Friday, January 30, 2009

Cold War Kids @ The Mercury Lounge

By: Rinjo Njori

A surprise "last minute" show this past Wednesday at the Mercury Lounge taught me two things about the Cold War Kids and the opener, Kuroma. Hank Sullivant, Kuroma’s front man, does the best glam Bowie/Bolan impersonation I have ever seen and the female fan base of the Cold War Kids are a tough and loyal bunch. The Cold War Kids announced this show a few weeks ago in advance of their Australian tour and subsequent April 3rd New York City date at Terminal 5. More accustomed to playing larger venues, they stressed more than a few times that they were glad they could put together this small show.

Opening the night was former Whig bassist and MGMT touring guitarist Hank Sullivant's Kuroma . The Athens based Kuroma’s style ranges from the late 80s sound of Mother Love Bone to the more accessible blues elements of Mark Lanegan. Kuroma’s supporting cast was a pretty interesting bunch but, unless you knew the band, unknown. In addition to some zippy keys, including the lead on "I Was A Rat", the keyboard player handled double duty, assisting Sullivant with tuning his guitar in between songs. The bassist seemed to have a Rickenbacker almost as big as himself but was lock step with the drummer whose cymbal kept tipping to the crowd. The two most notable songs were the fairly straightforward "Alexander Martin" which featured the best vocals of the night.

As engaging as Kuroma was for their 30 minute plus set, nothing could prepare the crowd for “I Was The Rat.” On the last song, Sullivant dropped his guitar, peeled off his jacket and morphed into what can be best described as the bastard son of David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Marc Bolan. Sullivant bounced around the stage in his skin tight jeans and tank top to the piano and drum driven song. His red hair bouncing around as he pointed at his eyes, the audience and busted out an array of dance moves. If the audience hadn't paid attention during the previous 30 minutes, they definitely paid attention now. I am still stunned by the performance and can't decide whether it was brilliance or just a flash of insanity. At least it gave the audience something to ponder for the next 15 minutes until the Cold War Kids appeared.

Just before the Cold War Kids took the stage there was definitely a different vibe, a certain amount of tension in the room. A majority of that bad vibe and attitude was coming from the better half. Luckily the Cold War Kids were able to soothe the situation with their unique brand of R&B meets rock meets alternative. Not a minute after they their first song started, the crowd literally came under the bands spell and loosened up. Their recent release, Loyalty to Loyalty, might not have met garnered the same universal praise as Robbers & Cowards but it was clear that even in this small New York City venue that this Fullerton foursome has an adoring and rabid fan base. “We Used to Vacation” drew the most inspired audience reaction/participation as everyone who knew the lyrics ceased lip syncing and joined Nathan Willet on the chorus. Johnnie Russell and Matt Maust were quite literally the centerpiece of the show. The guitarist and bassist were quite literally rams locking horns or drifting from their side of the stage into each other as the music dictated. Russell traded a pair of guitars when Willet could tear himself away from the pair of keyboards that flanked the band on either side of the stage. The band ran through “Hang Me Up to Dry,” “Saint John” and “Tell Me In The Morning". At one point, not too far into the set, the audience was screaming for "Saint John" due to the singalong friendly chorus but the Cold War Kids had a plan and stuck to it. Like “We Used To Vacation,” the audience was quick to make the entire evening a group effort. For close to an hour the band had this small crowd in the palm of their hand with the only lack of attention occurring when people checked their cell phones to see if their picture came out. The only notable track from Loyalty to Loyalty was “Something Is Not Right With Me” which garnered a boost from HBO's Entourage last fall. The short song garnered the most enthusiastic reaction from the crowd other than the Robbers & Cowards tracks. The whole set was pretty economical since it clocked in at under an hour, give or take a few minutes. The band though didn’t waste a minute of that time with needless side conversations amongst themselves or random audience members. They played and delivered what this clearly eager crowd came to see.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Consider The Source

By: David Schultz

No matter how much anyone protests about their true love of music and support for struggling artists, more times than they care to admit, they'll arrive at shows just in time to catch the headliner, ignoring opening acts whose names aren’t as recognizable or whose music isn’t as familiar. Ironically, a couple years later, they'll excessively tout and eagerly return to the same venue to see some of these bands play the same songs they could have seen much earlier and still pat themselves on the back for being so prescient. Recently, Scott Tournet's Blues & Lasers project and the Nate Wilson Group paired up for a potent double bill at New York City's Sullivan Hall. However, the biggest draw of the night was the opening band, Consider The Source, who pulled a mighty crowd for an early slot on a Saturday night.

