Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Earvolution's Maxim Reviews

By: David Schultz

It might be tempting to think that Maxim has set the journalism profession back to the stone ages by reviewing the new Black Crowes album without bothering to listen to it first. Instead of crucifying the editorial staff of Maxim, perhaps, we should be hailing them as visionaries. Without being shackled with the burden of having to, you know, listen to or experience a work of art before setting forth your opinions, Maxim may very well have come up with the most liberating idea of this generation. With that in mind, here are Earvolution’s Maxim Reviews.

Guns N’ Roses: Chinese Democracy

The urgency that was once so omnipresent in Axl Rose’s voice seems to be gone and the cornrowed singer has never sounded so relaxed and measured. It’s as if he felt no rush to plow through the songs and there’s a professionalism and timeliness to the music that was absent from their prior work. The pro-Gore lyrics and Y2K references are as sublime as they are timeless. Chinese Democracy is simply a monument to the power of anticipation.

The Next J.D. Salinger Novel

Salinger’s long awaited novel is an intricately plotted yet baffling tale of a 5 year old prodigy who spends his days sitting alone in a room successfully predicting stocks and NASCAR race winners. The story takes an intriguing turn when the child’s father, Holden Caulfield, returns home from a jazz club and spends the night chattering away about phonies and the genius of Miles Davis. It’s what Salinger doesn’t say that resounds loudest.

The Led Zeppelin Reunion Tour

Taking to the road for a three year run of shows that will include ever single known drummer on the planet filling in for John Bonham, the surviving members of Led Zeppelin really put on a great show, worth every penny of the record-setting $435 ticket price. The most anticipated reunion tour of all time hardly disappoints: Zeppelin foregoes playing on a traditional platform in favor of using the mountains of money they're earning for getting back together as a stage. It’s been a long time since they’ve rock and rolled and they glitter like gold. I’m glad I didn’t have to wait around for them to be able to write about this.

The New Season of 24

Characters change allegiances on 24 with the same frequency as WWE wrestlers. Having run out of living characters to turn against Jack Bauer, Tony Almeda is resurrected from the grave to do battle with America’s favorite counterterrorism agent. The writers strike may have delayed the upcoming season but like always, it seems as if they’re making up the plot as they go along. Kiefer Sutherland’s ultimate victory is once again a surprising, unpredictable turn of events, although one has to wonder if the writers are running out of enemies when they have Bauer fighting evildoers from the fearsome Tahitian empire.

Martin Scorsese’s Bob Marley Documentary

After capturing the historical essence of Bob Dylan and the grandeur of the Rolling Stones, Scorsese seems to miss the humorous side of Bob Marley by focusing instead on his importance within the world of reggae. By wasting time on Marley’s iconic status, worldwide significance and devotion to his family, Scorsese omits what surely were some wacky times while the reggae superstar smoked his herb and chilled with his friends. Scorsese could have revitalized the Cheech & Chong genre but crafted a respectful and insightful documentary instead. A misfire in all regards.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Alex Turner To Form The Last Shadow Puppets

Fresh off of winning the Brit for Album of the Year, Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner has revealed that he's going to go Jack White on everyone and embark on a side project with one of his musician buddys. Turner will pair up with The Rascals guitarist Miles Kane in The Last Shadow Puppets and are set to release an album, The Age Of Understatement, on April 21st. The two hooked up when The Rascals opened up for the Monkeys on their 2007 tour. No word as to whether Jamie Cook will go into hiding with "anxiety" or if a Matt Helders look-alike will have a poor-quality sex tape leak on the Internet.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

John McKiel Surges to Top Spot on eMusic

Loyal readers (okay, reader) will recall that back in July, I wrote that Jon McKiel was "a 'real deal' singer songwriter who will be among the next wave of great Canadian imports to charm the US music community." Now, anyone who knows me knows I'm not a braggart and I find the practice rather pedestrian. But, I have to admit it is fun to be right.

Jon's record, The Nature of Things, just released here in the States a couple weeks ago rocketed to the top spot (regardless of genre!) on eMusic yesterday. It is very cool to see his name right up there with great established acts like Cat Power, Sia and British Sea Power. I'm not much of a fancy orator when it comes to dissecting music, I just know what I like and don't like - and, I like Jon McKiel!

However, for those wanting a little for substance from your music writers I think the good folks at Berkeley Place sum up McKiel's music prett well: "His music is on the dark side of shoegazer, featuring moody hooks and introspective themes. It's reasonably accessible, but doesn't bend over too far to grab your ears: There's catchy stuff here, but most of it will make you concentrate a little too hard for me to call it indie pop. But I'd definitely call it indie. And I'd definitely call it worth a listen, too." I couldn't agree more, especially that last part.

