Thursday, August 28, 2008

Feds Arrest Blogger For Spreading Chinese Democracy

The government has come down hard on the blogger who tried to spread a little Chinese Democracy across the globe. Kevin Skwerl, the 27-year-old who posted 9 tracks that were possibly tapped to be part of the long rumored, perpetually delayed Gun N' Roses release, was taken into custody on suspicion of violating Federal copyright laws. Skwerl removed the songs from his site, antiquiet.com, when he received a "cease and desist" but never hid the fact that he posted them when the Feds made inquiries. He's owned up to his actions, telling Rolling Stone, "I did what I did, and I’ll face the music if I have to.”

If the tracks he posted were legit, Skwerl's "pirate radio" move deserves kudos for proving to the world that Chinese Democracy may in fact really exist. Federal laws notwithstanding, helping bring about the day when everyone but Slash and Buckethead gets a free Dr. Pepper is to be commended.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Page, Jones & Bonham Enter Studio; Don't Call It Led Zeppelin Yet

Possibly wanting to cleanse his palate after his bizarre duet with Leona Lewis at the Olympics Closing Ceremonies in Beijing, Jimmy Page has reignited Led Zeppelin reunion rumors by reportedly entering the studio with John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham. The drummer confirmed that the songs they are working on might end up on some sort of Led Zeppelin but tempered expectations by pointing out that Robert Plant isn't involved with the project at this time.

This may be turn out to be much ado about nothing. It does, however, remove the residual queasiness of having watched Page muddle through "Whole Lotta Love" while Lewis towers above him singing about giving "every bit of her love."

Friday, August 22, 2008

The LeRoi Moore Memorial Fund

Without question, the unexpected passing of the Dave Matthew Band's LeRoi Moore was the most depressing story of the week. Moore broke several ribs and punctured a lung in an ATV accident at the end of June. He died this past Tuesday from complications arising from those injuries.

In response to the great number of inquiries about making donations in Moore's name, the DMB organization is referring everyone to a fund created in his honor to support charities that reflect both his spirit and passion. Donations by checks should be made out to the “Charlottesville Area Community Foundation for the LeRoi Moore Memorial Fund” and sent to Charlottesville Area Community Foundation, PO Box 1767, Charlottesville, VA 22902.

For those who handle their finances in a paperless manner, you can donate here.

Steve Molitz Leads The Agents Of Mayhem In Tribute To Abbie Hoffman

Steve Molitz, the keyboardist for Particle and Phil Lesh & Friends, will be reviving the spirit of Abbie Hoffman this Sunday night at Spiegelworld, a travelling venue currently set up at New York City's South Street Seaport. Steal This Ticket! - A Musical Tribute To Abbie Hoffman will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the anarchist's crashing of the New York Stock Exchange to throw dollar bills at the traders from the gallery. It's an act of protest that would be absolutely unheard of in today's post 9/11 world.

Molitz' Agents of Mayhem come with a fine pedigree for setting crowds astir. For the night, Molitz will be joined by guitarist Jon Gutwillig of the Disco Biscuits, DJ Logic and String Cheese Incident's Michael Travis and Jason Hann. Prior to the Agents' set, Hann & Travis will perform as EOTO and Logic will work his magic on the turntables. It'll definitely be a late night but what better late summer CounterCulture statement can you make than showing up late to work on Monday . . . that is, if you show up at all.

Molitz will also be part of the Region of Darkness, another jamband supergroup featuring Stephen Perkins (Jane's Addiction), Josh Clark (Tea Leaf Green), Steve Jones (ALO, Tea Leaf Green) and Adam Iscove (Allrise). They will play the ROXY in Los Angeles on October 16 and Winston's in Ocean Beach, CA on October 17.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Paying It Forward: Josh Clark and Turbine At The Bowery Poetry Club

By: David Schultz
Photo By: Stacy Berger

The pages of TMZ are filled with stories of musicians treating their friends and too often their fans with a deplorable lack of respect. Tales of selfish behavior make for great press and unfortunately seem to nestle snugly inside the glove that is the egocentric world of celebrity. On the flip side, whenever a musician performs a good deed that’s falls short of bringing debt relief to the Third World, adopting a Malawaian child or staging a benefit concert, such news usually flies under the radar; that is, unless a reporter wants to cast a skeptical eye upon the situation. Josh Clark, guitarist for San Francisco’s Tea Leaf Green, performed one of those rarely discussed acts of kindness by flying across the country to participate in a Friday night farewell soiree for one his fans. In playing an acoustic set at the Bowery Poetry Club, just across the road from the John Varvatos store occupying the former home of CBGB, Clark, along with upcoming local jamsters Turbine, gave the club a decidedly rowdier form of lyrics, meter and verse.