Looking hardly old enough to get by the bouncer, the youthful trio of Gabriel Marin (guitar), John Ferrara (bass) and Justin Ahiyon (drums) had a warm rapport with the audience; Ahiyon speaking to the crowd between songs as if addressing a school assembly about the new semester. Devotees of a progressive rock based style they deem Sci-Fi Middle Eastern funk, Consider The Source were an interesting little combo. Playing a double necked twelve string guitar, Marin got guitar sounds out of the lower part and synthesized piano, flute and whatever else he could manage out of the top, working the double fret with a classical proficiency that came too close to comfort to watching Ralph Macchio battle Steve Vai at the end of Crossroads. The prog-rock approach to their instrumentals approaches pretentiousness, especially the silly names like "Tihai For The Straight Guy," but meld enough genres and influences to remain interesting.

If Ahiyon's state-of-the-band statements are accurate, Consider The Source were working out some new songs that are intended for a new album to be recorded next month and released in March. If you're curious as to what the kids are listening to in the Big Apple, Consider The Source may provide the answers.

Lost Season 5 Deleted Scenes

Lost fever is raging across America once again with the first three episodes already under our belts. Last night's episode "Jughead" is the water cooler buzz today. But, Lost fans wanting a little something extra will have some fun with these "deleted" scenes imagined by Lost aficionados Kirk and Skylar Folk.

As part of an ongoing series, my friends first offer up "deleted" scenes from Season Five's two premiere episodes: "Because You Left" and "The Lie." You can check those out here:



Tune in again to see what they come up with for last night's "Jughead" episode. Something tells me Desmond might be in the mix!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

AC/DC European Tour Dates

AC/DC is about to wrap up a North American leg of their world tour in support of their latest release, Black Ice, with dates left in Tulsa, Little Rock, Memphis and Nashville before heading to Europe.

As the below video demonstrates, fans of all ages are still ready to ride the Highway to Hell - even if they can't sing as well as their heroes:



Most of the European shows are stadium venues and nearly all are sold out. AC/DC has some limited ticket availability for members of their fan club for select cities and as of the publishing time for this post there are tickets available for the Amsterdam show scheduled for June 29th.

Tickets for two recently added dates have yet to go on sale. AC/DC will release tickets for the Marseille, France (Stade Velodrome) show at 8:00AM Marseille time on January 27th and tickets go on sale for the Athens, Greece (OAKA Stadium) show on 10:00am Athens time on February 3rd.

AC/DC's European dates kick off at the Telenor Arena in Oslo, Norway on February 18th. You can get the full list of European dates on AC/DC's official site.

Flying Solo: Department Of Eagles At The Bowery Ballroom

By: David Schultz

The overwhelming success of Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago and The Fleet Foxes self-titled Sub Pop debut easily made 2008 the year of the lo-fi revolution. Although they sat out most of the year, Brooklyn’s Grizzly Bear deserves just as much credit as Justin Vernon and Robin Pecknold for the recent popularity of stripped down, woodsy folk-rock: their Yellow House created the blueprint for moody, reverb heavy neo-dirges. Seeing that Grizzly Bear didn’t get to reap the immediate benefits of the seeds they had sown, it is fitting that Daniel Rossen, the Bear’s guitar/banjo presence, earned adulation for his side project Department of Eagles. Formed earlier this decade at NYU with classmate Fred Nicolaus, Department Of Eagles scored a modest critical success this past year with In Ear Park. Embarking on an unassuming American tour, the Eagles (the commonality of name is the closest they come to Don Henley’s egotistic and the other Eagles overblown seriousness) had one guaranteed sell-out on the slate: a performance at the hometown Bowery Ballroom in New York City.

Without many live shows under their belt, the onus fell onto Daniel Rossen to carry the show, a task that ill suits the inconspicuous guitarist. Without fanfare, Rossen took the stage by himself, opening the night with a lovely solo effort on his banjo before being joined by Nicolaus, guesting Grizzly Bear drummer, Chris Bear, and bassist Matthew Million. Focusing primarily on their latest album, the DoE ambled through a leisurely paced hour long set during which bass notes reverberated and hung in the air while Nicolaus and Rossen strummed melodically and powerfully over Bear’s unobtrusive drums. Not as rustic as Grizzly Bear or mesmerizing as Bon Iver, Department of Eagles falls a tad short of creating the same mystic aura while they play, the live setting overwhelming the fragility of the songs.

