Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Britney Angers The Church

The Catholic League is in a lather over photos included with Britney Spears' latest album Blackout. Rather than object to her copying Madonna's publicity strategy from her "Like A Prayer" days, the League takes issue with snapshots depicting her posing seductively in a confessional booth and on a preacher's lap (Jive Records publicity photo at left). “This girl is crashing,” reportedly said Catholic League President Bill Donohue, who is also quoted as saying “She’s not even allowed to bring up her own kids because she’s not responsible enough. Now we see she can’t even entertain.”

It appears the Catholic League may define "entertain" differently from the rest of us. As anyone who has paid even fleeting attention to Britney would grudgingly admit, her descent from burgeoning multimedia superstar to walking train wreck that sits behind Kevin Federline in the line of qualified parents has been "entertaining" America and the world quite satisfactorily for the past year. So much so most of don't seem to realize we've got young men and women dying in an Iraq war that didn't have to be fought and we are on the brink of starting yet another. Maybe Britney's "descent" is all just part of Dick Cheney's distract and misdirect strategy? It certainly seems to be working...gimme more!

Porter Wagoner (1927-2007)

How many times have you heard someone say
If I had his money I could do things my way
But little they know that is so hard to find
one rich man in ten with a satisfied mind
Once I was waiting in fortune and fame
Everything that I dreamed for to get a start in life's game
But suddenly it's happened I lost every dime
But I'm richer by far with a satisfied mind

Money can't buy back your youth when you're old
Or a friend when you're lonely or a love that's grown cold
The wealthiest person is a pauper at times
compared to the man with a satisfied mind
When life has ended my time has run out
My friends and my loved ones I'll leave there's no doubt
But there's one thing for certain when it comes my time
I'll leave this old world with a satisfied mind


(Wagoner's first #1 hit from 1955)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dirt and Grit: Drive-By Truckers At The Bowery Ballroom

By: David Schultz

The South claims a mythic hold on the hearts and minds of the Drive-By Truckers. In their worldview, the legends of Southern heroes like Buford Pusser, Carl Perkins and John Henry are just as timeless as those of Achilles and Odysseus and it’s always been their mission to do for Alabama what Homer did for Ancient Greece. Guitarists and songwriters Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley have always been at the center of this Southern preservation society with their 2001 opus, Southern Rock Opera, adding to, if not entirely deifying, the mystique of Lynyrd Skynyrd, one of rock’s better known proponents of “The Heart of Dixie.”

On their current The Dirt Underneath tour, the Truckers (who also ranked #3 in Earvolution's Best of 2004) have been playing with purpose, working out some new songs that will be on their upcoming Brighter Than Creation’s Dark and rediscovering some old ones in a predominantly acoustic setting. An intimately styled show needs an intimate setting and in New York City that generally means a night at the Bowery Ballroom. Though acoustic, it wasn’t entirely unplugged nor was it a relaxed Storyteller performance. Seated for most of the night, the Truckers didn’t get the same power as they do from their electric performances but in relying on their voices and stories instead of their guitars, they delivered the same emotional punch.

With Jason Isbell leaving the band to pursue a solo career, the Truckers three headed guitar/lead vocalist monster has been pared down to Hood and Cooley. Isbell’s split from the band is hardly insignificant. However, his absence hasn’t deprived the Truckers of their swampy grittiness or outlaw charm. Bassist Shonna Tucker, Isbell’s ex-wife, remains as does longtime drummer Brad Morgan. For the Friday night show, newcomer John Neff moved between pedal steel and an acoustic guitar and famed session musician Spooner Oldham was stationed modestly at the rear of the stage.

In opening with “The Home Front” and “A Ghost To Most,” the Truckers offered a glimpse of the new before lustily reviving many older tunes, being more prone to dipping into their first two albums, Gangstabilly and Pizza Deliverance, then their latest A Blessing And A Curse. A large man, Hood sings with a slightly breathy, at time straining voice. It gives his songs a small tinge of despair and an empathetic feel as in “The Sands Of Iwo Jima,” a song Hood wrote for and dedicated to his great-uncle who fought on the island during World War II and gave the songs it’s memorable phrase, “I never saw John Wayne on the sands of Iwo Jima.” Hood’s compassion compliments the stentorian growl Cooley uses while offering dry commentary on his surroundings as on “Daddy’s Cup” where he eloquently describes the lessons passed down from father to son. Modifying some of the arrangements, “Putting People On The Moon” amassed a poignancy as opposed to “Sink Hole,” which without the swampy guitars came off emasculated. For Southern Rock Opera’s “Let There Be Rock,” Hood used the anthem a framework, interjecting soliloquies about going to “C-level” concerts in Huntsville, Alabama rather than offering a straight-up recitation.

Effective as Hood and Cooley were, the Truckers took on different dimensions when the lead vocals passed out of their hands. For the first time since joining the Truckers, Tucker sang lead on the pleasing “I’m Sorry Houston” and in a wizened gravelly voice, Oldham revived his oft-covered 1966 classic “I’m Your Puppet.” However, it was a guest turn by Bettye Lavette that put everyone to shame. The soul legend worked with Hood and the Truckers on her latest album, The Scene Of The Crime and she emerged from backstage for a wickedly soulful turn through “I Still Want To Be Your Baby (Take Me As I Am).”

Other than when playing bartender and pouring whiskey from enormous Costco-sized bottles of Jack Daniels down everyone’s throat while they were otherwise occupied with such trivialities like playing guitar, Hood waited until the end of the encore to rise from his chair. Channeling his inner Springsteen, Hood came to his knees for “State Trooper” which they worked into “Buttholeville,” one of their oldest songs and by the time they lurched into their cover of punk-poet Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died,” Hood abandoned all pretenses and attacked the song with a furious vengeance.

You might imagine that a night of acoustic music with the Drive-By Truckers wouldn’t incite a crowd. You would be wrong. Once the Truckers finished, Tucker started pointing to a commotion at the front of the stage and with her and a slightly confused Hood looking on with interest, security (efficiently) wrestled at least one person from the front of the stage to the street in a matter of seconds. Just imagine the scene if they had plugged in.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Earvolution Nashville Happy Hours

This week marks the annual Americana Music Conference in Nashville. Earvolution is joining the party by hosting two "unofficial" happy hours at the Douglas Corner Cafe with some great live Americana music. On Thursday November 1st, we'll kick things off with Joe White, Laurelyn Dossett of Polecat Creek and the Pawnshop Roses. On Friday November 2nd, both Joe White and the Pawnshop Roses return with short sets before Patty Hurst Shifter takes the stage. Both parties kick off at 4:30pm.

Patty Hurst Shifter springs from the acclaimed Raleigh/Chapel Hill area alt country scene and has a direct tie to the legendary Whiskeytown of Ryan Adams lore. PHS drummer Skillet Gilmore was in Whiskeytown with Adams and Gilmore's wife Caitlin Cary (one of Earvolution's first full length interview subjects). Indeed, Cary and her Tres Chicas pal Tonya Lamm helped out with some backing vocals on the tune "The Sadder Side", which also features Ian McLagan of the Faces on the Hammond B3. PHS also features singer/guitarist J. Chris Smith, lead guitarist/vocalist Marc E. Smith (no relation), bassist/vocalist Jesse Huebner.