Seated on stage, Clark ran through a ninety-plus minute set of stripped down Tea Leaf Green tunes, accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar and occasionally on harmonica. It’s always fun to see a skilled guitarist play in an acoustic setting and Clark didn’t disappoint. He provided a small amount of fretboard fireworks but for the most part, closed his eyes and focused on the music. Initially, Clark battled an unnecessarily chatty crowd by offering acoustic renditions of hard-edged songs like “Dragonfly,” and “Bouncin’ Betty” as well as “Stick To The Shallows” off of Tea Leaf’s recently released Raise Up The Tent. As the set progressed, Clark charmed the crowd, bringing them into his world. Whenever he would banter with the audience, flash a mischievous smile or simply get them into the partying mood with songs like “The Bacon Song” (what you get when you give the guitarist whiskey), “Relax And Get Naked” and an emphatic rendering of Ween’s Spaghetti Western styled “Buenos Tardes Amigo.”

Clark may not have hit the right vocal heights for his cover of The Beatles’ “In My Life” but for “Working Class Hero,” Clark clearly inhabited the song’s proletariat soul. By the end of the night, Clark and the crowd, which contained a healthy smattering of Tea Leaf’s active New York fan base, were working as one, with the fans providing supporting vocals to “Piss It Away” and howling along to a cover of G&R’s “Used To Love Her.” Clark finished the night with a pair of his finest compositions, the wistfully hopeful “Carter Hotel” and the slightly harrowing “Jackson Hole,” which he segued nicely into The Meat Puppets’ “Lake Of Fire.”

Following Clark, New York City’s Turbine kept the BPC dancing till the wee hours of the morning with their jamtastic blend of funk, blues and rock. They may not have conjured up the restless spirit of CBGB but they did raise the ghost of Wetlands Preserve. In that vein, Turbine does sound a little too derivative of the jambands of yore; over the course of the night you could detect some Widespread Panic as well as some Grateful Dead, Eric Johnson and Justin Kimmel do a good job emulating the rhythm section of The Police and when a band prominently features a harmonica player, you’re going to have Blues Traveler flashbacks. Blatantly showing your influences isn’t that much a drawback though; O.A.R. has made an entire career out of serving up healthy doses of warmed-over Bob Marley. That all being said, Turbine possesses a fine spark and built their songs into satisfying jams, displaying a fire and creative energy that kept their set interesting. Jeremy Hilliard plays an enjoyable lead guitar and Ryan Rightmire does wonders with his harmonica. When Rightmire’s not engaging in John Popper inflected riffage, he uses an assortment of pedals to transform the sound with a wide range of effects. For the end of their set, Clark returned to the stage with an electric guitar, joining in on an extended run through Eric Clapton’s “Got To Get Better In A Little While” that, for some reason, moved along to the beat of “Forever Man.”

After the Labor Day weekend, Turbine will be heading west for a number of dates in Colorado and then pass through upstate New York in early October. After his one-off solo performance, Clark will rejoin Tea Leaf Green and, as is there wont, hit the road. They will return to New York City’s HighLine Ballroom for a pair of pre-Thanksgiving shows on November 25th and 26th.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Neil Diamond At Madison Square Garden: Is It Hip?

By: David Schultz

Unless you are approaching AARP eligibility, telling people you’re going to see Neil Diamond on a Saturday night evokes some pretty interesting reactions. For the most part, it all boils down to one thing: is Neil Diamond cool? The perennial go-to response has always been, “Of course Neil Diamond’s cool, he was in The Last Waltz.” However, that close to 32 years ago. To put it in perspective, there were also a lot of plaid leisure suits in The Last Waltz. Feel like wearing one of those in public? Saving Silverman made Diamond out to be a minor deity but a moronic movie cannot confer hipness. Also in the inconclusive category is the Saturday Night Live skit in which Will Ferrell gave him Diamond a blandly psychotic edge. (“This next song I wrote after I killed a drifter to get an erection.”). More concrete, Diamond did get the Rick Rubin treatment, not once but twice. In the end, it boils down to a nice little Catch-22: Neil Diamond’s show is cool but going to see it isn’t.