You can stream the entire record over at Wednesday Records and get a download right here for "War On You."

Gene Simmons Sex Tape

By now anyone within earshot has heard Gene Simmons brag about his sexual conquests. It's not enough for him to be living with the still sexy Shannon Tweed of Playboy fame, so whenever he can Gene makes it a point to tout his Wilt Chamberlain-esque bedroom "stats." Even if half of Gene's purported exploits are true it seemed only a matter of time before Gene joined Paris Hilton, Tommy Lee and Pam Anderson and had his very own sex tape.

According to AVN, Gene has been sharing the Family Jewels with an Australian model named "Elsa." And, it is reportedly caught on tape. My first question though after looking at the pics on GenesSecret.com is whether, like the Kizz coffin and lunch box, this isn't just another Simmons marketing ploy? The scene of the alleged tryst looks a little too staged and obviously were not sure that really is Gene with his pants around his ankles - and if it is, whether there is actual "penetration" or is this "c" movie style faux porn? Of course, I'm not willing to pay $29.95 a month to take a closer look - even if it would get me "nearly 100 awesome XXX feeds."

One More Day For Billy Joel's Last Play

When Billy Joel announced his "Last Play At Shea," who knew that he meant "last" in the royal sense of the word. Two days after his well-publicized final show at Shea Stadium, Billy Joel will do it again and play the real final show on July 18th.

Tickets will go on sale this Saturday at 9:00 a.m. through www.507tixx.com, the New York Mets' distribution system; news that will not delight fans who tried in vain to secure seats this past weekend. Many frustrated fans were greeted by a repetitive 60 second countdown for more than an hour before being turned away empty handed. If the Web site has addressed any of the problems voiced by Joel's disappointed and irate fans, they haven't said anything to that effect.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Free Form Funky Freqs

By: David Schultz
Photo of Jamaaladeen Tacuma by Greg Aiello

In the series of shows that comprised the eulogy for New York City’s Tonic, drummer G. Calvin Weston invited guitarist Vernon Reid and bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma to join him for his farewell set at the soon-to-closing nightclub. With no time for rehearsals, the three embodied Tonic’s experimental ethic and turned out an improvised set that teemed with spontaneous energy. After reprising the endeavor in Philadelphia, Reid booked some studio time in Staten Island and the resulting urban mythology volume one captures what was only their third performance together.

Banding together as the Free Form Funky Freqs, Reid, Tacuma and Weston turn the idea of a power trio on its head. Instead of heavy blues based riffs featuring a thumping bass and rafter-shattering drums, the FFFF finesse the concept. The aptly named band – the music is as free in form as it is funky – celebrated the release of urban mythology with a Friday night show at Joe’s Pub, a cabaret-style venue that made an unlikely locale for the onslaught unleashed by the Freqs.

The fun of urban mythology is listening to how the three parts intersect into a satisfying and intriguing whole. When not taking in the entire collage, you can direct your attention to Reid playing his most inspired guitar in some time, marvel at Tacuma’s intricate bass lines or track the path of Weston’s dense and angular drum beats. The same formula proved captivating on stage as well . . . and louder, much much louder.

From the ease of their interaction, you would scarcely believe that Friday night’s performance was just their 23rd as a unit. Even if they haven’t played together, Reid, Tacuma and Weston have traveled in the same circles for many years. Both Tacuma and Weston both played with Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time and the three all have a common friend in James “Blood” Ulmer. They have sensitive ears for where they are taking the music and have developed a cohesiveness that usually takes years to develop.

Tacuma is simply a force of nature: his bass, a world unto itself and anyone taking the stage with Tacuma risks being pushed aside by the tempest created by his soulful, powerful and often complicated playing. In Reid and Weston, Tacuma has his equals. Responsible for the some of the more identifiable riffs of the late 80s and early 90s, Reid played relatively little traditional classic rock guitar. Rather, he incisively found spaces in the rhythm and filled them with jazzy licks and distorted guitars. It was loud and different in nature from his work with Living Colour and Masque but it was also precise and perfectly in tune with what Weston and Tacuma were laying down.

Reid has said that when a band stays out of the way of the music, good things are going to happen. For a little more than an hour, the Freqs did just that, giving the music free reign by eschewing conventional song structure and creating their own style of avant-garde free form heavy jazz. It was as fun to listen to as it was to watch and Reid, Tacuma and Weston are a supergroup in every sense of the word. After the show, Reid idly mused about a second album as their 100th performance. Hopefully, their schedules permit that to happen very soon.