Laurelyn Dossett of Polecat Creek (another North Carolina act) enjoys being part of an acclaimed duo, but is also a formidable songwriter in her own right. While Polecat is still enjoying its recent release Ordinary Seasons co-produced by Grammy winner Steven Heller (Doc Watson/David Holt), Laurelyn also has one of her songs ("Anna Lee" appearing on the new Levon Helm record Dirt Farmer which hits stores tomorrow. You can also catch Polecat Creek at an Americana Music Association showcase at the Station Inn in Nashville on Saturday, November 3, 2007.

The Pawnshop Roses, if you didn't know yet, are the first act on Earvolution Records (which is more artist development company then traditional record label), and are continuing to build buzz from their first full length record Let it Roll. Pop Matters is the latest to recognize the Pawnshop Roses as a praise worthy act, writing "on other standouts like opening track "Here We Go", the band proves it can keep time with contemporaries like Ryan Adams and Jesse Malin." Good company indeed. The band is in the midst of a southern swing that will include a recording session at the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis on Halloween night and stops in North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and West Virginia. But, before hitting the road to what is quickly becoming their new second home (the south) the Roses were graced with some special studio guests in Philadelphia. Lenesha Randolph and Jason Crosby from Robert Randolph's Family Band stopped in to help out on some new tracks that I can't wait for everyone to hear and will be unveiled in January at a special show at Philadelphia's World Cafe Live.

Joe Whyte is an Americana singer-songwriter based in New Jersey. Yes, New Jersey. While we dig all the great garage and indie rock that streams out of Williamsburg and all those cool little neighborhoods over the bridge, Joe Whyte reminds us that there is some diversity in the Brooklyn music scene. Joe's new record Devil in the Details just came out and the title track along with tunes like "No More" is as Americana as anything coming out of the genre's traditional geographic sources. The Captain Obvious blog says the "album is a cohesive collection of alt. country pearls that shimmer with simplicity and effectiveness." In addition to releasing the new record, Joe is just back from the Darvel Music Festival in Scotland and following a few dates in Nashville this week will return back to New York City for upcoming shows at both the Living Room (Nov. 15th) and the Rockwood Music Hall (Dec. 18th.)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Eagles Sell Out

In one of the most hypocritical business deals in recent memory, The Eagles will make Long Road Out Of Eden, their first studio album in almost 30 years, exclusively available at Wal-Mart stores throughout North America. The deal pairs up longtime environmentalist Don Henley with a corporation known for its disdain of environmental laws and regulations. The latest album berates Americans for their consumerism and rampant big business, so I guess this is a case of do as Don Henley says not what Don Henley does.

"Some of my environmental friends are a little upset because we made this deal. But on the other hand, I have a direct line now to the CEO of Wal-Mart," said Henley. "We’re certainly making our feelings known in terms of ecological stewardship and some of the practices of big business that are undesirable and wasteful." If Don Henley thinks anyone at Wal-Mart truly cares about his opinions, the judgmental rocker may have finally gone bereft of his senses. Fortunately, he can rest easy on his mountain of Wal-Mart cash.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Family Banders Join Pawnshop in the Studio

You'll recall that the Pawnshop Roses were able to share the stage with Robert Randolph and the Family Band for a hell of a great night in Dewey Beach, Delaware back in August. Now the guys were graced with some true pros in the studio as Lenesha Randolph and Jason Crosby from the Family Band joined the Pawnshop Roses at Kawari Sound just outside of Philadelphia to lay down some tracks under the always impressive direction of producer Pete Donnelly.

Jason tracked some down home fiddle and then jumped on the keys for a little honky tonk flavor.





Lenesha brought the soul and showed why she is a go to guest vocalist for people like Lauryn Hill, Santana and Dave Matthews.



And, to throw some extra spice into the mix, we brought in two of the best horn players around. From the Funk Brothers (featuring Steve Winwood and Billy Preston) recent touring band, both Jay Davidson (with touring/recording credits that include with Aerosmith & the Rolling Stones) and Steve Jankowski (with touring/recording credits that include Blood Sweat & Tears and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones) layed down some truly amazing stuff along side our other special guests that will be featured on an upcoming release in January 2008 that will be celebrated with a special show on the main stage of Philadelphia's World Cafe Live.

You can view more pics from the session
here on their Myspace page.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

This Crutch, Old Age And Its Wisdom: Experience Hendrix Comes To The Beacon Theater

By: David Schultz

The premise was a noble one, although not exactly the easiest to carry off: honor Jimi Hendrix by assembling his friends, contemporaries and those that he influenced to play his music in recognition of his sizable legacy and impact on the world of rock and roll. As Hendrix is arguably the most innovative guitarist to ever take the stage and his songs are fixtures on classic rock radio, the venture isn’t exactly fraught with the urgency of keeping the memory of a fading or obscure musician alive. The 2007 Experience Hendrix project consists of a seven night run focusing exclusively on the East coast with two stops at New York City’s Beacon Theater. The three hour cavalcade had its moments while attempting the impossible task of covering the catalog of a musician whose talents simply cannot be duplicated. No reflection on the chops involved with the performance, it’s simply an undertaking that will ultimately prove unsatisfying.

The night provided an opportunity for former guitar prodigies Eric Gales and Kenny Wayne Shepherd to reestablish their reputations with each offering astounding performances; Gales opening the show with “Foxy Lady” and reemerging later for a grin-inducing turn on “Red House.” On the other hand, Doors . . . er, Riders On The Storm guitarist Robby Krieger and original Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell brought nothing but recognizable names and grizzled faces.

Even though his set may not have adhered strictly to the Hendrix agenda, fellow Hall of Famer Buddy Guy simply stole the show, playing a set of electrified Hendrix style blues. With panache, Guy pulled out a series of cocky guitar tricks; while not entirely emulative of Hendrix, Guy’s theatrics were indicative of Hendrix’ masterful style of playing. A veritable blues bonanza, Guy touched on “Hoochie Koochie Man” and paired up with Hubert Sumlin, another blues legend, but it only took three words to truly cause a stir that sent ripples of excitement through the crowd, “Where’s Robert at?”

Indicative of Hendrix’ wide ranging influence, the most anticipated performer didn’t even play the guitar. Striding on to the stage during the tail end of Guy’s performance, pedal steel maestro Robert Randolph, who is affectionately and reverently referred to as “The Hendrix of the pedal steel" helped Guy finish up his set before teaming up with Double Trouble’s Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon for “Purple Haze.” To close the show, Shepherd returned to the stage and teamed with Randolph and Double Trouble for a sterling rendition of “Voodoo Chile.”

The night called for various pairings that recalled the inventive collaborations of the Jammy Awards, although the results were varying. One of the few performers to play while seated, Doyle Bramhall II offered a fine rendition of “May This Be Love” with nice touches of “1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)” before romping through “You Got Me Floatin’” with Corey Glover. The Living Colour singer made a more impactful appearance with Robbie Krieger, being the best thing about a two song mini-set of “Spanish Castle Magic” and “Manic Depression.” Indigenous guitarist Mato Nanji nicely took on “Little Wing” and former Rolling Stone Mick Taylor admirably tackled “Catfish Blues”

In dedicating a night to Hendrix, everyone rightfully placed the focus on his indescribably groundbreaking guitar work and the various axemen were clearly the centerpiece of the show. However, by stacking up numerous covers on top of each other for a night’s worth of music, you get a new respect for Hendrix’ mellow, bluesy voice which seemed noticeably removed and absent from the proceedings. A more pleasant revelation could be found within the rhythm sections with Layton and former Band of Gypsys’ bassist Billy Cox bringing out the wonderful bass lines and quietly marking the importance of Noel Redding to Hendrix’ signature sound.