Although Nicolaus soloed on a new song, it was Rossen that carried the brunt of the weight, his versatility keeping things interesting. He ventured over for a solo turn on the Bowery’s piano and most notably on the evening’s final song, looped his own vocals to create angelic backing choruses. The deliberate and soothing melodies on In Ear Park lull you into think that a Department of Eagles show would be fraught with seriousness and unavoidable pretentiousness. Not so at all: Rossen joked about a “Go Eagles” joke falling flat in Philadelphia and whenever he tuned his guitar between songs, Million and Bear elicited chuckles with playful snippets of The James Gang’s “Funk 49” to pass the time.

Rossen and Department of Eagles covered the same ground as they do on In Ear Park, just without the same depth and breadth. Especially with Luke Temple and Here We Go Magic opening for them, they make for a fine wintry evening’s entertainment but in the end, they will leave you anticipating the imminent return of Grizzly Bear.

Sun Studio Sessions: Jay Nash

Jay Nash is an L.A. based singer-songwriter who fits right in with the Hotel Cafe vibe (where he often plays). Best Music Live says Jay's sound "congers up similarities somewhere between John Mayer, Johnny Cash, Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson." I'd agree on the Cash and Johnson comparisons in particular. Jay makes it clear Johnny is an influence so it is particularly interesting to see Jay perform in the very room were "Walk the Line" and "Folsum Prison" where first recorded.

Here on this installment of Sun Studio Sessions Jay performs "Baby Tornado" and is joined by the talented Garrison Starr:



Jay is currently on tour with Greg Laswell, you can get dates here.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Katy Perry Tour Dates

Katy Perry was certainly hot in 2008. Her song "I Kissed A Girl" was seemingly everywhere and she quickly shook off any notions of being a one hit wonder with the follow up single "Hot 'n Cold."

Now Perry will try to parlay last year's successes into a hit 2009 tour. After kicking off this weekend in Seattle, here are the upcoming U.S. tour dates.

01/25/2009 The Commodore Vancouver, Canada
01/26/2009 Crystal Ballroom Portland, OR
01/28/2009 The Fillmore San Francisco, CA
01/29/2009 The Empire Sacramento, CA
01/31/2009 The Wiltern Los Angeles, CA
02/02/2009 University of Arizona Tucson Tuscon, AZ
02/03/2009 Marquee Theatre Tempe, AZ
02/05/2009 House of Blues San Diego, CA
02/10/2009 In The Venue Salt Lake City, UT

Beyond out on tour, you can also catch Katy on television February 8th on the Grammys when she participates in "My Grammy Moment", where one aspiring performer (selected by fan voting) will get to sing with her. Whoever wins, they should be sure to wear some cherry chapstick! Just in case...particularly since Perry now says her celibacy "vow" was just a joke.

More Katy Perry:

Lily Allen Lesbian Threesome Kiss Confession

Lily Allen is seemingly still trying to out tabloid Amy Whinehouse. Following her accidental topless text, Lily is outing a different set of twins. This time the twins are two young ladies the UK singer says she's "snogged" in the past:



On the music front, Allen recently released a cover of the Clash's "Straight To Hell" for the War Child: Heroes record due out February 15th. Clash purists may not dig it, but it really isn't that bad as Allen puts her own spin on it. You can listen here.

Some times I think Lily Allen is insecure about her singing ability. If so, that (and her young age) would help explain all the trashtastic behavior. But, hey, maybe she just realizes that stories of lesbian sex will help sell more records. She may be right, particularly if there is a video tape on the horizon!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Jason Bajada: Ten Days in Miami

Jason Bajada is a singer-songwriter based in Montreal who I learned of about 18 months ago via fellow Canadian troubadour Jon McKiel. He's got a bevy of catchy tunes, including "Ten Days in Miami."

The songs is from his upcoming release Loveshit (due out in February). Here is the new video:



You can check out more tunes and see some tour dates on his Myspace page.