Must See TV: Before The Music Dies

IFC has worked Before The Music Dies, Andrew Shapter and Joel Rasmussen's 2006 documentary about the state of the music business, into their monthly rotation. If you've ever engaged in a discussion about the sorry state of the music industry, the debilitating corporate mindset that pervades it and how we managed to get to this point, this documentary was made for you. The film pulls back the curtain on the ease with which a gorgeous, tone deaf model can be transformed into a video star through technology, decries the Clear Channel-ification of commercial radio, explores the industry's failure to timely appreciate the importance of the Internet all while illustrating the adage that "art is art; commerce is commerce."

If you have any type of concern for the state of the music industry and its future, you will be both irate and frightened by parts of the film. However, the doc isn't a 90 minute eulogy and ends by looking forward with an upbeat sense of optimism. Beware though, the scene with two high school girls at an Ashlee Simpson concert who have no clue who Bob Dylan is will make you want to hurl something heavy at the screen.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Billy Joel Sells Out Shea

Billy Joel quickly sold out Shea Stadium this morning, making his "Last Play At Shea" an event whose anticipation may only be rivaled by that of Johan Santana's first pitch.

Ticketing giant Ticketmaster was frozen out of the sales process as the ducats were sold through the Mets online ticketing system, 507tixx.com. As Citi Field is currently being constructed in Shea's parking lot, it's unsurprising that Citibank credit card holders received special preferences. However, 507tixx.com seemed quite ill prepared to efficiently handle the frenzy of Internet activity produced by the allure of one of New York's own headlining the venue.

Starting at 9 a.m., hordes of ticket buyers were greeted with a message informing them that the servers were busy and a clock ticking off a 60 second countdown, after which another attempt would be made. With the average wait being more than an hour, it was hardly shocking to learn that by the time the server was free, all the tickets were gone.

Ticketmaster may soak their fans with exorbitant and unnecessary service fees, but at least they have the courtesy to tell you whether the show is sold out without killing your entire morning watching a clock tick.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Night Of New Grooves: Licorice, BuzzUniverse & Bugg Juice Deal Out At The Ace Of Clubs

By: David Schultz

David Fricke once described the obligations responsible listeners owe to music as the following: “Respect the elders; embrace the new; encourage the impractical and improbable without bias.” For almost a decade, jambands.com has embraced the new and encouraged those doing something unique with their New Groove of the Month; an award it bestows on up-and-coming bands worthy of increased exposure. This past Friday night, Licorice, BuzzUniverse and Bugg Juice converged on New York City’s Ace of Clubs for a triple bill full featuring three past recipients of the New Groove honor. The varying styles of the three different bands demonstrated the variety and breadth of music that falls into the jamband umbrella. Bugg Juice’s set focused on funk and Grateful Dead style guitar-based jams, BuzzUniverse offered an eclectic mix of Latin and world rhythm tinged tunes and Licorice closed the night with a mighty set that showcased the wonderful musicianship that is the band’s signature.

The night’s de facto headliner, Licorice, played a tight set heavy on material from their upcoming EP, A Million Grains Of Sand.” The set list may not look drastically different from their recent shows. However, set lists, like sad songs, can only say so much. Songs that have been staples in their set for quite some time have evolved from free-ranging jams into tightly packed, expertly worked tunes. Getting an assist from Stefanie Seskin and Brian Ciufo, BuzzUniverse’s remarkable horn section, “What’s Your Status In London” and “Freeze” gained depth and breadth. “All Kings Fall” gets a jolt from Matt Epstein’s complex bass riffs and Josh Bloom’s jazzy drumming while the finale of “A Million Grains Of Sand” ranks up there with “Free Bird” as lengthy codas that you wouldn’t mind going on longer. The finesse spreads to newer songs like “Stranger In A Familiar Land” and “Bunnies,” the latter featuring Chad Dinzes reaching Chris Martin levels of layered keyboards. In addition to interpreting The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, they also reinvented “La Isla Bonita.” With Bloom pounding the drums with his bare hands and guitarist Dave Lott sliding in his customary Santana solo, Licorice freed the inner rocker the Madonna pop classic. On a night of new grooves, they closed the night with a relatively basic one. “Say It (You’re Mom’s A Vegetarian)” may build off a Blink 182 riff, but in Licorice’s hands it becomes a timeless rock anthem.

BuzzUniverse, the most recent of the three New Grooves, showed the many permutations that can arise when you take the basic formula of a power trio with horns and work in elements of funk, country and Latin rhythms. They rolled through the raucous country hootenanny of “Up The Mountain” and rocked a hip swaying version of “Caballo Viejo,” with bilingual lead singer/guitarist Alex Garay’s lyrics giving the song a dose of authenticity. Drummer Dave Migliore and percussionist Bob Ramos, who won the silliest hat of the night award without contest, allowed BuzzU to create their many and varied moods, kicking out blues based bursts with the same frequency as worldbeat rhythms. The spirit of cooperation endemic in the jamband scene manifested itself at the close of their set with Marc Pincus from Bugg Juice and folk-rapper Ross Sandler joining in on a superextended version of “In The Sun,” a marvelous song that goes in many directions, working off Greg McLoughlin’s wickedly funky bass line.