Hendrix once wondered whether the wind would ever remember the names it has blown in the past. In the case of Jimi Hendrix, his brilliance may never be repeated on stage though his influence will resound for even more decades to come.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ticketmaster Does Good?!?!

In a development that can only signal an impending apocalypse, Ticketmaster has taken action beneficial to music fans everywhere by striking a blow against pervasive ticket brokering/scalping. The ticketing megacorporation persuaded a U.S. District Court to issue an injunction against RMG Technologies prohibiting the use of computer programs that allow brokers to acquire tickets in bulk by circumventing Ticketmaster's procedures to prevent such mass purchases. The offending software helps the user jump the virtual line, avoid Ticketmaster's safeguards and snag large blocks of tickets, often before genuine fans can even log in. The tickets usually find their way onto the market, only with a gargantuan markup.

Anyone who has ever experienced the frustrating ordeal of being denied tickets despite trying to purchase them seconds after they went on sale must begrudgingly tip their hat to the oft-evil Ticketmaster. The enemy of my enemy is truly my friend.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Thinking Global, Acting Local: The National Return Home

By: David Schultz

When you come across an unyieldingly vocal crowd that can’t contain their raucous cheering while providing an endless barrage of applause between songs, you can rest assured that the band pretty much killed. What about when none of the above occurs? In the case of The National, one of the blogosphere’s most beloved artists, it means they transcended the norm. For their Saturday night show at the recently opened Music Hall of Williamsburg, the hipster crowd remained respectfully quiet while The National played, savoring every note. It was such a curious response that lead singer Matt Berninger commented that a little noise would be acceptable. Hardly a poor reflection, the unusual stillness was simply the residual effect of The National’s singularly captivating nature.

Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, The National, like many others indie-rockers, now call Brooklyn their home. After opening Terminal 5, New York City’s newest venue, The National capped off their six week U.S. tour with a pair of sold-out shows in their adopted hometown. A fantastic venue, Williamsburg’s Music Hall is architecturally similar to New York City’s Bowery Ballroom only roomier and more modern; the somewhat stylish surroundings perfectly suiting the elegant nature of The National’s subdued repertoire.

A bit of a family act, two pairs of brothers call The National their own, Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Bryan and Scott Devendorf. Along with the Berninger and Padma Newsome, who augmented the band’s live sound with keyboards and violin, The National make an unassuming lot, hardly looking like one of the most talked about and beloved indie bands. Rather, they look like they just wandered out of the audience, picked up the instruments that just happened to be on stage and instinctively knew how to enthrall the audience.

The National’s deadpan cool and magisterial sound begins with their singer. The lanky Berninger sings with a calming baritone that wavers between Leonard Cohen panache and Eighties New Wave detachment. He creates such a soothing vibe that when he lets loose, screaming “my mind’s not right” on the opening screams of “Abel” or barking out the chorus of “Mr. November,” the effect is no less than jarring. The two Dessners and Scott Devendorf continuously switched off between guitar and bass, selflessly and anonymously creating the band’s hypnotic melodies, patiently drawing out the mounting tension of the songs. Even those that never move from the slow boil, like “Racing Like A Pro,” simmer nicely.

An added bonus for the evening, Elvis Perkins offered a nice opening set, his rambunctious folk-rock a fine prelude for The National’s moody offerings. After starting with “Santa Clara,” a song they claimed they had never played live before, The National spent the next ninety minutes touching on finer moments from Boxer like “Mistaken For Strangers,” “Apartment Story” and “Slow Show” as well as “Secret Meeting,” “Looking For Astronauts” and “Daughter Of The Soho Riots” from Alligator, their 2005 breakthrough album. With the audience calling for it, singer Marla Hanson and a two piece horn section assisted in an encore closing tear through “Fake Empire.”

Before the instrumental flurry that closes their heavily downloaded hit, the crowd softly crooned the chorus along with Berninger. As they did so, the inaptness of the song became apparent: despite the late hour, no one was half awake and the empire The National are creating is anything but fake.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Mp3s, News and Notes

Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, The Hold Steady and KT Tunstall all contribute songs for SERVE2, a charity compilation put together by Hard Rock International (remeber the Hard Rock Cafe?!?!). All net proceeds from the record will benefit World Hunger Year, a nonprofit organization fighting hunger and poverty in America and around the world. Many of the tracks on the record are live and most are previously unreleased.

Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü fame has signed to Anti- Records. Mould is working on a new disc to be released in February (talk about advance promo!) and will feature another old schooler - Fugazi’s Brendan Canty - manning the drum set. Mould is also out on tour now promoting Circle of Friends, which is a DVD shot live at one of my favorite venues, the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. The tour (dates here) features a screening of the film, an acoustic set from Mould and an interview "in front of the audience" (the PR person wrote that as if someone besides the audience will be asking Mould questions, which would be a bit odd in today's interactive society).

My friends over at Wednesday Records announced that Jon McKiel has finished his debut record for the label. Jon and the band recorded The Nature of Things at the old Fort Apache studios (Pixies' "Come on Pilgrim," Radiohead's "The Bends," and Dinosaur Jr.'s "Green Mind") in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The record was mastered by Noah Mintz (The Dears, Stars, and Broken Social Scene) at Lacquer Channel in Toronto, and will be released in the U.S. in early 2008. Meanwhile, McKiel is finishing up a Canadian tour swing and you can get the remaining dates and hear more songs (in addition to the stellar track below) from the new record on his MySpace page.

Division Day (from Beartrap Island): Tigers
Division Day (Depeche Mode cover): Enjoy the Silence
Division Day (Sponge cover): Plowed
Debbie Harry (Soul Seekerz remix): Two Times Blue
Robbers on High Street (from Grand Animals): Crown Victoria
John McKiel (from Nature of Things): War On You
Poison Control Center (from Glory Us EP): Glory Us
Hellogoodbye (from Serve2): Baby It's Fact (Live From New York, NY)
British Sea Power (from Krankenhaus? EP): Atom

Cutie pie Jennie Owen Youngs is heading out on tour with Sean Hayes that includes a stop in Philadelphia's World Cafe Live on Tuesday October 30th. Get all the dates here and if you haven't seen it yet check out Jenny's funny send up of Nelly's "Hot In Herre" complete with a little "Global Warming" message. Al Gore would be proud! As much I'd like to see Jenny "take off her clothes" I kinda dig this school girl outfit. It's gettin' hot in here indeed.

In case you missed it, here is a video of Bloc Party debuting their new single "Flux" on Conan O'Brien. The single is a preview of a new EP and will also be available on a re-release of A Weekend in the City, both of which are set to hit stores on November 20th. For those international travelers out there, you can catch Bloc Party at the Iceland Airwaves Festival on October 20th or catch them back in the UK on one of several fall dates they have lined up in the Old Country.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Kid Rock Rises Again At NYC’s Fillmore

By: David Schultz

Even though Kid Rock has recorded multiple platinum records, dated a bevy of supermodels and spends all his time living a gloriously debauched lifestyle, he still feels under appreciated. At least that’s what you would believe if you took his lyrics at face value. Even if he’s no longer struggling to make ends meet, Rock still finds great joy in singing of the pursuit of the American Dream and continues to mockingly, often profanely, deride those who had the temerity to doubt him. It’s a theme that has gained him fans across all strata of society. After all, anyone who has ever daydreamed about reaching ridiculous levels of success, opting against decorum and gleefully flipping off your enemies and naysayers can find common ground with many of Kid Rock’s songs.

