he’s now a staple on soft-rock radio, it’s almost comical to recall an era when Sting was considered edgy. In The Police’s waning days, they had ballooned into a bloated arena rock spectacle. It’s a dichotomy they’re cognizant of: premising 1995’s double CD release The Police Live! on the differences between the band in their infancy and the bombast of their final days. In picking up where they left off, the Garden provided the perfect environs to house their matured sound.

It’s manifestly unfair to expect The Police to sound like they did in their youth, even if they are making a game effort at it. The songs from their Synchronicity period, by which point they had grown into one of the more popular bands on the planet, come across much the same as they did in the Eighties. It’s the songs, like “Driven To Tears,” “Can’t Stand Losing You” and “Roxanne” that seem overshadowed by their own weighty significance. The Police delivered them with zeal but lacked the reckless abandon that accompanies the exuberance of youth. Ultimately, on much of the older material, they sounded a half a beat to slow.

Sting has taken liberties with much of their back catalog over the years, rendering “Roxanne” as an acoustic ballad or “Bring On The Night/When The World Is Running Down” as a jazzy finger-snapping medley. For the Garden show, there is no Sting-ification of the back catalog or senseless Kanye West cameos. Sting, Summers and Copeland simply did their estimable best to play every song in the style that Police fans would want. In trying to include every song that should rightfully be played on their reunion tour, a task they pretty much accomplished, the set list lacked any rarities or true surprises.

One of the more enjoyable elements of The Police’s old albums is Sting’s penchant for catchy chants and the occasional wailing howl. Sting didn't torture his voice to reach the same screams of yesteryear, but it had little effect on the show. Even if he tried, the fans would have drowned him out, preferring to cathartically yowl on their own. For some reason, Sting’s sing-along choruses have received much attention and critical analysis as to their cultural relevance or representations of his significance as a songwriter. Whatever the historical value, there's no denying that it’s flat out fun to belt out an off-key “eeee o, eeee yay, eeee yay yo,” at the top of your lungs.

If the clash of personalities that ultimately led to the break up the band still exists, the three aren't bringing them onto the stage. Far from Sting and his two old friends, The Police played as a cohesive unit, bringing back songs that have long worked their way into the collective unconscious of classic rock. Sting’s bass lines, so integral to the band’s visceral impact, ran the gamut from transcendent (“Message In A Bottle” and “Walking On The Moon”) to disappointing (“De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” and the saccharine yet still powerful “Every Breath You Take”). Playing a beat-up bass that looked like it had seen better days, Sting moved lithely around the stage. Whenever Andy Summers would take center stage for a guitar solo, Sting would take the opportunity to roam to the wings and acknowledge the masses. Wearing a headband that made him look like he was ready to pick up a Donnay racket and challenge John McEnroe at Wimbledon, Copeland wailed away on his kit, moving to an impressive array of xylophones, bongos and a giant gong to give “Wrapped Around Your Finger” and “Walking In Your Footsteps” their off-kilter percussion.

Overblown reunion tours at Madison Square Garden tend to be a corporate boondoggle and The Police’s stop was no exception with ticket brokers reselling seats for as much as $2000. Unlike many shows where the band’s fans get first crack at the prime seats, members of the Best Buy Rewards Program, the tour’s sponsor, received preferential treatment. Best Buy’s entry into this already dubious market wouldn't be so egregious if the prime incentive to join The Police’s fan club (for $100) wasn't the opportunity to get advance seats. It begs the question: What can a fan do if all they want is to get next to The Police? The answer seems simple: open up your wallet. Sting always said it was his destiny to be the King of Pain.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Mp3s, News and Notes

Rogue Wave, who is set to do some shows with Feist this September, is releasing their new record September 18th. Asleep at Heavens Gate, their debut for Brushfire Records, was produced by Roger Moutenot (Yo La Tengo, Sleater Kinney, Elvis Costello). There are also some special guests on the record. Matthew Caws from Nada Surf sings on a couple of songs, John Vanderslice contributes in spots, Snowblink's Daniela Gesundheit sings on a few tracks, Dominic East of Our Lady of the Highway also lends some vocals and Bill Cameron of the Winechuggers plays keyboards on "Ghost." You can get the Feist dates and check out some sounds on their MySpace page.

KT Tunstall has released the first single from her new record Drastic Fantastic. You can check out the video for "Hold On" here: Windows / Quicktime. The new record hits stores September 18th and look for select US dates to be announced for this fall, followed by a full scale US tour next spring.

Dweezil Zappa has added more dates to his Zappa Plays Zappa tour, including a return engagement for another Halloween in New York City. This year's Halloween event moves to the Beacon Theatre, but should be full of treats like last year's. One such treat will be the addition of Ray White to the band. White is a vocalist/guitarist who toured and recorded with Frank Zappa on various records, including Tinsel Town Rebellion, You Are What You Is and Zappa in New York, on which he sang lead vocal on "The Legend of the Illinois Enema Bandit."