Bugg Juice opened the night with an extended opening set centered round guitarist Marc Pincus, who once spent time in Head Monkey with U-Melt’s Zac Lasher and George Miller. A band of the people, Bugg Juice earned their New Groove status by winning it during one of the months opened to fan voting. A lot of their songs have a bright bouncy feel to them and echo the timeless grooves of the Grateful Dead. Dave Cohen is able to get the same type of bluesy funk out of his keyboards that marked some of the Dead’s more danceable songs. They also worked the double percussion, with Katie Pearlman joining Chaim Tolwin on the drums.

Licorice, BuzzUniverse and Bugg Juice have more in common besides joining bands like Tea Leaf Green, The Slip, Robert Randolph & The Family Band and Grace Potter & The Nocturnals in the pantheon of New Grooves of the Month. For all the differences between the three bands, one thing remained constant, with these New Grooves, things move quick and they never get old.

Marco Benevento: Invisible Baby

By: David Schultz

Best known as ½ of a wildly inventive duo, Marco Benevento is in the process of making quite a name for himself on his own. His storied New York residencies, marked by a proliferation of creative improvisational explorations, have given rise to mythic tales lauding his instrumental ingenuity. The allure of Benevento’s 2006 set of shows at Tonic and his recently completed slate at Sullivan Hall is the masterful interaction between the gifted keyboardist and his many guests. On Invisible Baby, his first solo studio release, Benevento keeps the guest list tight, limiting it to bassist extraordinaire Reed Mathis (Tea Leaf Green/Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey) and drummers Matt Chamberlain and Andrew Barr (The Slip ).

The piano tracks that pepper Invisible Baby are simply gorgeous with “You Must Be A Lion” and “Bus Ride” flowing wonderfully on the tide of Benevento’s cascading piano rolls. Benevento has a gift for creating lush landscapes of sound and knows how to build a song to a great crescendo, showing a remarkable aptitude for finding the perfect moment to let the music overflow. He’s mastered the art of creating a mood and establishing it quickly.

As Duo fans are aware, Benevento likes to play around with various gadgets. On “The Real Morning Party,” he blends together Chuck Berry’s “Rock And Roll Music” and his own “Soba” into a synthesized riff that sounds like it could have originated from an 80s-era video game (albeit a super-hip one). Speaking of classic electronics, Benevento saves most of his beeps and boops for “Atari,” using them to accentuate his jazzy keyboard riffs. In a different vein, “Ruby” finds Benevento in old-school, piano man mode, the opening and closing passages of the songs creating the same smoky images as Tom Waits.

Benevento is a massive talent and his band mates for this project are easily his equals. His piano work has a texture and context due the magnificent job of Mathis, Barr and Chamberlain providing the proper framework. On “If You Keep Asking Me,” the disc’s darkest track, Mathis and Chamberlain create a nourish aura which permits Benevento to give the song its edgy character. The drummers are a contrast in style: Barr’s percolating under his tracks while Chamberlain’s are slightly bolder and more pronounced.

Invisible Baby is going to be hard album for people to classify. If it’s looked at as jazz, it will be done so in the same vein as Vince Guaraldi’s Peanuts music as the two share the same type of accessible, catchy melodies. For those who think with a broader mind, Benevento’s creative and challenging arrangements that mix elements of classical music, jazz and electronic rock aren’t that ideologically different from Thom Yorke and Radiohead. Either way, Invisible Baby is an album capable of reaching and touching a wide variety of listeners.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Winehouse Cleans Up . . . At The Grammys

By: David Schultz

When I was grade school, I used to get excited about the Grammy Awards. I didn’t realize at the time that making great music and being a talented musician can often be mutually exclusive to being an artist with massive notoriety and impressive record sales. Gradually learning that the Grammys don’t acknowledge phenomenal talents like The Beatles and Bob Dylan until decades after they deserved their accolades, I now watch them to see artists that I would never take the time to see live. Where the Oscars acknowledge the most artistic films and performances of the year, the Grammys seem to go out of their way to ignore or pigeonhole the year’s most critically appraised efforts. How do you respect a music awards show that marginalizes Radiohead, Arcade Fire, The National and Panda Bear, hardly giving them a mention on a 3 ½ hour broadcast.