Saturday night’s concert was the last of four not-exactly sold out shows at Madison Square Garden. Diamond’s show is very much a throwback, not remotely geared towards a modern or young crowd. It’s cool in the same way the outdated Rat Pack antics of Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. remain hip. Prior to taking the stage, announcements were made alerting folks as to how everything was going to proceed, that the lights will dim abruptly and that all of Diamond’s fans should fasten the brakes on their wheelchairs. (I may be wrong on that last part). Once the show began, Diamond went through the paces, putting forth an extremely solid show notable for its devotion to its tight choreography and staging. It didn’t seem as if Diamond was working off a script but you really couldn’t point to any single moment of spontaneity. It hardly mattered; people came to listen to Diamond’s warm and comforting voice, not to be part of a spectacle.

Diamond ran through a veritable slate of his greatest hits, stopping the hit parade only briefly for a couple songs from Home Before Dark, his latest album. In every bit of the word, Diamond is a showman and there are very few that can deliver a song like he can, regardless of genre. Over the course of his ninety minute show, Diamond breathed life into “Solitary Man,” “Kentucky Woman” and “Cracklin’ Rosie,” brought the right amount of gravitas to “I Am, I Said” and sent the schlock meter into the red on “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.” In the same measured tones that spawned Ferrell’s parody, Diamond spoke of his Brooklyn roots and serenaded the back of the arena with “Love On The Rocks.” The night’s best moments came when Diamond brought the swing and bounce of the late 50s/early 60s, the Garden perfectly suited for the slow build of “Holly Holy,” the Buddy Holly shuffle of “Cherry, Cherry” and the revival tent fervor of the night’s final song, “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.” “Sweet Caroline” got the arena up on their feet and singing along. Diamond stretched out the all-to-familiar chorus and even revved the song up again after it had finished. Diamond’s one surefire anthem would have been better suited as the final song of the evening as the joyous communal atmosphere it created couldn’t be and wasn’t duplicated for the rest of the evening.

During an impassioned version of “America,” the time warp in which Diamond exists became crystal clear. As much as any of his other songs, “America” embodies Diamond’s optimistic ethos of being able to create your own destiny and his Jazz Singer ode captures the euphoric feeling of the foreigners seeking to change their fortunes in the U.S. While Diamond sang the song, the video screens depicted black and white photos depicting stereotypical scenes of the immigrant’s first visions of the Statue of Liberty and the American mainland. In many ways, the open shores and welcoming land described by Diamond no longer exists. In today’s climate, “America” is an anachronism. So is Neil Diamond.

The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame New York Annex

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum will be coming to New York City. Flanked by Billy Joel and Clive Davis, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that in November of 2008, the New York annex of the hall will open in SoHo, more specifically 76 Mercer Street. "This is where Lou Reed took a walk on the wild side," said the Mayor. The Annex will feature items and artifacts with a distinct New York appeal, some hopefully more interesting than the phone booth from CBGB that was on display at the press conference.

According to President Terry Stewart, the New York annex is part of an overall strategy to increase the visibility of the Rock & Roll Hall and drive tourist traffic to Cleveland. However, the NYC Annex seems like just another attempt of the Hall's trustees to remove rather than attract attention to the I.M Pei designed building located on the banks of the Erie River. It's long been an issues with Clevelanders that ever since the museum opened its doors in 1995, the Hall of Fame persists in having it's induction ceremony in New York City as opposed to within the very Hall to which they are inducting members. This has been resolved in an agreement by which Cleveland will host every third induction ceremony beginning in 2009. After making such a "commitment" to its host city, this recent announcement will surely assuage the Hall of Fame Foundation's guilt for throwing Cleveland a bone.

Salzer & Friends Delayed; U-Melt Announces U-Tunes & A Return To The HighLine

The debut of Rob Salzer & Friends was unceremoniously postponed this past Saturday when Crash Mansion, the Lower East Side haunt tabbed to host the event was forced to lock its doors after a Friday night raid by the local authorities. While it would be fun to claim the venue's difficulties stemmed from calling U-Melt's guitarist "Ray Salzer," it more than likely stems from their reported difficulties with minors getting hold of alcoholic beverages while within the premises. As of now, the date has not been rescheduled.

In other U-Melt news, the band has teamed up with livedownloads.com to create U-Tunes -pristine soundboard recordings of select shows available for, as the name would suggest, download. For the first shows, U-Melt has selected their two March performances from New York City's Sullivan Hall, the second of which consisted of a musical palindrome that needs to be heard to be completely understood. The cost of the mp3s is in line with iTunes pricing model with the FLAC version costing slightly more.