Bruce Springsteen European Tour Dates

In between helping get Barack Obama elected President and getting ready for his upcoming Super Bowl performance, Bruce Springsteen has been readying his new record, the appropriately titled for the times Working On A Dream. While a big fan of most Springsteen studio records, the true magic from this man comes from his live performances. Seeing Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (preferably somewhere in New Jersey) should be on any music fan's bucket list. Beyond the Tampa Super Bowl show, the U.S. tour plan has not been released yet. However, several European dates have been and for those across the pond who may not be easily able to make it to Giants Stadium anytime soon here are your upcoming chances to party with the Boss:

Tampere, FIN Ratinan Stadion June 2
Stockholm, SWE Stockholm Stadion June 4-5
Bergen, NOR Bergenhus Festning June 9-10
Munich, GER Olympiastadion July 2
Frankfurt, GER Commerzbank Arena July 3
Vienna, AUT Ernst Happel Stadion July 5
Herning, DEN Herning Messe Center July 8
Rome, ITA Olimpico Stadium July 19
Torino, ITA Palaolimpico July 21
Udine, ITA Stadio Friuli July 23

Britney Spears: If You Seek Amy Lyrics Controversy

Britney Spears' song "If You Seek Amy" is creating a "controversy" with a parental advisory group claiming the song title, when sung really fast, sounds like "F-U-C-K me." The Parental Television Council says this violated indecency standards and is urging the FCC to take action against radio stations playing the song.

First, let's get one thing out of the way. I like Britney, but this song sucks. In my opinion it is just a contrived vehicle to use this code phrase for the F word. (Oh wait, I'm in the internet I can say fuck, right?) I do agree with the PTC guy who says this song is clearly not about a girl name Amy and is really a song about F-ing, or at least talking about the possibility of F-ing. But, he's really only doing Britney a favor by protesting.

Protesting a song is the surest way for an otherwise mediocre effort to climb the charts. According to Reuters, radio stations are playing the song more frequently and has climbed into the Billboard 100 pop chart. Also, Soundscan says the single has sold over 100,000 copies. With the media attention further spotlighting "If You Seek Amy" you it's a safe bet that both numbers will rise. Here are the offending lyrics and you can listen here:

Lalalalala
Oh baby baby
Have you seen Amy tonight?
Is she in the bathroom
Is she smokin' up outside
Oh

Oh baby baby
Does she take a piece of lime
For the drink that Imma buy her
Do you know just what she likes
Oh

Oh Oh
Tell me have you seen her
Because I'm so
Oh
I can't get her off of my brain

I just want to go to the party she gonna go
Can somebody take me home
Ha ha he ha ha ho

Love me hate me
Say what you want about me
But all of the boys and all of the girls are begging to If You Seek Amy
Love me hate me
But can't you see what I see
All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to If You Seek Amy

Lalalalalala

Amy told me that she's gonna meet me up
I don't know where or when and now they're closing up the club
Oh

I've seen her want to drive before she knows my face
But it's hard to see with all the people standing in the way
Oh

Oh oh
Tell me have you seen her
Because I'm so
Oh
I can't get her off of my brain

I just want to go to the party she's gonna go
Can somebody take me home
Ha ha he ha ha ho

Love me hate me
Say what you want about me
But all of the boys and all of the girls are begging to If You Seek Amy
Love me hate me
But can't you see what I see
All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to If You Seek Amy

Oh
So what you want about me
Oh
But can't you see what I see
Oh
So what you want about me

So tell me if you've seen her
Cause I've been waiting here forever
Oh baby baby
If You Seek Amy tonight
Oh
Oh baby baby
We'll do whatever you like
Oh baby baby baby
Oh baby baby baby

Lalalalalala
Lalalalalala

Love me hate me
So what you want about me
But all of the boys and all of the girls are begging to If You Seek Amy
Love me hate me
But can't you seek what I see
All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to If You Seek Amy
Love me hate me so what you want about me (yeah)
Love me hate me
But can't you see what I see
All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to If You Seek Amy

Oh
So what you want about me
Oh
But can't you see what I see
Oh So what you want about me

All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to If You Seek Amy

Faces Stay Hidden . . . For Now

Rod Stewart and Ron Wood may not be showing their Faces just yet. Earlier this week, word spread of a new Faces album and a world tour with Flea handling the bass duties of the departed Ronnie Lane. Dashing expectations before they could build, Rod Stewart (through a spokesperson) quashed the stories claiming that no tour is imminent and implying that the so-called Faces album is really a Ron Wood solo album.