Now that America’s most lovable pimp has become a mainstay of the tabloid headlines, who could blame him if he’s developed a bit of a persecution complex. In naming his latest album Rock N Roll Jesus, Rock surely isn’t suffering from feelings of inferiority when it comes to looking for historical figures to identify with. If the concepts behind his newest release are grand, his choice of venues to initially promote it is not. On the night his album dropped, Rock celebrated the event in New York City at The Fillmore at Irving Plaza, a venue the Michigan native has long outgrown.

At the height of Devil Without A Cause’s success, the Kid headlined Madison Square Garden. Upon each return, the size of the venues has been inversely proportional to his popularity, much to the delight of those who can get tickets. To facilitate his return to the club circuit, Rock’s left behind his lavish, multi-level stage set. Without his customary theatrics, Rock and the Twisted Brown Trucker Band crammed onto the Irving Plaza stage and concentrated on his unique mix of rap, metal, country and southern rock.

Dressed for the occasion, Rock bounded onto the stage clad in a brilliant white suit that accentuated the savior like pose he kept striking during “Rock N Roll Jesus.” Sharp as it may have been, his attire didn’t make it past the opening number. After basking in the cheers of the crowd, who were all ridiculously psyched to be seeing Detroit’s native son in a tiny venue, Rock soon stripped off the formal wear, playing most the set bare chested. Rock truly seemed at home in the club setting. If he weren’t on stage, he’d probably be just as happy rocking out with the crowd.

With a sly grin, Rock asked if anyone had been to the record store today. An apt way to put it as Rock N Roll Jesus is one of the rare new releases not available through iTunes. His new batch of songs are the typical pastiche of genres that people have come to expect from a Kid Rock album and he dedicated a healthy portion of the show to them. The salacious “So Hott” fits right in with Rock’s other boastful anthems and on “All Summer Long,” which continues his long-running love affair with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rock touts the praises of constantly listening to “Sweet Home Alabama” while the TBT band works a riff ridiculously similar to Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves Of London.” Of the other new songs, “Sugar” is one of Kid’s generic self-referential rap-rock come-ons and “Amen” simmers with gospel-tinged passion but “Roll On” is shockingly and disappointingly poppy.

Even before concluding “Welcome 2 The Party,” his signature welcoming tune, Rock had the crowd by the proverbial balls, spending the rest of the night urging them to wave their hands (and middle fingers) in the air while plowing through rowdy rap-metal classics like “Devil Without A Cause,” “You Never Met A Motherfucker Quite Like Me” and a pulsating “I Am The Bullgod.” Rock’s in-your-face, boastfully confrontational songs provide a cathartic release and the crowd lustily joined in on any opportunity to shout profanities at loud decibels. “Cocky” and “American Badass,” with their multiple namechecks of Rock’s favorite bands, also prompted similarly rowdy responses.

All the tabloid nonsense involving his Motley Crue sparring partner and their mutual ex-wife doesn’t seem to be bothering Rock too much. Having weathered a surreal sex tape fiasco that had him sharing headlines with Creed’s Scott Stapp, Rock is used to being a target of the sensationalistic media. He takes it all in stride with a good-natured, self-deprecating aplomb, saving his witty braggadocio and more pointed retorts for his songs. Unsurprisingly, The Fillmore sided with Rock. After closing his set by pulling out the Frampton-era fuzz box for a powerful version of “Only God Knows Why” a loud sustained “Fuck Tommy Lee” chant persisted until Rock came back for the encore. Taking a swipe at the other celebrity to whom he’s inextricably linked with in tabloid stories, Rock related how much he loved getting married and what a pain in the ass it was to actually be married. If Rock doesn’t get the last word on his brief marriage to Pamela Anderson, he will have the most enduring. “Half Your Age,” which praises his new girlfriend as being half his old one’s age and twice as hot, may not have the eloquence of “Positively 4th Street” but it makes it point just as scathingly.

Rock saved his two biggest hits for his encore with “Bawitdaba” prompting a mosh pit to break out in the center of the crowd during the song’s final throes. While “Bawitdaba” was the song that first got him noticed; “Cowboy” was the song that proved he deserved the attention. One of his biggest hits, “Cowboy” has never translated well into a live setting . . . until tonight. In the hands of Marlon Young, who absolutely devoured the delicious southern funk guitar riff, “Cowboy” finally sizzled with the proper gritty charm.

Rock’s outsized stage presence and bombastic live show had The Fillmore bursting at the seams. Those lucky enough to get into the club this past Tuesday night may very well have experienced one of New York City’s best shows this year.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Benzos At The Mercury Lounge

By: David Schultz

This past Monday night, New York baseball fans watched in horror as their beloved Yankees were outplayed and ushered out of the post-season by the Cleveland Indians. While The Tribe were setting the stage for their celebration in The House That Ruth Built, a lesser heralded group of New Yorkers known as Benzos were putting on a much more competent display just a few miles south at The Mercury Lounge. Playing before a crowd filled with people who had no interest in playoff baseball (the non-sports minded and Mets fans), Benzos played an expansive fifty minute set heavy on their indie-rock take on Radiohead-style cerebral melodies.

Avoiding shoegazing monotony, Benzos let their music carry the show; a feat their electro-melodious tunes can do quite ably. Guitarists Brian Joyce and Christian Celaya create a nice wash of sound with their dual guitar blitz and their guitar soundscapes result in Eiko Peck’s bass and Steve Bryant’s drums having a more powerful impact. There’s some art afoot in Benzos’ moody, slightly haunting songs. They give most of their songs room to breathe, drawing you in with their various grooves with their affinity for electronically generated beats creating a small indie-rave atmosphere. They immersed themselves in tracks from their latest album Branches and when they sit back and concentrate on their instruments; it becomes easy to see how they’ve made inroads into the jamband world.

Perhaps in need of a fifth Benzo, Celaya needed an extra pair of hands as he moved between his guitar and a small keyboard setup. For the songs that required both, like “Hurt Everybody,” Celaya triggered a pre-programmed loop to generate the repetitive beat. On those occasions, the band did a fine job of keeping the recorded track in the background, letting Bryant’s nimble drumming and Peck’s simple but effective bass provide the true skittish rhythm.

Unlike the baseball team from the Bronx, Benzos will continue to play in October. As the CMJ Festival descends on New York City, Benzos will be one of the busier bands playing showcases at Brooklyn’s Southpaw, the Blender Theater, R Bar and Pianos.

Radiohead Fall Out: an Oasis of "Free" Music?

Oasis is reportedly mulling whether or not to "pull a Radiohead" and allow fans to download songs directly from their own site. Oasis, like Radiohead, certainly has a big enough base of supporters to release a record without the help of a traditional "record label." The question is do they have a loyal enough fan base, as Radiohead does, to get them to pay at least something for the music. Of course, as explored below, they may not care. But, let's first tackle the "freebie" issue as it concerns the Radiohead model.

Many "news" headlines are saying that Radiohead is giving away the music for free. That is a bit misleading. Radiohead is not simply giving the songs away for nothing. Granted, it is possible to get the new record, In Rainbows, for "next to nothing." But, the deal is that fans have to pay something and instead of the price fixing we've seen in the past from major labels the band is letting the fans decide what to pay for it above a very minimal transaction fee.

