Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cougar Country?: Tom Jones At Terminal 5

By: David Schultz

Roughly ten minutes before Tom Jones took the stage at New York City’s Terminal 5, one of the biggest misconceptions about his concerts had been disproved. Based upon some shoddy information and possibly my own wandering imagination, I had been led to believe that the crowd would be populated with more cougars on the prowl than the South American plains. The Welsh-born superstar still attracts his share of rabid female fans but they now bring a spare pair of panties to throw at the stage instead of removing the ones they came with. Imagining an arena full of randy cougars gone wild probably serves as a metaphor for the show itself: the idea of seeing Tom Jones in concert was actually more fun than actually seeing him.

Tom Jones comes from the same school of performing as Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond and even Liberace; they know that a concert is also supposed to be a show and that a fine voice and a charismatic personality trumps flashy guitar solos and overblown stage theatrics every night of the week. Remaining true to that tenet, Tom Jones manages to defy classification and in many ways he transcends cool. Terminal 5 may not have been the ideal venue for Jones: the sound mix at the beginning overwhelmed the voice that everyone came to hear and more than half of Jones set wasn’t designed for a crowd watching from their feet. Then again, Jones has always had that twinge of hipness that makes his appearance on a stage that’s held Iggy Pop, The Hold Steady and Vampire Weekend not as oxymoronic as you might imagine.

At the core, Jones’ allure is that he’s a showman and for the first part of his set, he seemed disinclined to put on a show. Singing, as opposed to presenting, the songs from his latest album 24 Hours, the first forty-five minutes plodded melodically but uncomfortably along. Aided by Jones’ lack of true enthusiasm, (he had plenty of the plastic kind), the warmed over blues, disco and easy listening did little to prompt any real excitement. Once he started entertaining, his charisma and powerful voice, which still remains strong, carried the day and you got a taste of the legendary performer.

Eyes beaming like he’d had one Red Bull too many, Jones flashed glimpses of the swarthy Welshman that could bed the entire front row but there were also bits of stilted dancing that made him the Vegas version of Dan Aykroyd’s male prostitute Fred Garvin. With the exception of a section of the balcony infested with cougars, Jones seemed to have trouble making eye contact with the audience. Perhaps used to playing bigger rooms, he knew how to entertain the crowd but didn’t seem to have the intimate knack for getting them involved that you would expect from a veteran performer.

It took a while for Jones to get warmed up and he closed the show with a run through many of his tried and true hits. On surefire crowd-pleasers like “She’s A Lady,” “It’s Not Unusual” and “What’s New, Pussycat,” Jones was in all his Vegas-style glory. The recital of many of the songs seemed a little too well-rehearsed but retained enough looseness to remain fun. Jones ’ hair and beard are streaked with a little more gray than in recent years and his set length may be whittled to under ninety minutes but Jones knows how to finished strong. Prior to closing the night with hip-shaking covers of “Venus” and his Art Of Noise inflected version of Prince’s “Kiss,” he found a time capsule and broke out some vintage dance moves on “Leave Your Hat On.” When you see a 67-year-old singer earn his thrown panties instead of getting them tossed his way solely on his reputation, you’ve seen something inspiring.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bruce Springsteen: Working On A Dream

By: David Schultz

When Bruce Springsteen released Magic, stories floated around that Springsteen had recorded enough material for a second album. Listening to Working On A Dream, you wouldn’t be hard pressed to believe that those rumors were true; too much of The Boss’ latest sounds like material that didn’t make the cut in 2007. Overly earnest songs of the plight of the working class sung by a multi-millionaire who reached his exalted status by singing paeans of busting out of his humble origins need to be crafted just right or they lose all relevance. On Working On A Dream, Springsteen’s creative barometer is slightly askew and instead of achieving poignancy, he comes up with songs like “Queen Of The Supermarket,” which would be the Springsteen parody since “Tweeter And The Monkey Man” if the spoof wasn’t unintentional.

Springsteen sounds like he’s having a blast, romping through “Good Eye” but his Seeger tinged “Surprise, Surprise” lacks the populist heart. Where Magic had a disquieting furor underscoring its reformative ethos, Working On A Dream contains the remnants of The Boss’ Yes We Can thoughts of idle optimism. When Springsteen is inspired, there’s no one better and slogging through the overly long (I Was Made For Loving) “Outlaw Pete,” which borrows way too heavily from the lowest point of Kiss’ career, pays dividends by the album’s end. “The Last Carnival” Springsteen’s elegy for Danny Federici hearkens back to the Greetings From Asbury Park days and even though the soaring gospel chorus that closes the song doesn’t entirely flow, it’s a fitting and apt coda to a heartfelt song. “The Wrestler” also hits its mark, Springsteen’s song for the Mickey Rourke vehicle, criminally ignored by this year’s Academy Awards, serves as a more apt encomium for the national mindset then any of the pablum that precedes it.

Springsteen has always had an intimate feel for the American mindset and outside of “The Wrestler,” Working On A Dream seems like last year’s sentiment. Perhaps if he’d waited a couple more months to truly get a feel for the economic collapse, Springsteen could have had come up with something epic, instead, we get the equivalent of a rummage through his closet.