Undoubtedly, the night belonged to Amy Winehouse. If she isn't willing to do it with her personal life, Winehouse cleaned up at the 50th Annual Awards. As expected, the troubled singer won Best New Artist and, in absentia, also took Record of the Year, Song of Year and Best Female Pop Performance for “Rehab” as well as Best Pop Vocal Album for Back To Black. Her success even spread to her producer, Mark Ronson, who won Best Producer mainly for his work on Winehouse's album. Even though her visa problems were cleared up in time for her to attend the telecast, Winehouse didn’t make the trip to the Staples Center. Performing by satellite from London, Winehouse turned in a relatively coherent but somewhat apathetic version of "You Know I'm No Good" before smirking her way though a heartfelt rendition of "Rehab" that scored high on the unintentional comedy scale.

The night's true surprise took place at the end of the night when Quincy Jones and Usher announced Herbie Hancock as the winner of Album of the Year for River: The Joni Letters. In beating out Winehouse, Kanye West, Foo Fighters and Vince Gill, Hancock's album of Joni Mitchell covers was a completely unexpected winner. While nice to see the jazz great getting recognized for his work, his victory deprived the telecast of one final glimpse of Winehouse or what would have definitely been a memorable victory speech from West.

As for the show itself, the Grammy Awards has become an event where perfectly good musicians seem to get talked into doing idiotic things. Alicia Keyes deserved better than to sing along with a grainy Frank Sinatra video, Carrie Underwood seemed greatly out of place singing amongst a garage-girl stage setup that seemed lifted from Stomp and sending a blitzed Kid Rock out on stage to croon “That Ol’ Black Magic” with 75-year-old Keely Smith and Dave Koz seemed cruel and flat out bizarre. The less said about will.i.am's mercifully short and extremely ill-conceived Grammy rap the better.

Not to say there weren’t some truly great moments. Jay and Silent Bob may have been the only people cheering louder when Morris Day and The Time broke into “Jungle Love.” With Prince presenting an award just minutes before, I wondered whether Apollonia was going to show up to complete the Purple Rain trifecta. I’ve always been a big Tina Turner fan. Although it was awkward to see her on the same broadcast that later honored the man best known for beating her, I loved that her return to the stage was treated as a big deal. Her duet with Beyonce on “Proud Mary” took me back to my first concert where I saw her perform it from the fourth row at Madison Square Garden. Looking like a younger version of Tina, Beyonce accepted the torch being passed by one of the true legends of R&B.

The Grammys have borrowed the Jammy formula of putting together different combinations of artists. Some made perfect sense: like Daft Punk and their signature pyramid rising up in the midst of Kanye West’s performance of his Best Rap Solo Performance winning “Stronger.” The most entertaining artist slated for the broadcast, West performed with his mother’s name etched into the back of his head and it was hard not to feel for the brash, cocky singer when he emotionally honored his mother who passed away at the end of last year. Other combinations seemed forced. It must have taken negotiations of diplomatic sensitivity to get the egos of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis in check long enough to play together. With pissed expressions, likely from having to share a stage, they joined John Fogerty for a medley that included "Good Golly Miss Molly" and "Great Balls Of Fire." The Foo Fighters and Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones had to be part of some My Grammy Moment American Idol style sweepstakes but were lucky enough that Ian Anderson find Ann Marie Calhoun, who plays a mean rock and roll violin, won the contest.

The Best Taunt of the Night came at Kanye West's expense. After receiving the Grammy for Best Country Album for These Days, a slightly starstruck Vince Gill accepted his award from presenter Ringo Starr by humbly saying “I just got an award given to me by a Beatle.” He then searched the room until he found West and with a twinkle in his eye asked, “have you had that happen yet, Kanye?”

The Lifetime Achievement Awards, which were handed out throughout the night, have become simply ridiculous and only serve to highlight the Grammys’ cluelessness with respect to musicians that truly made a lasting impact on our society. Doris Day received one such honor this year but despite a full medley honoring The Beatles, the Grammys have yet to give them this honor. Maybe they’re waiting to see if The Beatles music takes on the same type of cultural relevancy as Doris Day's before they pass judgment on their legacy. Ringo Starr did get to accept an award during the show, coming on stage with George & Giles Martin when they won the award for Best Soundtrack Album for Love. Levon Helm - a Grammy winner this year for Traditional Folk Album – opted against travelling to L.A. to receive the Lifetime Award, hosting a Grammy Ramble in Woodstock instead. Robbie Robertson was in attendance and got to accept Tom Hanks’ kind words and praise on behalf of The Band.