For New Yorkers who like their U-Melt live and on stage, they will be returning to the scene of their triumphant New Year's Eve gig, the HighLine Ballroom, on October 3rd.



Photo by Jeremy Gordon.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Bass Phishing: Mike Gordon At The HighLine Ballroom

By: David Schultz

Bassists generally don’t attract much of a crowd on their own. Other than Paul McCartney and Sting and possibly Victor Wooten, bassists usually don’t have the star power to front a band on their own. Phish fans would include Mike Gordon in that category and for the most part, they are probably right. With a diverse solo repertoire that includes devoted honky-tonk rambles and skillful collaborations with Leo Kottke, you may not know exactly what you’re going to get with a Gordon show except that it will be pretty damn good. You can also get really excited every time they bring out a microphone or guitar stand cause you think Trey might be showing up. This past Wednesday night, Mike Gordon moved his way into the solo bassist pantheon with a variegated set at New York City’s HighLine Ballroom.

Playing before a packed to the rafters HighLine, Gordon kept the set lively, focusing on selections from his recently released Green Sparrow. His band, featuring frequent bandmate Scott Murawski (guitar), Tom Cleary (keyboards), Todd Isler (drums) and Craig Myers (percussion), helped Gordon keep the new tunes moving along with a typical Phishy bounce and when they locked into a groove really got the crowd moving. In contrast, they lost the feel at the fringes of the jams with the music wandering as if looking for a nesting spot. During the early parts of the night, Isler had the audience in his sway but yielded as the show expectedly drifted more towards string based tunes.

Gordon kept the night fresh by sprinkling some covers throughout the set. In addition to a quick perfunctory run through The Doobie Brothers’ “Takin’ It To The Streets,” Gordon trotted out his cover of “She Said, She Said” but saved the real whimsy for a lengthy take on “Things That Make You Go Mmmmm.” It takes a good band to give life to studio creations like those created by the C&C Music Factory and Gordon and his mates were quite up to the task, receiving a hand from The Bridge’s Kenny Liner in the process.

The bassist devoted a decent part of the show to featuring members of The Bridge, the night’s opening band. In the middle of the show, Gordon brought out guitarist Cris Jacobs as well as banjo player Andy Cartoun for a pair of songs reminiscent of Gordon’s Ramble Dove project. For the encore, the entire band joined Gordon’s for a run through Little Feat’s “Spanish Moon.” Although it was nice to showcase The Bridge in such a large role, the set started to lose its focus once Gordon tried to spread the field.

Gordon will be taking this band on the road for the next month playing shows across the United States. Afterwards - as long as he has nothing announced – he’ll help fuel rumors of the heavily-awaited, psychotically-anticipated Phish reunion.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Matthew Sweet Sunshine Lies

By: Rinjo Njori

Didn't Matthew Sweet die in 1997? Despite high profile projects over the last decade, Matthew Sweet is still a slave to his mid-90s legacy. For most people, he dropped off the radar after 100% Fun, Blue Sky on Mars and In Reverse were considered duds, a belief commonly attributed to the absence of the legendary Richard Lloyd and Richard Quine. This was also the period where Sweet gained the most exposure in the pop culture spectrum. He was featured in 2/3 of the Austin Powers franchise as the guitarist for Ming Tea. Using this new found star power he decided to form the rootsy Thorns with Shawn Mullins and Pete Droge and his CSN flavored supergroup was a hit with critics and pretty much no one else. At one point they opened for Uber Playboy Jon Mayer. At this point, Sweet utilized his pop culture parachute by releasing the Japan only Kimi Ga Suki * Raifu- Think "Big in Japan". This record only saw the light of day stateside when his next album was released. Muddying his persona even more he adopted the moniker "Sid" and recorded an album of 60s covers with Bangle Susanna Hoffs.