While it is true you can pay just the minimum transaction fee, early reports indicate fans are paying significantly above that for the downloads and many are going a step further and purchasing the hard copy special edition version of In Rainbows for 40 pounds (around $80-81 US / Canadian rates), that includes the digital download version, along with In Rainbows on both CD and vinyl (does anyone even have a record player anymore?)> Plus, as if a whole new cd wasn't enough the band throws in a second disc of new songs and a lyric book.

It is early in the process, but the lesson here may not be about the overall state of cd and download sales. The lesson here is may be more about fans wanting good music from strong musicians whom they respect enough to pay something for it. Going forward, the real change here will be that big labels will be less likely to invest in (or I should say "loan to" for accuracy), acts that don't sign to long term deals that include pieces of their merchandising, publishing and other income streams to make up for the reduced sales per unit income, particularly when established bands like Oasis and Radiohead can afford to give music away for next to nothing because they will make up the cash on tour receipts.

The most interesting thing you'll see "post-In Rainbows" will be more unconventional partnerships like the one Madonna is reported to be contemplating with Live Nation instead of a traditional record label. And, since the real dollar payoffs for artist development seem to be in the live music sector, for younger and upstart bands consortium groups of promoters, studio owners and producers are in a position to step into the void to create something new to replace the old record label model that is clearly fading away. That's a topic I've been exploring myself lately and will continue to write and think about.

So, while the times are a changing, one thing is clear. As long as there are guitars and garages music will find its way to the masses. The only question that is up in the air will be who will be getting paid (and how) to help it get there.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Imagining A Peaceful World: Michael Franti & Spearhead Heat Up New York City

By: David Schultz

Watching Michael Franti joyously bounce around the stage with his shoulder length dreadlocks haphazardly flying in all directions, you would never suspect that he is the idealistic heir to John Lennon’s principles of peace. Deftly transforming Lennon’s “Power To The People” into his own slogan, “Power To The Peaceful,” Franti’s peacenik beliefs are inclusive of all humankind, his utopian vision of the future drawing no boundaries between races, religions or nationalities. Much like the outspoken Beatle, Franti dares to imagine all the people living life in peace. It sounds as radical today as it did in Lennon’s day.

Focusing on individual relationships instead of isms and ologies, Franti’s views and music are greatly informed by his recent travels in Iraq, Israel and Palestine and the time spent amongst those directly affected by war and conflict. Though liberally slanted and definitively anti-war, Franti’s politics aren’t divisive: we should revel in our differences rather than close our minds to different beliefs and stop using the fear of the unknown as an excuse to build barriers. A big believer in the power of community and the life-affirming power of love and friendship, his songs preach reliance on one’s own inner strength and beauty. More than uplifting words, Franti’s songs move with the same vitality. If you can’t have fun at a Michael Franti show, enjoying life might just not be your thing.

Franti and Spearhead, the band he has long fronted, returned to New York City for a sold-out Saturday night show at a sweltering Nokia Theater. A veritable ringleader, Franti exhorted the crowd to jump along with him, generating enthusiastic responses with his steady query of “How you feeling?” With the heat inside the Nokia just starting to build, Franti had everyone signing along to “Hello Bonjour,” dancing wildly to “Sometimes” and grooving along with “Hey Now Now.” He touched on material from his latest album Yell Fire!, stripping “East To The West,” down to its acoustic core, only letting loose in the middle, and closing the set proper with a wild, incendiary version of the title track. Moving from the present, Franti looked backwards as well as ahead; he went deep into his catalog for “People In The Middle” and played a couple newer tunes as well.

For his next album, Franti has expressed a desire to explore reggae; he and Spearhead returned to reggae’s steady, loping beats many times during their set, flushing out the echoey reverb of dub and dancehall. A nice showcase for drummer Manas Itiene’s voice - distinctly different from Franti’s comforting bass – an early detour into reggae covers was beneath the band and pandered to the white kids in the audience whose entire knowledge of the genre comes from repeated listening of Bob Marley’s Legend. A longtime staple of Franti’s shows, the only other full cover of the evening was a run through Sublime’s “What I Got” which segued into a medley of Sesame Street classics. When the moment suited them, they included riffs and snippets from other songs when it seemed appropriate, Dave Shul slid Jack White’s “Seven Nation Army” riff into one song, Sting’s wordless chant from “Every Little Thing She Does In Magic” worked its way into the background of another and Carl Young worked the bass line from Grand Master Flash & The Funky Five’s “White Lines” into “Everybody Ona Move.” Franti even took a self deprecating twist during a segue into George Benson’s “On Broadway” noting that if he’s not up to playing this here guitar, his band can more than up for the fact.

For the majority of the evening, Franti kept the energy in the room at sky-high levels. When the pace slowed though, the atmosphere dulled considerably. However, the leisurely paced acoustic section, essentially Franti with an acoustic guitar, had the same passion with Franti’s warmth and charisma making up for any musical gymnastics. The poignant “Never To Late,” needing nothing more than Franti’s message of friendship and community, to enthrall and inspire. In the spirit of Franti’s inclusive ideals, Spearhead received helping hands from friends both old and new. For “Everyone Deserves Music,” Franti brought out 18-year-old Australian guitarist Kieran Murphy, who laid down a couple nice solos; Anthony, the flower guy, friskily arranged a gigantic bouquet during “Everybody Ona Move” and Franti’s son repeatedly skated across the stage during “Say Hey” before hitting the brakes to do a goofy little jig with his dad.

Franti’s message hasn’t changed dramatically over the last few years. It’s not laziness or the lack of creative vision; it’s more a reflection of the world’s unchanging bellicose politics that turns unwavering and unequivocal expressions of peace into a seemingly dissenting or subversive opinion. As long as there are divisive factions in the world, Franti’s voice will righteously ring out, pleading for harmony and urging power to the peaceful.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

New Monsoon: V

By: David Schultz

In naming their latest album V, New Monsoon may have imparted something more significant than simply numbering their fifth full-length release. Over the past couple years, the San Francisco based band has gone through a series of personnel changes, shedding their percussion section and bringing accomplished bassist Ron Johnson into the fold. The streamlined five (V) man band, singer/guitarist Bo Carper, guitarist Jeff Miller, keyboardist Phil Ferlino, Johnson and drummer Marty Ylitalo (who has since left the band and been replaced by Sean Hutchinson), has not suffered for the changes. Rather, they have a renewed focus and V captures the band playing with a loose yet assured confidence.

New Monsoon keeps V rooted in classic rock without resorting to traditional riffs or repetitious grooves; it marks an appealing step forward for the band. Their bluegrass and Indian raga inclinations are present but only in the faint undercoating. For the most part, New Monsoon lets the music speed along with liberating freedom, road rambles “Water Vein” and “Alaska” being not only V’s loosest moments but its brightest as well. Even though “White Sky Rain,” the disc’s closing attempt at an anthem, doesn’t entirely live up to its epic aspirations, it doesn’t fall too far short of them. The band can play quite tightly too. Miller helps give “Copper Mine” and the reggae-tinged “Neon Block” the same smooth feel as much of Clapton’s Eighties solo material. On the funky-jazz side, Johnson’s bass work and Ferlino’s keys give a refined Steely Dan vibe to “Greenhouse” and “The Other Side”

On the instrumental tracks, like the aptly termed “Romp,” New Monsoon comes alive, working interesting grooves with great prowess and finely incorporating Carper’s banjo, which he plays as a traditional rock and roll instrument instead of a twangy, bluegrass diversion. For “Rattlesnake Drive,” they keep it lively, changing tempos and branching off from their sinuous opening groove into detours that include a nice Pink Floyd/Genesis style prog-rock interlude. “Song For Maria” which features some nice interplay between Miller and Carper, could be a kissin’ cousin to the Allman Brothers’ “Jessica.”