In the rock categories: Bruce Springsteen snared Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance and Best Rock Song for “Radio Nowhere” as well as Best Rock Instrumental Performance for “Once Upon A Time In The West;” The White Stripes won Best Rock Vocal Performance By A Duo or Group with Vocals for “Icky Thump” and beat out Arcade Fire for Best Alternative Album. Foo Fighters won Best Hard Rock Performance for “The Pretender” and Best Rock Album for Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace.

Other winners of interest were; J.J. Cale & Eric Clapton getting Best Contemporary Blues Album for The Road To Escondido; Steve Earle taking Best Contemporary Folk/American Album for Washington Square Serenade; Robert Plant & Alison Krauss snagging Best Pop Collaboration for “Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)” and The Beastie Boys leaving with Best Pop Instrumental Album for The Mix Up. After beating Hillary Clinton in the Maine Caucuses, Barack Obama edged out her husband to take the Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album.

Scorsese To Helm Marley Documentary

Oscar winning director Martin Scorsese has announced that Bob Marley will be the subject of his third documentary focusing on the legends of classic rock. His first effort, the Grammy winning No Direction Home, focused on Bob Dylan and his latest, Shine A Light, a Rolling Stones concert film, recently debuted at the Berlin Film Festival. Marley's son Ziggy will act as executive producer.

Don't get excited about seeing the film anytime soon. Scorsese's target date for completing the project is the departed reggae singer's 65 birthday, February 6, 2010.

The Led Zeppelin Petition

Despite Jimmy Page calling Led Zeppelin "musically ready" to take on a world tour, they won't be playing Bonnaroo and if a tour does happen, it won't happen until the fall due to Robert Plant's commitments with Alison Krause. Fans though have taken the matter to the people and an online petition has been created to persuade Page, Plant, John Paul Jones and the drummer of their choice to bring their show on the road.

The petition asks, "If you think that it is not fair that only people in the UK had a chance to see Led Zeppelin please sign this petition. I think Led Zep needs to go on a world tour. There are younger and even older fans that never got to see the great Led Zeppelin in concert. We want to be part of history. We want one of the greatest rock bands to tour. "

Although it was started in mid-December, the number of signatures has grown exponentially over the past month. As I've said before, if we wish hard enough, maybe this tour will happen.

WAR To Break Out At The Royal Albert Hall

War; what is it good for? Well, when you're talking about Eric Burdon's group from the 70s, it's absolutely something. Burdon will rejoin his old band after more than 35 years for a reunion show at London's Royal Albert Hall. The show will coincide with the rerelease of Eric Burdon Declares War and The Black Man's Burdon, the two albums the former Animals lead singer recorded with the band. Burdon formed WAR in 1969 and even though the band would have a modestly successful career, highlighted by "Spill The Wine" and the super funky "Low Rider," he would only remain with the band for two years. As of now, there are no plans for any Eric Burdon & WAR shows beyond the London gig.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Zeppelin To Play Bonnaroo

Proving that it's always a good thing to read a press release in its entirety, some news organizations (e.g. World Entertainment News Network) got a little bit overeager and reported the wrong Zeppelin as playing at this year's Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival. Rather, it's Lez Zeppelin, a four-woman Led Zep tribute band, that will be making their way to Tennessee and not the fabled band that famously reunited at London's O2 Arena last December. There will be a Led Zeppelin presence at the festival as Robert Plant will be appearing with Alison Krause. Maybe for kicks, he'll catch the Lez Zep and feel inspired enough to sit in - it's not like he doesn't know the words.

In addition to Pearl Jam, My Morning Jacket, Kanye West and Jack Johnson, Metallica will be headlining the event. Remember two months ago when Metallica denied they were playing Bonnaroo? It's one thing to harass your own fans cause you have an ideological aversion to free downloading, but why spread disinformation about your own concert appearances.

Winehouse Banned From The U.S.

Amy Winehouse may be in the clear for perverting justice (the British equivalent of witness tampering) but when it comes to the Grammy Awards, the United States is saying "no, no, no." The U.S. Embassy in England denied the 6-time nominee's application for a visa, citing her arrest and fine for cannabis possession in Norway this past October. It surely couldn't have helped that the formerly beehived singer has made herself a youtube attraction after getting caught on camera smoking crack.

Winehouse will still perform on the Grammy telecast this Sunday night, only she'll be doing it via satellite.

Last Play At Shea: Billy Joel

If you're a sports fan in the New York City area, you can't help but notice the large scale construction going on in Queens as well as the Bronx as both the Yankees and Mets are building new stadiums. While Yankee Stadium has seen more World Series titles than its NL counterpart, Shea Stadium boasts a hipper history when it comes to rock and roll.