Now in 2008, Matthew Sweet gets back on track with Sunshine Lies. His first proper album corrects the minor mistakes of Kimi Ga Suki * Raifu, most notably by releasing an incredibly satisfying album to the rest of the world and not just Japan. "Time Machine" and "Let's Love" reignite Sweet's psychedelic posturing using loops and guitar effects that made the harder songs on Girlfriend and onslaught of Altered Beast so satisfying. "Time Machine" takes the deconstructed route, opting for the inclusion of the sound loops and psychedelic guitar in the intro, middle and end of the song, much like the opening tracks, "Dinosaur Act" and "Divine Intervention" on Altered Beast and Girlfriend. On "Let's Love," the more straightforward of the tracks, he chooses to bury those elements in the wave of guitars. For "Flying" and "Room to Rock" Sweet indulges his fondness for 60s and 70s rock. "Flying", the superior track, mimics the British Invasion Freak beat of The Move and The Creation. There might be a tendency to bring up The Who, but Sweet's polish and robotic drums hurt the song. Falling somewhere between the hip swaying of Big Star's "Don't Lie To Me" and Electric Warrior-era T.Rex, "Room To Rock" invites excess and at points exposes the clichés of the big sounds of the early 70s. Almost on cue, Sweet finishes the chorus and launches into a guitar solo. Stuck more in the moment of the song and relying less on inspiration is "Sunrise Eyes". Which melds those two eras of music but with some over the top "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah's" and brow beating guitar. The song is 100% Fun.

Depending less on inspiration and more on brawn, "Sunshine Lies," works on a number of levels: uplifting melodies, twang filled rhythm guitars and the ever present sound Sweet's voice on lead and backing vocals. When Susanna Hoffs comes into the latter half of the song, slowly taking over lead vocals on the chorus, it takes the song to the next level. "Byrdgirl" includes all those previous elements and as a result is a very good song, but the extra attention shows the little things can make a big difference.

Without dwelling on the negative, Sweet does underwhelm at points. After the spectacular 'Sunshine Lies," "Pleasure is Mine" falls flat because songs like this fill Sweet's other albums. There is no room for filler with all the good songs. "Feel Fear" is an excellent song but the toned down piano arrangement makes the song feel more Gossip Girl or One Tree Hill. When the chorus gets cranking, you get the feeling the song could have been a little more forceful.

Sunshine Lies might not catapult Sweet to superstar status but it does validate that all his extra-curricular activities over the last decade haven't hurt his ability to write a great song and more importantly records a great album. With a little luck maybe he can start a pop supergroup with youngsters Matt Berninger and Ezra Koenig or get rid of the vague Sid reference and release another excellent set of covers with Susanna Hoffs as Matt and Susie. More to the point, Sweet needs to keep releasing great pop albums and kill those silly Internet death rumors.

Gabriel Finally Finishes Big Blue Ball

It's been so long since Peter Gabriel has released a new album, you would be forgiven for wondering why Vampire Weekend name checked the former Genesis lead singer in "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa." The charismatic live performer has finally finished work on Big Blue Ball, an album he started in the early 90s when he was deep in the thrall of his world music obsession.

The album, which has been gatherng dust for more than a decade, includes duets with Sinead O'Connor and Tim Finn. In order to get the collection into shape, Gabriel has called in Waterboys frontman Karl Wallinger to help him get it ready for a 2009 release. It will be Gabriel's first album since 2002's Up, which took him a relatively quick 10 years to complete.

No Springsteen At Super Bowl . . . Yet

The NFL announced, perhaps disingenuously, that they have no idea who will be playing at half time of the 2009 Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida. This runs contrary to Internet rumors that the slot has been given to Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. Yet, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy insists, "We don’t currently have any talent confirmed for the Super Bowl." As past Super Bowl Sundays have featured a Beatle, The Rolling Stones, Prince and Tom Petty, it seems only natural that The Boss would be the rightful heir to the post-wardrobe malfunction throne.

Unless Led Zeppelin wants to reunite in Tampa or The Police want to Favre on their "final" concert promise, Bruce at the Bowl seems like something that has to happen.

Velvet Revolver Won't Reload With Kravitz

Lenny Kravitz debunked rumors that he would be giving up his solo career to join up with his former high school classmate Slash in Velvet Revolver. If ever there was a rock star that seemed perfectly suited to be ensconced in velvet, it would be Kravitz. However, as Lenny tells Rolling Stone, “I know and love the Velvet Revolver guys but there is no truth to the story about me joining their band.”

Kravitz will continue on with his Love Revolution tour, which has dates scheduled Internationally through the new year.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Isaac Hayes (1942-2008)

Let's remember Isaac Hayes for this and not for the nonsense that ended his stint on South Park.