With Mott The Hoople, The Dead and other bands from the Flower Power era finding it profitable to venture back on stage together, it should just be a matter of time and logistics until The Faces reveal themselves once more.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Heartless Bastards: The Mountain

By: Rinjo Njori

***1/2*

The Heartless Bastards have grown exponentially since their blues metal tinged origins. Two plus years since All This Time, Erika Wennerstrom is taking them to "next level" on her third album, The Mountain. This time out Wennerstrom has not only changed locales but also her supporting players: Kevin Vaughn and Mike Lamping stayed behind when Wennerstrom relocated from Ohio to Austin, Texas so she found fellow Ohio ex-pats and ex-Bastard's Dave Colvin (drums) and Jesse Ebaugh (bass) to fill out the band. Since Stairs and Elevators, the Heartless Bastards have evolved from a blues tinged alternative power trio, to an experimental group with more complex arrangements on All This Time and finally into the multi-layered rock band that returns on The Mountain.

You could easily argue that Wennerstrom made the best decision by getting out of Dodge . . .er, Ohio, but the entire album is one large look back on that introspective journey. Filled with despair, regret and the consequence of bad and good decisions alike the anger is swelling underneath every note and word. With that in mind, Wennerstrom stops/starts, hems/haws, and generally never gets past a cautiously optimistic thought. Stairs and Elevators was for the most part straight ahead alternative rock faithfully guided by Wennerstrom's strong song craft, but rarely diverting from the same formula except for bluesy "Done Got Old" and the piano ballad "Piano Song." All This Time hinted at Wennerstrom's potential. On the lush "I Swallowed a Dragonfly," the orchestration set it apart from the more straight ahead rock songs and brought to light some themes buried beneath the big riffs.. More importantly the songs themselves seemed to find Wennerstrom is a fairly good state of mind. This has all changed and taken a decisive direction. On "Hold Your Head High," she quickly admits, "I have made a lot of choices most of them have not been wise."

Instead of playing the whine and blame game, she has decided to take responsibility, accept the consequences and seethingly wait for a better day. This fills The Mountain from start to finish. "Sway" and "Early in the Morning" are probably the closest to the Heartless Bastards' two previous albums and two of the strongest tracks. The music perfectly matches the desperation of the lyrics. On the latter Wennerstrom laments being with someone for the sake of being with someone and the numbing feeling of loveless intimacy. While the former gives into that despair and looks to make the necessary changes. Both songs build up to a crescendo that seems to be reminiscent of a more experimental and primal Led Zeppelin. "Could Be So Happy" sticks to vocals and acoustic guitar, making it the lightest moment on The Mountain and its the closest the lyrics come to lighthearted and optimistic. Similarly, the title track uses that same cautious optimism, leaning heavily on the ghosts of Led Zeppelin's "When The Levee Breaks." Instead of a wailing harmonica, a twangy slide guitar riff weaves in and out of the song. Zeppelin's classic cautiously warned of an impending flood from the storm, but Wennerstrom taps into the possibility of reaching your goal (or that disaster) and not getting what you expected.

Even though, musically, The Mountain stretches light years beyond Stairs and Elevators, the more toned down tracks stop the album dead in its tracks. "So Quiet" not only utilizes the clich├ęd analogy comparing seasons to the cycle of love, it keeps the instrumentation painfully simple. Each instrument, if you will, has it's moment. Even though the song is short, pairing it with "Had to Go" brings you close to ten minutes of excruciatingly depressing music. With a run time of almost eight minutes with various interludes of banjo and violin, it's not hard to wonder if the song title is supposed to be ironic. Luckily, only "Could Be So Happy" approaches the dulled effect of these two tracks and the remainder of the album only suffers from some minor miscues. For instance, the vocals on "Wide Awake" bury some of the best music on the album. Wennerstrom's vocals might be the key ingredient to the Heartless Bastard's, but the music gives the vocals their brawn.