In the midst of the Mets last season at Shea, Billy Joel will be the last musician to play on the field that famously hosted The Beatles in 1965 and has also been graced by Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Bruce Springsteen. Although Shea has presented various bands during ethnic day celebrations, Joel's farewell show will be the first full concert since Elton John and Eric Clapton performed there in 1992.

The Last Play At Shea: From The Beatles To Billy show will take place on July 16th.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Much Ado About Something: Vampire Weekend Haunt The Bowery Ballroom

By: David Schultz

Hailing from the hallowed halls of Columbia University, Vampire Weekend are tailor made to bear the brunt of the slings and arrows that outrageous fortune brings upon any buzzed-about band. On their self-titled debut, released last week, the Ivy Leaguers precociously dive into all sorts of African rhythms and sing about the thrills of fleeing Cape Cod and rail against punctuation. It’s as if someone took the Arctic Monkeys, housetrained them and had them brainwashed by Emily Post. If they weren’t so damn good, you would probably stand in line to punch them in the face.

Last week, Vampire Weekend hosted a two night sold-out stint at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom that served as a record release party for the first effort on XL Recordings. Much like the Cold War Kids first album, Vampire Weekend doesn’t target the fans that have helped grow their reputation; rather, it packages the best of the white-hot indie band’s tunes and makes them easily accessible to a wider audience. Practically the entire album has been available for quite some down on various EPs as well as strewn throughout the Internet in various bits and pieces. If you’ve lived in the New York City area or regularly peruse the mp3 blogs, you’re likely very familiar with Ezra Koenig (guitar), Rostam Batmanglij (keys), Chris Tomson (drums) and Chris Baio (bass). It’s going to be interesting to see if the same swirl of goodwill that happened on a small scale can happen on The National level. (pun very much intended).

Regardless of what happens outside of their control, Vampire Weekend are an intriguing band with a refreshingly bright sound. For their Wednesday night show, they opened with “Mansard Roof” and then hit many of the album’s highlights, including “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” and the brilliantly bubbly “Bryn.” Not long after they started, they closed the set proper with “Oxford Comma” and, after a short break, returned to close the night with “Walcott,” giving everyone a glimpse as to how “Born To Run” would have turned out if Bruce Springsteen was a trust fund baby.

Quite possibly, the rich boy and literary references are supposed to be ironic; on the other hand, maybe this is how the college kids are rebelling these days. Whatever the reason, VW are the only band that will give you the opportunity to publicly display your disdain for a subtle piece of punctuation you’ve likely never heard of before. (For those who are curious, an oxford comma is one that precedes “and” or “or” when listing a series of things).

Despite a name more apropos of a goth metal group, Vampire Weekend’s songs are especially bright and bouncy. They mix together a wonderful blend of afro-pop, ska and other African rhythms with an undercurrent of punk rock that was more pronounced in a live setting. If you dug deep into what they were doing on stage you could hear The Clash lurking in the midst. There’s probably a socio-political component inherent to four white college students embracing African music and adopting it in the same manner as Peter Gabriel – namechecked on “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” - and Paul Simon during his Graceland/Rhythm Of The Saints period. When the resulting music is this playful and enjoyable, we can leave the pontificating at home.

With one album, as buzzworthy as it may be, Vampire Weekend had a limited amount of material with which to work; their one album clocks in at just over thirty minutes. Even with the addition of a couple new songs, one of which Koenig offered to let the audience name, the night flew by quite quickly. Factoring in the encore break, VW strained to make it to the 45 minute mark. It was a shame because the audience was eager for more.

Vampire Weekend have a number of very catchy tunes that refuse to grow tiresome with repetition. It’s a trait of many songs and artists that find wild success on the pop charts. They will surely face the stereotypical backlash that accompanies any growing band but in the end, Vampire Weekend are more fun to listen to then they are to analyze . . . even if the Arctic Monkeys would kick their collared-shirt wearing asses in a bar fight.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Grateful Dead Endorsement: Barack Obama

Obama's got them Deep 'Elem Blues and they're definitely a good thing to have. On the eve of the political version of the Super Bowl, the Illinois Senator's candidacy inspired a Grateful Dead reunion of Phil Lesh, Bob Weir and Mickey Hart at San Francisco's Warfield Theater.

Phil's Friends Jackie Greene, John Molo and Steve Molitz rounded out the band for the memorable performance. The "Dead Heads for Obama" show, was the first Dead show since 2004.