Coming to you on a dusty road
Good loving, I got a truck load
And when you get it, you got something
Don't worry, 'cause I'm coming

I'm a soul man, I'm a soul man
I'm a soul man, I'm a soul man

Got what I got the hard way
And I make it better, each and every day
So honey, said don't you fret
'Cause you ain't seen nothing yet

I was brought up on a side street
I learned how to love before I could eat
I was educated at Woodstock
When I start loving, whoa I can't stop

Just grab the rope and I'll pull you in
Give you hope and be your only boyfriend
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

I'm talking about a soul man, soul man

Friday, August 08, 2008

Wolfmother To Howl No More

Australian power trio Wolfmother are calling it quits after only one album. In an odd announcement, the band confirmed that keyboardist Chris Ross and drummer Myles Heskett have left the band, leaving Andrew Stockdale as the ostensible winner of the "which one's Pink" who-gets-the-name ordeal. The band's last performance was a headlining slot this past Sunday at Australia's Splendour In The Grass.

From all appearances, Ross and Heskett may work on material together and Stockdale will look to restock Wolfmother with new musicians and record a new album. Citing irreconcilable difference, the band stated on their site that they "just could not find a harmonious way to work together and that has lead to the decisions announced today."

Let's cut to chase and start clamoring for the reunion now.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Scrapomatic: Sidewalk Caesars

By: David Schultz

Mike Mattison has gained a modicum of renown as the lead singer of the Derek Trucks Band and like most musicians, he has another project. Before he teamed up with the Trucks band, Mattision and guitarist Paul Olsen worked the blues as Scrapomatic. On Sidewalk Caesars, their third full length album, they’ve produced a fine collection of no-frills back-to-basic blues. Mattison purrs and growls over the album with his distinctive gravelly, soulful voice all while Olsen guides a tight knit outfit through some finely honed road house style blues.

Scrapomatic takes a laid-back approach to bar room blues, never rushing the beat or pushing the songs against their will. Offering a measured sense of the classic genre, Mattison’s vocals simmer nicely, transforming “The Old Whiskey Show” and “Good Luck With Your Impossible Dream” into blues lullabies that linger comfortably in the air. The only true firepower comes from Derek Trucks, who joins his band mate on two tracks. Amidst Scrapomatic’s basic arrangements, Trucks’ slide guitar gives a savory Allman Brothers style Southern blues feel to “He Called My Name” and “I Want The Truth.”

Sidewalk Caesars revives the juke house blues without forcing you to deal with the sweaty, beer soaked hall.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

For New York: Bon Iver At The Bowery Ballroom

By: David Schultz

Midwestern lo-fi sensation Bon Iver has a story and the hipper-than-thou crowd can surely tell it to you without constant references to Wikipedia. For starters, they definitely know whether Justin Vernon goes by the name of Bon Iver in the same way that Chan Marshall calls herself Cat Power. If he doesn’t, they could tell you whether Bon Iver is the name of the band like the original Alice Cooper. They can also give you the full details of how For Emma, Forever Ago evolved from a Liz Phair style, homegrown recording into a much blogged about phenomenon and how it took Vernon from the Wisconsin woods to National Public Radio’s showcase at this year’s SXSW Festival. Those people can help you out with the legend; I’ll try to help you out with the facts.

Last week at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom, Bon Iver played before one of the largest crowds who have ever come specifically to see him play. Leaving center stage empty, Vernon sat at stage left and recreated the moody, pensive melodies from his ballyhooed debut. Using his three piece band to the fullest, Iver gave weighty form to his delicate tunes. Rather than falling apart in the live setting, fragile songs like “Flume” and “Skinny Love” gained form and substance. The same guitars that create the ethereal feel of For Emma reverberated around the Bowery Ballroom circling the air before nestling amongst the crowd which stood before Iver in respectful silence, saving their appreciation for the end of each song. If Grizzly Bear appeared next, the hypnotized audience could have been convinced to go forth onto the city streets and perform all sorts of Manchurian Candidate style misdeeds.

Singing in a voice that surely got him beaten up more than once while he grew up in Wisconsin, Bon Iver touched on most of the material from For Emma. For the middle of the show, Vernon played a couple new songs cut from the same mold, joking that he had to write new songs so he could fill out a headlining set. Any artist whose catalog consists of brooding, meditative songs runs the risk of becoming a pretentious head case when they play them live. No worries here; Iver’s songs grew on stage, the end of “Creature Fear” built into a pulsing instrumental jam reminiscent of pre-Dark Side Pink Floyd and Vernon got the crowd to help him close the show by singing the wistful final chorus of “The Wolves (Act I and II).” For the encore, Iver played a relatively upbeat version of “For Emma” and then gathered everyone, including opening act The Bowerbirds, for an absolutely stunning near a capella version of Nashville singer-songwriter Sarah Siskind’s “Lovin’s For Fools.”