Mp3 Offerings:
Ela (on tour w/ Minus the Bear): Professional Love
Robbers on High Street (via WXPN): Married Young
Pelle Carlberg (Swedish indie pop): I Love You, You Imbecile
One For The Team (Minneapolis powerpop): "Best Supporting Actor"
Benzos (ambient alt rock): Hurt Everybody
The Sharp Things (NYC orchestral pop): An Ocean Part Deux

The Cape May are set to release their new record this week. The Canadian indie-folk rockers teamed up with producer Steve Albini (Nirvana, Low, The Pixies) to record Glass Mountain Roads. The record hits stores tomorrow, but you can listen to the whole thing today. Cruise over to the Flemish Eye Records site for a preview.

Boy / Girl: Secret Secret Secret Singles

By: Sean R. Grogan

"A Secret Worth Learning."

Are you tired of bubble gum pop stars and their overly dramatic breakdowns? Tired of rock stars who don’t rock? Well have we found a band for you, Boy / Girl. The Brooklyn/Jersey City duo, Eric Stinger and Lisa Cusack, take rock and transform it from radio-friendly, stale, and ordinary into something chaotic and gritty. The album takes the listener on a ride full of highs and lows. The opening track on Secret, "Alcohol and Certain Medications" reminds me of a Mediterranean market with its conflicting sounds and hectic beat. "The Shakes" mixes dry vocals with clamorous drums and screeching guitars. "Kill Kill Kill" is an upbeat little interlude whose soul vocals make us think of a 1980's slasher flick - talk about a mind-blowing contradiction. On "Rorshack" the disarranged mix of drums and guitars sends an eerie chill down the spine. For their first EP (on Ace Fu / 307 Knox), produced by Russell Simmins (JSBX), Boy / Girl are setting themselves up to change the sounds associated with rock and make a niche that will no doubt be filled by imitators. The name of their website alone makes them worth checking out:

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Grace Potter on Leno

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals will make their network television debut tonight on Jay Leno. Earvolution and other blogs have been fans of the band for some time so we're quite pleased to see one of the big boys from the old school media catch on and give this great band the wider audience they deserve.

The band will be celebrating the release of their new record, This Is Somewhere, with the appearance. My guess is they will play Ah Mary, which has been getting radio play. But, the disc, which drops August 7th, has plenty of great songs to choose from so we'll have to tune in to see what the pride of Vermont picks for their hello to America.

Grace and crew will not stop with Leno. The band will also play Good Morning America on August 7th and Craig Ferguson on August 10th. The release of This is Somewhere should be the record that makes Grace Potter and the Nocturnals seemingly everywhere.

Earvolution Records Partners With Home Grown Distribution and TuneCore

Earvolution Records, which spawned from this very music blog, has teamed with two leading independent distribution companies to put the label's first release into the hands of fans worldwide. Pawnshop Roses is now available in select U.S. music stores thanks to Home Grown Distribution and now in all digital retail outlets around the world via TuneCore.

Even in the new era of "DIY" marketing, these types of flexible partnerships are key to getting indie labels and bands a wider audience to move to the next level without compromising artist integrity and getting into the somewhat oppressive relationships that other large labels and distribution companies have subject both indie bands and labels to in the past. Today's market is changing at an amazing rapid rate and you have to adapt in real time. Some industry types are still stuck in the old model, but now with blogs, podcasts, social networks and video sharing sites indie artists and labels can come together to work more in partnership to reach fans and help the artists grow musically and from a business standpoint. But, you still need help to reach the next level. Smaller, more flexible, yet effective, companies like Home Grown and TuneCore are prime examples.

Teaming with Home Grown has helped the Pawnshop Roses step from a regional to a national stage. Home Grown works with top labels and bands, primarily those playing the booming festival circuit and is willing to take a chance to introduce new bands to the larger audiences it serves. For example, in June, the Pawnshop Roses jumped into Home Grown's top 25 sellers along side big names like Phish, Spearhead, Derek Trucks, moe and Xavier Rudd. Seeing a band from your label next to those names on a music chart - even a small specialty one - is quite validating.

Now, with interest growing overseas in the band, thanks to TuneCore, the Pawnshop Roses can reach fans in all parts of the globe via iTunes, MTV's URGE, Sony Connect, Virgin Digital and Yahoo Music without giving up a huge chunk of song royalties. The flexibility in the arrangement is perfect for a growing label like Earvolution and a rising band like the Pawnshop Roses.

You will recognize the band from winning the YouTube Underground Contest for Best Live Video and appearing on Good Morning America, where they will always be known as the band that got Diane Sawyer to say "It Gets So Hard" on live tv .