With all this wait, it's hard to remember tracks like "Brazen" (from All This Time) and "The Swamp Song" (from Stairs and Elevators) co-existing with the material on The Mountain. Then again, the theme of this album is ultimately that discovery is equal parts pain and consequence. If you look hard enough behind "The Swamp Song" and "Brazen," the story is pretty much the same behind the big beats and riffs. The tone is different, wholly more appropriate, and thankfully not painfully obvious.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ryan Adams Not Quitting; Just Stepping Back

Ryan Adams inadvertently sent shock waves throughout his fan base when rumors spread that he was quitting the music business upon the conclusion of his tour with the Cardinals. After posting a long, rambling but earnest blog post about his desire to take some time off, the Internet ran wild with stories that the mercurial Adams was hanging up his guitar for good.

Rather than let the story build momentum, Adams quickly addressed the issue on his blog, leaving the following post:

"Of course everything i said got taken out of context.

as always,

i did not say i was quitting i said i was taking a step back . . .

so thanks . . . . . thanks again"

Adams' fans shouldn't go into mourning too quickly: musicians tend to stay retired about as long a professional wrestlers and Brett Favre.

The Internet Outwits Deadheads

Tickets for The Dead's 2009 reunion tour went on sale yesterday through the band's Web site, www.dead.net. If a quick persual of the various Dead message boards is any indication, the greater Deadhead universe is ready to go back to days of mail order . . . and $22 tickets. As if the whining over ticket prices isn't bad enough - its been 13 years since Jerry Garcia died and it seems that way too many Deadheads haven't yet found profitable jobs - the Dead.net ticket processing system did a poor job of handling the increased traffic.

Seriously though, Deadheads having trouble with the Internet? Is anyone really surprised?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Under New York Neon: Toubab Krewe At S.O.B.’s

By: David Schultz

The compilation of the year end best-of lists rekindled a long running debate over the success of Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut. While some were troubled by what they perceived as the Ivy League quartet’s lack of respect and glib appropriation of African rhythms into their educated brand of Afro-pop, many others found no quarrel with the band’s use of world beats. Although they also derive their inspiration from the Dark Continent, no such criticism hounds the Toubab Krewe. Having honed their craft in Mali, Guinea and the Ivory Coast, the quintet from Asheville, North Carolina nimbly incorporate West African music and instruments into their music, creating a heady, original brand of instrumental music while retaining a fine sense of traditionalism. This past week, Toubab Krewe kicked off a small east coast run of shows with an intimate performance at S.O.B.’s, one of the oldest world music venues still active in New York City.

Even before Toubab Krewe plays their first note, you realize you are in for something slightly of the beaten path. Seated at the front of the stage, Justin Perkins sits between two stately instruments that look like the type of artifacts little kids are told not to touch in someone’s house. Looking like large harps attached to halved gourds with a hacky sack exterior, Perkins plays the kamel ngoni and the much larger kora in the same manner that Robert Randolph works the pedal steel; instead of treating it with a reverence that borders on the sacrosanct, Perkins plucks away at the African instruments’ strings as if he’s a jazz bassist or flamenco guitarist.

As for the music, the Krewe won’t be mistaken for generic happy-go-lucky purveyors of tribal rhythms. Rather, Toubab Krewe are what Vampire Weekend would have sounded like if their parents took away their BMWs, dosed their white wine spritzers and locked them in Fela’s basement. (Let’s just all agree that whether or not you like Vampire Weekend, it’s perfectly acceptable to make fun of Ivy Leaguers). At S.O.B.’s, they went through some easy going paces, notably “Maliba,” with it’s blue-grass, Americana lilt, some uptempo, neo-psychedelic groove burners like the opener “51 Ft Ladder” and Link Wray era surf-rock “Buncombe To Badala” with Drew Heller’s guitar solos sounding ripped from the acid pop of the Sixties. Bassist David Pransky and drummer Teal Brown kept things anchored, at times steamrolling along with the simplicity of Johnny Cash or working a bit more eccentrically to allow percussionist Luke Quaranta, Heller and Perkins to create a wild olio of American electric jazz and its African analog.

The Krewe’s energy level only dipped when they backed off to provide support for the spoken word contributions of Umar Bin Hassan of The Last Poets. While the interludes work fantastically on the recently released Live At The Orange Peel, Hassan’s passionate delivery didn’t make up for the somewhat lackadaisical melodies the Krewe played behind him. A daring change of pace, the poetry breaks, which included a recitation of “Jimi’s Juju,” just didn’t flow extremely well with the rest of the set.