Iver’s show at the Bowery Ballroom proved that he could captivate an audience that already dug what he was doing. Many indie-stars accomplish that task and then never move beyond that core. Iver’s never going to have a problem doing whatever he wants in the studio and his fans will always be able to turn off the lights, put on their headphones and lose themselves in his willowy melodies. As he attracts more interest, the difficulty will come when he tries to make the transition to larger venues. At the cozy Bowery, people kept reverently silent while Iver played, larger crowds won’t be as receptive to hipster shushing. Prospects are far from grim though; as Grizzly Bear has shown with their opening sets and festival performances, audiences can manage to keep their mouths shut when the music demands their attention. Let’s just hope they open them when he’s done so the buzz can continue.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Meet The New Boss: Bruce Springsteen At Giants Stadium

By: David Schultz

In 1974, then rock critic Jon Landau whetted appetites and imaginations by proclaiming, “I’ve seen the future of rock n’ roll, and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” Landau’s career-making proclamation, which preceded the superlative-laden era of blogger buzz by nearly 30 years, came to mind in East Rutherford, New Jersey while the 58-year-old “future” was in the midst of his first of three sold-out shows at Giants Stadium. After a politically motivated speech in which he decried the current administration’s penchant for infringing on the civil liberties of its citizenry, Springsteen led the E Street band into a rousing rendition of “Living In The Future.” As Springsteen and the more than 50,000 in attendance belted out the chorus of “we’re living in the future,” the unintentional truth of the lyrics rang true. The future of the Seventies is now and anyone present at Sunday night’s show, for which the torrential rains that buffeted the Tri-State area all day relented, would be hard pressed to refute the fact that one of rock n’ roll’s most identifiable aliases is indeed Bruce Springsteen.

The Boss has been playing stadiums for so long that it’s tempting to find the whole experience cliché. There are common threads to each of his shows: a good portion of any Springsteen concert, be it indoors or out, involves revisiting familiar tunes and participating in long-ingrained rituals and even though a substantial part of the set list changes every night, “Born To Run” will always be part of the encore. For night #1, Springsteen’s audience hit every note of the opener “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out,” marking out for the song’s reference to longtime sideman Clarence Clemons and finished the set proper by echoing the melody of the set closing “Badlands.” Springsteen keeps his shows from becoming a rehearsed spectacle by never letting the show remain in stasis for long. He exploits his large and adored repertoire by keeping a middle portion of the show open for audience requests. The songs may change nightly but the overall effect remains the same. Regardless of the set list, crowds get a chance to sing along with treasured classics and usually see something special. If one night’s crowd gets an extraordinary rendition of “Jungleland” and a rousing final run through “Rosalita,” as Sunday night’s audience received, the next night’s will get “Thunder Road” and “Hungry Heart.”

The opening night set list spanned Springsteen's transcendent Seventies output from Born To Run, his larger-than-life MTV superstar period from the Eighties, the elder statesman role he assumed in the Nineties and the voice of the people in post-9/11 America. Highlighting the ridiculously high level at which Springsteen’s operated at over that time, he weaves songs from the various periods of his career into a brilliant web with the gravelly voiced singer’s brilliance tying them together. On his last stadium tour following the release of The Rising, his intimate post 9/11 songs of hope were dwarfed by the enormity of the venue. Now, “Mary’s Place” and “The Rising” have grown into true Springsteen anthems.

In the early Seventies, Springsteen sprung to the forefront of the American music scene with the apolitical lyrical narratives found on Greeting From Asbury Park, NJ and The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, which described the characters that populated his hometown Jersey shore and the lifestyles they led, standing out as a beacon of positivism in the post-Watergate era. Three decades later, Springsteen is no longer solely a boisterous storyteller, picking up the activist gauntlet that many of his peers not named Neil Young have long since dropped when their record sales moved them into a higher tax bracket. Possibly one of the original psych-folk artists, Springsteen has let his liberalism and populist beliefs come more to the forefront in recent years. His inclusion of “American Land” in the encore accentuated the timelessness of the Pete Seeger classic and proved the adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The wide range of attitudes with which people come to a Springsteen show is what makes the experience so unique. Springsteen’s songs of escape, desire and betterment speak to a number of his fans on a deep, resonant level, especially those who share his New Jersey roots. The audience is populated with legions of fans, many who come clad in T-shirts purchased at past shows or simply adorned in red, white and blue Born In The USA-style bandannas, who come for the catharsis of communing with those who share their adulation for Springsteen. In the parking lot, these are the people who will listen to hours of Springsteen from their tailgate and regale anyone within earshot of their past experiences. There’s a small competitive nature amongst the Springsteen faithful but it’s relatively benign; it’s far from the who-saw-what-and-when contests that the Phish parking lot scene ultimately devolved into. Even if you don’t worship at the “altar of Bruce,” you can’t help but be swept away by the Springsteen’s charisma, his fans' excitement and the show’s energy.