V may prove the adage that what does not kill you makes you stronger. In the wake of significant personnel changes, New Monsoon has come up with an album that can only make you look forward to what comes next.

Problems Aplenty For Led Zeppelin Ticketing Scheme

The lottery system for tickets to the Led Zeppelin reunion concert at London's O2 Arena has drawn the ire of nearly everyone involved with the process and now promoter Harvey Goldsmith has threatened to cancel the show after ticket codes given to successful ballot entrants were sold on eBay for up to $6,000.

"If you think that you can beat the system by buying from eBay or any other website you are wrong, you will not be allowed in to the concert and your application for tickets will be cancelled within the next 14 days," the irate promoter is quoted as saying. "I have no interest in supporting parasite businesses who prevent fans from supporting their artists by the increased price of the tickets and who ultimately put nothing whatsoever back into our business to support it." While Goldmith may have his morals in the right place, cancelling the ticket application punishes the buyer who paid the exorbitant resale value, not the seller who scalped it.

Fans have also expressed their discontent with the ticket code system. In order to gain entry to the show, the personal information of the ticket holder must match the credit card information used to purchase the tickets. If you don't have a credit card or are using Mom or Dad's credit card, this could cause problems. Goldsmith is aware of the issue and claims that they will address each problematic situation individually.

Contested Eagles Guitarist Bio To Be Released In The U.K.

It's the book The Eagles don't want you to read. Former Eagle, Don Felder, who was dismissed from the laid-back Seventies band in 2001, has written his memoirs entitled Heaven And Hell: My Life As An Eagle. Unavailable in the United States due to a non-disclosure agreement Felder signed upon being pushed from the nest, his biography will hit book stores in England sometime next month. The book has reportedly been the subject of many years of costly litigation as Felder has to fight his ex-bandmates for the right to publish it at all.

Amazon.com is taking pre-orders in the U.S. for the audio book version but says that paperback editions are currently unavailable with no news on when they will back in stock. Even though the dispute over the "literary work" gives new meaning to "you can check out any time you want but you can never leave," it doesn't look like Felder will not be reworking "Hotel California" anytime soon.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Van Halen, Wachovia Center

Philadelphia, PA
October 3, 2007

by Jim McCoy.

The long-awaited and much-delayed concert reunion of David Lee Roth with the brothers Van Halen rolled into Philadelphia for two shows this week, the band now “three-quarters original and one-quarter inevitable,” as Roth stated in alluding to the addition of the teenage Wolfgang Van Halen on bass. Although long-time fans lamented the dismissal of Michael Anthony from the band after over 20 years playing everywhere from small clubs to sold-out stadiums with Eddie and Alex, much of the disappointment with the line-up change dissipated after the quartet took the stage on Wednesday night.

Eddie Van Halen looks like you would expect a man who has battled cancer and multiple addictions to look as he enters his fifties. No one can question, however, that Eddie still plays his guitar like he is three decades younger and the perma-grin is still there on his face at every turn. The infamous ‘brown sound’ guitar tone that made its debut on 1978’s Van Halen remains unchanged, but Van Halen’s uncanny virtuosity prevents him- and the entire band, for that matter- from sounding like an aging retread still mired in Eighties. His distortion is loud, clear and pure with the just the right touch from the MXR phaser that characterized his early sound. His fingers still fly all over the fretboard, he still plays inspired licks that twist and turn on unforeseen and unpredictable intervals, and he is still capable of bringing an entire arena to its feet with one devastating power chord and a few tugs on the whammy bar. He ripped through his solos and made it look effortless, from ‘I’m the One’ to ‘Mean Street’ to the keyboard-laden ‘I’ll Wait’ from 1984. His solo spot included the tapped-harmonic intro from ‘Women in Love,’ ‘Cathedral’ in its entirety and the classic ‘Eruption.’ He wasn’t straying too far from familiar territory there, but it was all played perfectly and eaten up by the crowd.

David Lee Roth isn’t jumping from drum risers and stacks of amplifiers any longer (say what you will about the short-lived Gary Cherone, but he put on a very energetic stage performance), but any questions as to whether his voice is still up to task were answered early. It is. He took the band through a set list that included all the classics, both well-known (‘Panama’ and ‘Pretty Woman’) and lesser known (‘So This is Love?’ and ‘Beautiful Girls’) interspersed with some gems that the true diehards could really appreciate, such as ‘Romeo Delight’ from Women and Children First and ‘Little Dreamer’ from the debut album. He is still a performer and entertainer, but is not in competition with the music and the other rock legends on the stage. He even took some time to tell a few funny (and nostalgic) stories from his pre-Van Halen days as a teenager in California while fingerpicking a bluesy 7th chord on his acoustic guitar before launching into ‘Ice Cream Man’ with the full band. Roth and Eddie also shared a few hugs on stage, with Roth seeming genuinely amazed while watching the guitar master at work on stage again after their two decade hiatus.

Wolfgang Van Halen looks as if he was just plucked from a group of kids smoking cigarettes outside the high school cafeteria and suddenly placed on stage in front of 20,000 screaming fans. He seems very much in awe of the whole experience, but he held the bass down competently and his backing vocals with his father were stellar and remained true to the sound of the Roth-era albums. In an age where an over-the-top stage show still isn’t enough for some fans, it was refreshing to see a smiling kid simply having a good time with his dad while pounding out the hits. It may only have been three-quarters of the original band on stage, but 75% of the vintage Van Halen still graded out as an ‘A’ on this early test from the 2007 tour.

RIAA Defeats Single Mother In Minnesota

On the eve of Radiohead taking a visionary leap forward by permitting their fans to name the price they wish to pay for In Rainbows, a move that could potentially deprive music labels of untold music distribution profits, the RIAA continues to make efforts to assure that anyone responsible for making available the "free exchange" (and not even the actual exchange) of music will not escape their wrath. A Minnesota jury recently found a single mother liable for copyright infringement for allegedly sharing 24 songs over the Internet through the Kazaa file-sharing system, awarding the RIAA approximately $222,000 in damages ($9,250 per song).

Simply stopping the illegal sharing of mp3 files doesn’t seem to be enough for the RIAA. Their obsession with seeking exorbitant damages from single mothers is an ominous sign that the major labels will try to insure their survival by any means necessary. Surely they are already plotting their litigation against Thom Yorke and Radiohead for trying to make them as useful as an 8-track deck.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Bob Dylan is Everywhere

Bob Dylan, like Clapton below, is putting out a "new" collection of "old" music. But, like fine wine, Dylans' catalog gets better with age. While there are a few handfuls of rock legends, few earn the "genius" moniker that people hang around Dylan's neck. I think he's earned it. His influence is enormous and his lyrics are unrivaled in rock and roll. He's received many deserving accolades over the years and now he's the subject of a multi media marketing blitz. If it seems like Dylan is popping up everywhere these days, it is because he is.

His "If You See Her, Say Hello" was recently featured in David Duchovny's Californication and there is even a Bob Dylan Facebook application. Yesterday, Dylan hit stores with the boast of being the definitive collection of the ultimate troubadour's mastery. From Blowin' in the Wind to Tangled Up in Blue, it's all there wrapped for you in one little 18 track package. Unless, of course, you want to splurge for the 3 cd box set version.