For Thursday night’s show, the only nod to tradition came during the encore. Rearranging the stage to accommodate the additional percussion, Pransky moved behind an enormous kettle drum that had until then remained dormant for “Petit Amadies,” a lengthy drum circle jam. Along with U-Melt and the Avett Brothers, Toubab Krewe fell into the group of bands that got passed over for New Groove of the Year when the Jammy Awards bypassed 2007. Whether they would have won or not, the Krewe’s inclusion of traditional West African instruments in decidedly nontraditional ways has resulted in a sound distinctly their own.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Out On The Backstreets: U-Melt & BuzzUniverse Usher In The New Year In Asbury Park

By: David Schultz

New York City never lacks for quality concerts on New Year’s Eve: Patti Smith can always be found on the Lower East Side at the Bowery Ballroom, Gov’t Mule usually hitches their post further north and this year, My Morning Jacket headlined Madison Square Garden. For the past three years, U-Melt has offered a late night addendum to the annual festivities, starting their set while most of Manhattan crawls into bed and customarily jamming to the break of dawn. This year, U-Melt moved from the after hours to the main event, ringing in the New Year at The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, New Jersey with special guests BuzzUniverse, The Point and guitarist Keith Kenny.

Originally scheduled to take place at The Stone Pony, the venue where local boy Bruce Springsteen first practiced his craft, the Asbury Park extravaganza had to relocate down the street due to unfinished repairs. Opening with Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ In The Years,” U-Melt - Zac Lasher (keys), Rob Salzer (guitar), Adam Bendy (bass) and George Miller (drums) - peppered their first set with both parts of “A Robbins Tale” and disconnected versions of “Schizophrenia” and “Red Star” Undaunted by the change of venue, U-Melt flourished in the excitement of the waning moments of 2008, shifting quickly into “Auld Lang Syne” as the final grains of sand passed through the hourglass. We’ll discount the fact that they announced 2009 about a minute early; their timing will be much better for 2010.

Prior to U-Melt’s set, New Jersey’s own BuzzUniverse played a marvelous eighty-minute set that gradually and assuredly got the growing crowd into the spirit of the evening. Fresh off of playing one of the final sets at New York City’s Knitting Factory, BuzzUniverse took the Asbury Park stage as a lean, stripped down four piece, with guitarist Alex Garay, drummer Dave Migliore, bassist Greg McLoughlin and saxophonist Brian Ciufo broadening the confines of the intimate stage with grooves like “Hydroponic Boogie,” “In The Sun” and “Hour.” BuzzU’s expertly wrought tunes are perfect for making guests feel welcome on their stage. At their Jingle Jam Christmas party, Jason Crosby seamlessly worked his violin into “This Ol’ Cowboy” and “Earth Is Moving” and on New Years, Lasher provided a potent dose of keys on “Round And Round.”

Seeing as U-Melt wavered slightly from tradition this year by moving their New Year’s after-hours set to prime time, I too will adjust with the times. Every year around this time, I implore you to make listening to U-Melt a part of your New Year’s resolutions; I do not waver on that point but I will broaden it to include BuzzUniverse, another band that is worthy of your attention. Get on this: Now!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Phish Tour Dates

This is the news Phish Phans have been waiting months for.

6/04 - Nikon at Jones Beach Theater - Wantagh, NY
6/05 - Nikon at Jones Beach Theater - Wantagh, NY
6/06 - Comcast Center - Mansfield, MA
6/07 - Susquehanna Bank Center - Camden, NJ
6/09 - Asheville Civic Center - Asheville, NC
6/16 - Fox Theatre - St. Louis, MO
6/18 - Post Gazette Pavilion - Burgettstown, PA
6/19 - Verizon Wireless Music Center - Noblesville, IN
6/20 - Alpine Valley - East Troy, WI
6/21 - Alpine Valley - East Troy, WI

In a post-modern nod to the old Grateful Dead mail-order days, the band is making an undisclosed number of tickets available through the Phish Tickets online ticketing system. They will take orders until noon on January 17th and then disburse them, ostensibly by lottery.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Gov't Mule: Rockin' It Fine At The Hammerstein

By: David Schultz

Twas the night before New Year and all through the Big Apple
There was but one question with which we did grapple
We’ve already passed through the holiday of Yule
Was it worth it this night to see Gov’t Mule?