In other rock and politics news, Rolling Stone is reporting that John Mellencamp has taken exception to John McCain's use of "Our Country" as part of his campaign music. While I'm sure there's some ideological basis to Mellencamp's complaint, the cynic in me thinks he's antsy that it might cut into his Chevy truck royalties.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Whole Lot Of Shakin’ Going On: The North Mississippi Allstars At The HighLine Ballroom

By: David Schultz

The North Mississippi Allstars want to see you shake your ass. For years, it’s been a recurring theme in their music and lead guitarist Luther Dickinson has taken to referring to it in his stage banter with the same frequency that Michael Franti asks “How ya feelin’.” Unless you’re not paying attention, you can’t possibly miss the prime directive that you shake something when you are within the Allstars’ presence. This past week in New York City, Dickinson, his brother Cody and bassist Chris Chew found an audience at the HighLine Ballroom that was quite accepting of their kinetic mandate.

After a lengthy respite, New York City has been the recipient of a relative surfeit of Allstars performances. At the close of 2007, the NMA anchored a reinvigorated original lineup of The Word, serving as the backbone to keyboardist John Medeski’s heart and Robert Randolph’s soul at a sold-out performance at Terminal 5. They return only one month later, as their recently commenced winter tour brings them back to The Big Apple before they can truly be missed. On their fifth studio album, Hernando, the Allstars made a concerted effort to move away from their Mississippi roots and focus more on blues-based classic rock. It’s a style that has always flourished in a concert setting and the new songs, especially heavier ones like “Keep The Devil Down” and “Soldier,” translate well and benefit greatly from the live workout.

Surrounded by a ton of instruments - Chew had a half dozen basses or more off on one side of the stage and Luther’s customary phalanx of guitars sat center stage – the Allstars spread out across the stage and filled the room with their blend of Mississippi Delta derived blues. For the first hour of the show, they drew heavily from Hernando with Luther weaving his solos and slide guitar within the grooves being nicely laid down by Chew and the younger Dickinson. One of the more underrated guitarists, Luther doesn’t seem to receive as much recognition for his guitar work as is his proper due. In March, he will join Chris & Rich Robinson as an official member of The Black Crowes. Although the Crowes’ hardcore fans are already well versed in all things Luther, he should impress a number of new listeners who will be getting their first exposure to the bespectacled guitarist. He’s already developing his Crowes’ look; he has a ways to go before he matches the Crowes’ hirsute lead singer but in letting his hair and beard grow out, Luther looks much scruffier than he has in the past.

The second half of the show took on a different dynamic with the inclusion of guitarist Alvin Youngblood Hart. Hart, who would make a potent WWE tag team with Chew, remained on stage for a healthy portion of the show. Although he brought some exceptional blues chops with him, his presence caused each of the individual Allstars to reign in what would had been working so splendidly in order to give Hart room to play. The quality of the performance didn’t diminish; it just changed.

The end of the set turned into a subtle seminar in classic rock seminar. The little flourishes weren’t trotted out like show ponies. Rather, with the exception of the “Moonlight Mile” tease during the intro to “Deep Blue Sea,” they could have easily escaped notice. Their devastating interpretation of “In My Time Of Dying” bore little resemblance to Led Zeppelin’s well-known version; going back to the song’s origins, Hart’s passionate vocals echoed the style of blues that Zeppelin used as their springboard and ultimately overshadowed. Further keeping things lively, Chew worked the bass line from Band of Gypsys “Who Knows” into “Snake Drive” and Luther teased Parliament’s “P-Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up).”

When they stepped to the forefront, Chew and Cody Dickinson provided some of the night’s more entertaining moments. Possibly the best singer in the band, Chew gave a proper Muddy Waters feel to “I’d Love To Be A Hippy” and his turn on “Lovelight” was much more focused than his attempt to curry favor with Giants fans by discussing their common bond through Ole Miss’ Eli Manning and Hernando’s own Kevin Dockery. Cody, who’s not a bad guitar player in his own right, came out front for a couple songs, taking lead on “Goin’ Home (Part 1).” His true star turn came during the encore. One of the few practitioners of the electrified washboard, Dickinson returned to the stage by himself and tore through “Psychedelic Sex Machine,” the Allstars showpiece for Dickinson’s bizarrely fascinating skill.

At the HighLine, the NMA put on an old fashioned, no-frills rock and roll show reverberating with the echoes of the Seventies, an era known for the plethora of bands that regularly modified the blues to suit their purposes. In the case of the Allstars, they’ve always strived to stay true to the art form; they may update traditional songs but they rarely opt to radically reinvent. The Allstars do it best on “Po Black Maddie/Skinny Woman,” their tribute to R.L. Burnside, one of their early influences. It’s been a staple of their sets for years and is always a highlight of any set they play. The music wasn’t the only way the Allstars stayed true to themselves. After nearly 2 ½ hours of blistering blues, Luther closed the show the only way that seemed natural: he thanked everyone for “coming out and shakin’ your ass on a Tuesday night.”

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!