And, of course, if you weren't already convinced that 2007 is the year for all things Dylan, I'm Not There, the Dylan biopic starring Cate Blanchette and many others, will be shown this week at the New York Film Festival and then hit movie theaters nationwide on November 21st. Some will say all this is overkill. I say you can never get enough of a great thing. Keep it coming Bob!

Rolling Stones to Retire?

Rolling Stones jokes are a dime a dozen these days. You even have some fellow artists questioning the value of repeated Rolling Stones tours. Now, there is speculation that the Stones may finally take up a rocking chair (or at least a final bar stool for Keith) and sit back and enjoy all the dough they've raked in over the years.

But, Mick Jagger is apparently quashing any such talk. Mick reportedly says "I'm sure the The Rolling Stones will do more things and more records and more tours. We've got no plans to stop any of that really. As far as I'm concerned I'm sure we'll continue."

My take on it is if you enjoy what you are doing, do it as long as you can. Plus, there's still more money to be made! Rock on, boys.

Eric Clapton Name Drops and Dishes on Drug Days

Eric Clapton is looking to cash in on his rock legend status. This month he is releasing both a greatest hits double disc and an autobiography. In the book, he "writes about hanging out with Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan, working as a guest musician with the Stones and the Beatles." Those are some heavy names to toss around. But, hey, he did it so he's got every right to relive the good old days. He even spills on his stealing Patty Boyd from George Harrison and reportedly blames it on "sibling rivalry." Sure it wasn't just booze and hormones?

Clapton is a guitar hero with few peers. That fact is on display all over the 17 track set that, along with the book, drops on October 9th. The collection - Complete Clapton - spans his entire career and includes work from his great collaborations with B.B. King and J.J. Cale. When an 18 time Grammy Winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame triple inductee puts out a greatest hits style offering you can bet there will be some cool offerings. I've railed on these types of collections before, particularly if you've been a long time fan and already have most of the tunes. But, for the younger set this sounds like a great introduction to Clapton's impressive catalog.

Van Halen Petals Flowers

Van Halen music typically evokes thoughts of whiskey drinking and girl chasing. But, now that Eddie Van Halen has been through some recent life changing experiences it seem the guitar hero wants to show off his softer side by helping sell some flowers. Yep, flowers.

If you buy $100 or more from "LA’s premiere floral couture" (as described by Eddie's publicist), House of Petals you will be entered to win an autographed guitar personally owned and played by Eddie Van Halen himself. Other winners will receive VIP concert tickets and the opportunity to meet Eddie backstage (maybe he'll help pick out your next floral purchase?). Hell, with the Van Halen tour going so well that guitar might fetch a few bucks on eBay. Of course, if you win the concert tix you have to find your own way to the Staples Center in L.A. But, small price to pay if you show up at prom with a corsage picked out by EVH!

Of course, House of Petals owner Joey House is fairly hot so maybe Eddie isn't going soft after all...

Paul McCartney Bass Tutorial

Paul McCartney is obviously a pop legend. But, because the Beatles as a group were/are so huge as icons I rarely think of them as individual instrumentalists. Take Led Zeppelin for example, you will always see the individual members listed among rock's greatest drummers, vocalists, guitarists and bass players. For some reason, however, I always think of the Beatles as a whole.

Nevertheless, they all obviously played instruments. I have no idea how McCartney stacks up against other bass players on the "all time" lists. But, he did play bass on some of the most widely sold and respected music ever. Now he's ready to teach you his secrets on playing the bass guitar by recording downloadable tutorials for NowPlayIt.com. KT Tunstall, Blur and Graham Coxon have also signed on as video instructors.

I wonder if you get a coupon for a caramel macchiato or mocha frapp when you download Sir Paul's?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Okkervil River At Webster Hall

By: David Schultz

Even though it was only two months ago, it seems like ages since Okkervil River released their refreshingly articulate and heartfelt fourth album, The Stage Names So it goes with our accelerated culture, we rush to laud lavish praise upon an artist and just as quickly move on to the next talented group that catches our fancy. With Okkervil River, it feels like we’ve moved past them a little too quickly. A little less trivia-oriented than their last New York appearance (in opening for Lou Reed this past April, they became the first artist to perform on the HighLine Ballroom stage), the Austin-affiliated band returned to New York City this past Friday for a headlining stint at Webster Hall.

With singer and songwriter Will Sheff and keyboardist Jonathan Meiburg acting as anchors, Okkervil River’s lineup has evolved slowly. Over the past couple years they have solidified into their current six piece with Brian Cassidy (guitar), Patrick Pestorius (bass), Scott Beckett (trumpet/keys) and Travis Nelson (drums) rounding out the group. Although they wore their rough edges proudly at Webster Hall, they seemed like a band that’s just hitting their stride.

If a great deal of Sheff’s lyrics didn’t paint a portrait of an uncertain soul whose constantly disappointed in his search for meaningful interpersonal contact, the slight awkwardness Sheff exhibits on stage would seem a tad affected. To the contrary, Sheff puts himself out there, finding solace in the release of the song. Singing with an emotionally naked voice, Sheff gives you an idea of what Robert Smith would sound like had he stopped whining or even what Morrissey could have done if he just got over himself. In another era, Okkervil River might have been tempted to follow the path of The Cure or The Smiths and wallow in self-pitying moody anthems. In this one, Sheff confronts his uncertainties head on with a dry Ray Davies style analysis and Okkervil River bottles the resultant energy into slowly building tunes that ultimately burst free from their restraints.

The eighty minute set primarily revolved around its singer/songwriter. Sheff is wordy fellow and he packs a good deal of verbiage into his often alliterative lyrics. He also has a pretty sharp wit; their opening number, “Plus Ones,” makes reference to such inanities as the 51st way to leave your lover, the fourth time a lady and that elusive 100th luftballoon. A great number of the songs centered on Sheff’s vocals and distorted acoustic guitar with Beckett offering plaintive backing on his trumpet and Cassidy contributing nice contrasts on his guitar or mandolin.

The show’s climax featured fantastic runs through the best numbers from The Stage Names: the rambunctious “Unless It’s Kicks,” “Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe” and “John Allyn Smith Sails,” which segues into a wonderfully electrified interpretation of The Beach Boys “Sloop John B.” Their restrained encore, which included “A Stone” and “Westfall,” didn’t have the same energetic rush, though the diehards were thrilled.

Okkervil River will be playing a few more shows in the United States before heading overseas to embark on a lengthy European tour.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Day The Labels Died: Radiohead To Self-Release In Rainbows

October 10th will be a day that will send shock waves throughout the music industry.

As the digital age has sent record companies scrambling for a way to find new and different ways to profitably disseminate music, Radiohead will send a shot across their reeling bow by releasing their new album, In Rainbows, through their own inrainbows.com site. Currently unsigned, Radiohead are shrewdly gambling that they don't need any help in getting their music into the hands of their fans. In the absence of a label's need to recoup their recording costs, marketing budget and other incidental expenses, the increased profits would go straight to the artist. If Radiohead's business model succeeds, it could start a monumental shift towards artists regaining a substantial stake in the profits from their own recordings.

However, Radiohead won't be reaping untold fortunes just yet. In an even more industry-shaking development, for a DRM-free digital download, Radiohead will be using the same pricing structure utilized by museums around the world: pay what you wish.

Record labels, ask not for whom Thom Yorke tolls, he no longer tolls for thee.