All stops would be pulled for next evening’s show
Pearl Jam, Nirvana, grunge rock, you know
No reason to think thoughts of all doom and gloom
It’s still Warren Haynes at the Hammerstein Ballroom

“Blind Man In The Dark” started the set
And with Warren and Co., you know what you get
Some well-chosen covers and a couple guest spots
High octane boogie and blues by the lots

In tribute to Hubbard, some jazz they did play
Offering a fine version of Freddie’s “Red Clay”
Jeff Young and Vivino gave Mule a hand
As did Marc Quinones from the Allman Brothers Band

They covered the Zeppelin encased in Led
They played “Tomorrow Never Knows” out of “She Said, She Said”
Haynes’ gruffly toned voice and licks never simplistic
Gave a weathered dimension to “Into The Mystic”

Obama in 09, “Yes We Can,” Heaven Sakes!
A little righteous glee to “When The Levee Breaks”
It was a stellar show but not one to make news
Even if it ended with a great “32/20 Blues”

In 2009, Haynes star will be streakin’
Reunion with The Dead and a residency at the Beacon
But in 2008, for one final date
The Mule were not sublime but they were pretty great

Ron Asheton (1948-2009)

Ron Asheton, the influential guitarist responsible for many of The Stooges groundbreaking guitar riffs, was found dead Tuesday morning at his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Asheton's death is being attributed to natural causes, likely a heart attack. Though Asheton’s passing will surely be noticed in the press, the mainstream media will likely not grasp the significance of Asheton’s significant achievements and lasting effect on the history of rock and roll.

The Midwest’s counterpart to the Velvet Underground, The Stooges cast the same glowering sneer on the Flower Power generation and both bands’ influence over the next four decades is exponentially inverse to their popularity in their prime. Overshadowed by Iggy Pop’s charisma and over-the-top stage antics, Ron Asheton’s legacy is not the most apparent to the casual listener. On The Stooges’ early albums, you can hear the origins of punk rock in Asheton’s powerful and unapologetic guitar, you can also hear the genesis of grunge, make out the origins of shoegazing and just about feel the Earth slightly quiver.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Clapton & Beck Say "Konnichiwa" To Shows In Japan

A couple Yardbirds of a feather will return to the nest this February when Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, two of the greatest guitarists to ever pick up the instrument, will headline a pair of shows at the Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Although the two each got their start in The Yardbirds, they weren't in the legendary British band at the same time. Rather, Beck replaced Clapton after the latter left the band.

Clapton has made interesting reunions a near annual event, helping reform Cream in 2005 and pairing up with former Blind Faith bandmate Steve Winwood in 2008. Unlike Clapton's previous efforts, he won't be letting out New York City's Madison Square Garden for the occasion so anyone wanting to see Clapton and Beck battle it out on the same stage better start brushing up on their Japanese.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Dead To Tour in 2009

With the New Year comes official news of a "Grateful" Dead reunion tour. The Dead's 2009 lineup will consist of the surviving four original members, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann and be rounded out with Ratdog keyboardist Jeff Chimienti and, in line with his reputation as the hardest working man in rock roll, guitarist Warren Haynes.

Given the continual success of Ratdog and Phil Lesh & Friends' annual tours, The Dead should have no trouble filling the stadiums they are booked into for their Spring 09 run of shows. The tour kicks off April 12 at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina and runs through May 10, where the tour will end with a show at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, CA. Of note, on April 25, The Dead will return to Madison Square Garden for the first time since a 6 night run in October of 1994.

Tickets go on sale nationwide on January 23 with a pre-sale through dead.net commencing on January 13.

The Dead's offical tour page is here.

The Allmans Announce Beacon Residency for March 2009

Warren Haynes will be keeping himself busy in the early parts of 2009. In addition to a Winter tour with Gov't Mule and a Spring tour with The Dead, Haynes will be an integral part of The Allman Brothers Band annual residency at New York City's Beacon Theater. This year's residency will celebrate not only the 40th anniversary of the band but their 20th anniversary of their first appearance at the Beacon. The dates already announced are March 9-10, 12-14, 16-17 and 19-21. As with past residencies, expect shows to be added along the way.

The ABB postponed and ultimately cancelled their 2008 residency due to Gregg Allman's health. The legendary keyboard player won't be the only one rejuventated for 2009; the Beacon itself has undergone renovation and the Allmans' residency will be the first true showcase since reopening.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!