A consummate showman, Springsteen is part carnival barker, part revivalist preacher and 100% rock star. Even though he had to jump down three separate levels to make his way to the crowd, Springsteen played Giants Stadium with the same closeness and intimacy as he would The Stone Pony; his ability to immediately connect with an audience remains unparalleled. Despite the lack of any true choreography, the spontaneity of the show seemed . . . well, not so spontaneous. Perhaps owing to Springsteen’s uber-charismatic personality, the seemingly adlibbed portions of the show had a nice polish and veneer. In the middle of the show, Springsteen collected signs bearing song requests from people at the front of the stage. Without a hiccup, Springsteen led the band through ostensibly unplanned versions of “Growing Up” and “Janey Don’t You Lose Heart.” Therein lies Springsteen’s skill: he either found signs to match up with what they were going to play anyway or he and the E Street Band have enough confidence that they don’t need much notice to play a song long ingrained into their neurons. Whatever did in fact transpire, it came across fantastically.

Once the prototype for a rock and roll collective, the E Street Band - whose current incarnation includes “The Big Man” Clarence Clemons, Sopranos star Steven Van Zandt, Nils Lofgren, Springsteen’s wife, Patty Scialfa, bassist Garry Tallent, Roy Bittan, violinist Soozie Tyrell and Max Weinberg – has matured into a phenomenally tight band that can follow Springsteen in any direction he wishes to go. The waistline of Springsteen’s right-hand man Clarence Clemons has grown considerably over the years as has the sentimental value of his stage presence. For most of the show, Clemons provided additional percussion or the deep bass of “the man” in “Summertime Blues.” However, when it came time for the saxophone lines that are intimately associated with Springsteen classics, it’s hard to imagine them coming out of any of other horn. On a less nostalgic note, Van Zandt and Lofgren provided the night’s most technically proficient moments during “Youngstown,” “Murder Incorporated” and “Tunnel Of Love,” seizing the grand stage with inspired solos.

Rock and roll always lives with an eye cocked towards the past. It’s the reason why reunion shows spark such interest even though the experience of yesteryear can never be duplicated. The reason why Springsteen’s shows retain their allure is that he can still deliver the thrills that his fans have come to depend on without turning himself into a caricature of his former self. Pete Townshend never had Springsteen in mind when he wrote the words, but he might as well as had Springsteen in mind when he wrote, “meet the new Boss, same as the old Boss.”

All Points West Releases Set Schedule

The All Points West Music & Arts Festival which will take place this upcoming weekend at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey has released the set times for the three day festival.

Headliners Radiohead and Jack Johnson get the prime slots on the main Blue Comet stage and Andrew Bird, Trey Anastasio, Kings of Leon and Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals get late afternoon featured positions across the grounds.

Earvolution favorites Pawnshop Roses will be opening the entire Festival on Friday afternoon and we recommend getting there early to catch their 1:00 set on the Bullet stage. It is also well worth your while to catch Grace Potter & The Nocturnals close out the Queen Of The Valley stage on Sunday evening with their 6:45 p.m. set. It also gives us a wonderful excuse to once again run our photo of Grace proudly showing off her Earvolution T-shirt.

The Festival, during which Radiohead will play Friday and Saturday night, begins on August 8th and will finish on August 10th with a Jack Johnson set.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Let It Be Will Be Let Be

Beatles fans have long been frustrated in their attempts to obtain a copy of Let It Be, the end-of-days documentary that contains the famous rooftop concert that turned out to be the Fab Four's final live performance. The 1970 film was briefly released on VHS in the Eighties but quickly became a collector's item and ultimately prime fodder for the overblown, extras-laden DVD treatment.

However, Let It Be is not to be on DVD. The Daily Express is reporting that surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr have put the kibosh on a proposed DVD release. So if you see a reasonably priced videotape out there on eBay, pounce on it and start singing "I I Me Me Mine."

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!