Queens of the Stone Age Light Up Electric Factory

I first saw Queens of the Stone Age live about five years ago in college gym in Towson, Maryland. On that night, there was hardly and light show or any stage effects. With no fancy gimmicks, the band took the stage and simply rocked from start to finish - no cliched attempts at a rock "ballad", just fist pumping and high energy jams. Even though since that time Nick Oliveri, with his classic menacing hard rock looks has left the band, one thing still hasn't changed: QOTSA are still all about the rock.

With Josh Homme now clearly steering the good ship QOTSA, the band brought their "dance metal" to Philadelphia's Electric Factory this past Saturday night. This time they brought a few lights and had some gaudy chandelier style fixtures hanging above their heads to bring some Era Vulgeris flavor to the venue. While the lights were cool, they were just a little icing on the cake as once again, the band kicked ass right from start to the very end. Indeed, I'd have to say this show was even better than the first time I saw them, which is a pretty remarkable thing to say given how great they were back then.

An indication of how great a band is live is when they can skip their biggest "hit" and still keep fans in a frenzy the entire show and completely satisfied as they walked back to the parking lot buzzing about the sizzling performance they just witnessed. Despite leaving "No One Knows" off the set list, QOTSA rocked through favorites like "Millionaire", "Feel Good Hit of the Summer" (one of the best song titles of all time!), "Little Sister", "In The Fade," "Fun Machine" and "Sick, Sick, Sick." An extra treat was that both Dax Riggs and Howlin Rain (who could have been at Woodstock if they had metal bands) were worthy openers. If you haven't seen this band ever, or lately, get your self to a show. But, get some sleep the night before. You'll need all your energy to keep up as QOTSA puts the pedal to the metal right from the start and doesn't ease up on the throttle until the ride is over.

Turning It On Again: Genesis Reunites At Giants Stadium

By: David Schultz

It’s an axiom that Robert Plant will probably understand very soon: there is nothing more dependable (or lucrative) than a classic rock reunion tour. Doubt it? Just recall the intensely piqued collective curiosity that greeted the mere possibility of Peter Gabriel rejoining his mates in Genesis for one more trip around the globe. By claiming no tour will follow Led Zeppelin’s November 26th gig in London, Plant threatens to emulate his fellow Brit, who resisted the near-irresistible siren song of a Genesis reunion tour.

Desirable as it may have been, Genesis’ unique history rendered the participation of its original lead singer an expendable luxury. While older fans fondly associate Genesis with Gabriel, many more remember them as Phil Collins’ band. Under Collins’ watch, Genesis gradually evolved from artistic prog-rockers prone to twenty-minute suites into a slick Eighties hit-making machine. Depending on your age and musical inclination, your conception of Genesis will be intimately tied to whether lambs lying down on Broadway or lands of confusion first drew you to the band.

The decision to move Phil Collins from the drums to the microphone in the wake of Gabriel’s 1975 departure did more than simply preserve the band’s chemistry. By staying within the family, so to speak, Genesis not only maintained a sense of continuity, they managed to remain vital and relevant even with Collins’ wildly successful solo career drawing just as much if not more attention. Collins and founding members Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, preside over the reunited band. Keeping the ties strong, guitarist/bassist Daryl Stuermer and drummer Chester Thompson, long time members of Genesis’ touring band, have also returned to the fold. As Collins, Rutherford and Banks presided over Genesis’ most commercially prolific period, even those who feel that Genesis ceased to exist when Gabriel left will be forced to concede that unlike the Morrison-less version of The Doors, Mercury-free Queen or even Journey sans Steve Perry, this year’s Turn It On Again reunion tour carries with it the air of legitimacy. With the summer concert season in its final throes, Genesis returned to the Tri-State area for the first time in more than a decade for a sold-out night at Madison Square Garden and a stadium spectacle two days later at nearby Giants Stadium.

Genesis has always nurtured a visual component, an essential component to any English-bred, art-school refined, progressive rock band of the Seventies. With Peter Gabriel fronting the band, Genesis turned their concerts into minor spectacles. It’s no surprise that Gabriel became one of MTV’s first stars: his penchant for dressing like a flower and donning costumes predating and presaging the video age that would expand his popularity beyond the art-rock minded. Collins would also find his niche with the MTV generation, fostering a stage personality that perfectly suited the slick but superficial 80s pop culture. Collins would not only find stardom on signature shows like Miami Vice, as Genesis’ lead singer, his presence helped get the band into heavy rotation on MTV in the days when the network was known for presenting videos.

For their Giants Stadium show, Genesis’ set list touched on all stages of their career including intricate, tempo-shifting conceptual pieces, synth-heavy instrumental numbers, Eighties-era pop classics and lush, syrupy love songs. The immensity of Giants Stadium made a fine venue for Genesis’ broader visual and auditory adventures, although it swallowed many of their subtle nuances. Unless the cameras happened to be projecting a close-up of Collins on the video screens that abutted the stage, his expressive facial features went unnoticed by all but the first few rows. Rather than focus on smaller scales, the evening’s best moments occurred when Collins moved behind the drums and the music filled the spacious grounds.

Even though songs like “Land Of Confusion” and “Invisible Touch” sound like relics from the Eighties, the songs from Invisible Touch, their touchstone album from that era, received the warmest and most enthusiastic reception. More interesting though was the older Gabriel-era material, if for no other reason because there’s more going on within the songs. Where the latter-era material left Banks with little to do, “In The Cage,” the evening’s best song, had him moving between keyboards and contained everything that made Genesis a formidable and intriguing outfit. Although Mike Rutherford busted out the prog-rock 12 string guitar for older offerings like “Firth of Fifth” and “I Know What I Like,” the night’s most interesting guitar work was turned in by Stuermer, who impressively tackled Steve Hackett’s guitar solos.

Collins proved he is still the ultimate showman, exuding every bit of the quirky charm that made him one of the biggest stars of the late Eighties. A true performer, Collins manages to entertain with nothing more than a tambourine and his skull. As he did when he joined the band, Collins started the evening on the drums, teaming with Thompson to provide a barrage of percussion to the majestic “Behind The Lines” before moving to center stage for an apt run through “Turn It On Again.” Pulling double duty, Collins would periodically set down the microphone and return to the drums for extended periods. Showing he hasn’t lost his touch, his purported drum “duel” with Thompson wasn’t as much of a battle as it was two expert drummers working together to create a series of intriguing, interlocking rhythms.

Given an extra boost by extended instrumental breaks, “Home By The Sea,” “Mama” and good portions of “Domino” built to notable crescendos and showed how well Collins’ innate sense of melody could be worked into Genesis’ prog-rock model. However, their ventures into pure pop fluffery never entirely clicked and their renditions of “Hold On My Heart” and “Ripples,” were exceptionally boring. Misfires like “Illegal Alien” were thankfully absent from the set list, although the reprehensible “I Can’t Dance” found its way into the encore; Rutherford’s simple yet effective guitar riff unable to rescue the insipid song.

As they have on many of their shows this tour, they closed the night with a perfunctory run through “The Carpet Crawlers.” With eyes closed, Collins gave an emotive reading of one of the band’s greatest musical efforts. In doing so, Collins was fortunate to have missed the distressing sight of many in attendance choosing that moment to head to the parking lot to beat traffic. Maybe it was disrespectful. Then again, maybe they just needed to get home and rest up for the David Lee Roth led version of Van Halen that (is getting rave reviews) will be coming to town next month.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!