Since then, Earvolution Records put them in the studio for their first full length record "Let it Roll", produced by Pete Donnelly of the Figgs (Amos Lee/GLove), with a couple song co-arrangements by noted alt-country artist Tom Gillam. Jonn Savannah (Van Morrison, Joe Cocker, Squeeze) sits in for a couple tracks, including the Jayhawks' influenced (free mp3) "Here We Go".

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Beastie Boys Add New Tour Dates

The Beastie Boys are still kickin' live after all these years. The Brooklyn trio has been selling out shows left and right while touring after releasing their instrumental effort, The Mix-Up. The tour schedule now includes:

The updated itinerary is now as follows:

August 1st - Philadelphia, PA - Festival Pier
August 2nd - Atlantic City, NJ - The Borgata - A Gala Event - Instrumental Show
August 4th - Baltimore, MD - Virgin Festival_
August 5th- Boston, MA - Boston Opera House - A Gala Event - Instrumental Show
August 6th - Boston, MA - Bank of America Pavilion
August 8th - New York, NY - Central Park Summerstage
August 9th - Brooklyn, NY - McCarren Pool
August 10th- NYC - Hammerstein Ballroom - A Gala Event - Instrumental Show
August 16th - Denver, CO - Red Rocks Amphitheater
August 17th - Denver, CO - Fillmore - A Gala Event - Instrumental Show
August 19th - Los Angeles, CA- Greek Theater
August 20th - Los Angeles, CA- Greek Theater
August 21st - Los Angeles, CA - The Wiltern - A Gala Event - Instrumental Show
August 23rd - Santa Barbara, CA - Santa Barbara County Bowl
August 24th - San Francisco, CA - Warfield - A Gala Event - Instrumental Show
August 25th - Berkeley, CA - Greek Theater

And, following up on Live Earth and trying to do their part to bring more awareness to the climate change issues, the Beasties are donating a $1.00 from each ticket to the non-profit organization ARIA (Artists Resources in Action), which "supports Reverb, the outreach program to educate and engage musicians and their fans to promote environmental sustainability and fund local nonprofit organizations in the cities the tour visits." More info on that and related eco programs here.

Joss Stone and Robbie Williams Team with...Dean Martin?

Singing with the dead is all the rage these days. Thanks to technology modern stars can attempt to attach themselves to real deal hipness from yesteryear. The latest project in this vein is a compilation of "duos" with original rat packer Dean Martin.

Joss Stone, Robbie Williams, Kevin Spacey (apparently he's now a singer after playing Bobby Darin in a movie) and Martina McBride pair themselves up with Martin on various tunes. The disc even brings back Big Bad VooDoo Daddy to the spotlight (check out "Who's Got the Action"). Maybe they'll return to the Dresden! Swingers II anyone?

Dino's even gone all modern on us and has a MySpace page. Cool, daddy-o.

Paul Weller and Graham Coxon: This Old Town

by Rinjo Njori.

Make no mistake, Paul Weller (The Jam, The Style Council, and his solo work) and Graham Coxon (Blur and his solo work) have not redefined, reinvigorated or re-"anything-ed" with their collaboration on This Old Town. Collaborating on one song, and backing each other up on their own compositions, there is an equal balance of playing it safe and forging out into unknown territory.

"Black River", Weller's contribution, is a jazzy piano driven song that doesn't fall far from the softer, synthless moments of the Style Council. Nonetheless, Weller makes the mistake of not taking a chance or attempting to branch out with this sub par track. "Each New Morning" is equally unremarkable, but far more enjoyable. Coxon, like Weller, writes what he knows best, perfect Brit Pop with a punk sneer. The sound falls a little more in line with Blur than Coxon's solo work. You can't help but speculate that this is a tune up for a full blown reunion of Coxon and Damon Albarn. Like Weller's tune, Coxon seems to be avoiding the opportunity shake things up. Either way, neither Weller or Coxon brought their A-Game to these tracks.

However, "This Old Town" is really what this 7 inch is all about and thankfully it delivers. With Coxon taking lead vocals and relegating Weller to chorus and lead guitar the duo really swing for the fences on this one. There is a surprisingly heavy dose of Matthew Sweet style power pop that is spun into this mix. On every level it really works. From the jangly guitar, to the lead vocal over dubs and the more obvious Americana-type references. This track wouldn't sound out of place on Sweet's Altered Beast or Blue Sky on Mars. This track alone makes the collaboration worthwhile.

I can't imagine that Weller or Coxon will give up their day jobs to record with each other full time, but it's nice to see what these two could do together. An occasional song here or there could be interesting and possibly evolve into something more. Some people are crying foul and pointless, but the attempt on some level could inspire other interesting collaborations.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!