Ryan Montbleau Band: Sun Studio Sessions "Honeymoon Eyes"

The Ryan Montbleau Band, like Backyard Tire Fire, is a group of road warriors honing their stagecraft just under the radar of the national media spotlight but nonetheless winning over fans from coast to coast one show at a time. Another similarity they share with BTF, is that they do quite well on the festival circuit but have not delved too deeply into the scene so as to not get pigeon-holed as a "jam band."

Here, RMB, performs live at Sun Studio, laying down "Honeymoon Eyes" from their 2006 release One Fine Color:

RMB is definitely a band worth checking out live! You can get a list of their tour dates here to check them out live when they play near you.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Jen Crowell Record Release Show In Brattleboro

The record release party for Vermont songstress Jen Crowell's wonderful debut disc, Cold Front, will take place tonight February 20 at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center in Brattleboro, VT. For the show, Crowell will play the original members of the Woods Vehicle, Stefan Amidon, Max Adam and Scott Tournet (Grace Potter & The Nocturnals). One of our favorites, we guarantee that Crowell will be worth braving whatever snow may fall.

The next Friday, Crowell and The Woods Vehicle will be playing at the Weathervane Music Hall as part of a three band bill.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion

By: David Schultz

The Internet has spoken: Animal Collective are unparalleled geniuses and a little more than a month into the new year, their latest album, Merriweather Post Pavilion is already without question the best of 2009. Since the Internet is never prone to mistakes or hyperbole, we can just declare this discussion closed. Seeing as in March, the same bloggers will proclaim The Decemberists’ Hazards Of Love as the greatest contribution to auditory entertainment since Beethoven sat at the piano, perhaps some more reasoned thought can be given to Animal Collective’s latest.

Merriweather Post Pavilion has been repeatedly referred to as Animal Collective’s most accessible album to date. It’s true but given their penchant for infusing dreamy repetitive melodies with anarchic yelps and primal screams, any offering that tends to avoid antagonizing the casual listener would qualify as its most accessible. The real reason discerning music lovers (i.e. music snobs) are drooling over MPP is that for the first time they can play Animal Collective for their less adventurous friends without apologizing or lecturing about their evasive genius.

Animal Collective has toned down their wild inclination for experimentation and culled together a remarkable collection of songs. In cultivating their electronic pulses and hypnotically repetitive rhythms in their most pleasing manner yet, they’ve created an album that’s both pacific and psychedelic. Picking up and expanding on Panda Bear’s Person Pitch, Animal Collective has stopped undercutting their own melodic impulses. “In The Flowers” marches onward with an alien, martial beat, “Summertime Clothes” has a playfully elastic bounce and “No More Runnin’” and “Taste” peacefully drift along with lush, textured loops and layers. With the exception of a couple Roger Rabbit yelps on “Brothersport,” Animal Collective remains challenging without losing their slightly lunatic bent. For an oddball, experimental group, the decipherable lyrics predominantly depict relatively domestic scenes. “Lion In A Coma” goes in another direction, making up for its cryptic message with a nifty Didgeridoo-like background and existential schoolyard chant of a chorus.

It’s fun to take the piss out of the blogosphere’s penchant for exaggerated overstatements. However, in this case, you don’t need to heed the words of Chuck D: the hype here can be believed.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A New Page Is Written: Parlor Mob At The Mercury Lounge

By: David Schultz

For a select few, popularity and acclaim seem to come without effort. Although it’s never really that simple, some bands make it appear like all it took was a hastily recorded album, a quick tour around the country and a couple well-placed interviews and voila, you’re a nationally recognized name. The bitter reality is that there are often forces well outside any artist’s control that significantly affect the situation. The Parlor Mob are one of those bands that can dissertate at length on the subject. After cutting their teeth in the Asbury Park scene as What About Frank?, the band rechristened themselves with their edgier moniker and attracted the attention of Capitol Records. The corporate fallout from the label’s 2007 merger with Virgin Records left the Mob in the lurch and just at the point where things were breaking in their favor, they were back at square one. Almost two years later, The Parlor Mob have thankfully not dispersed. Recently headliners of a Friday night show at the Mercury Lounge in New York City, the Parlor Mob are thriving and adding to their masses.

My first exposure to The Parlor Mob was at 2007’s South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. While getting ready to leave Fado’s Irish Pub on West 4th Street, it took the New Jersey quintet little more than the initial guitar riffs of “Bullet” and Mark Melicia’s Robert Plant quality wail to keep me riveted for the next hour. As Capitol Records had the Mob sitting in limbo at this time, it was a performance fueled by nothing more than the band’s unwavering belief in themselves. For a band that specializes in the transmogrified electrified blues of the Seventies era, what better source of inspiration could they have drawn from?

Owing a debt to heavy riff-laden behemoths like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, The Parlor Mob bring the genre forward rather than engaging in the mimicry of a past era. If Wolfmother hadn’t attracted all the revival press back in 2006-2007 with their Song Remains The Same medieval imagery, those same plaudits might have been reserved for The Parlor Mob’s decidedly less Dungeons & Dragons inspired debut on Roadrunner Records, And You Were A Crow. The Zeppelin influence, so prominent in Austin, still remains and it is still glorious. Over the Bonham-quality bursts of drummer Sam Bey, guitarists Dave Rosen and Paul Ritchie provide a thunderous double assault. From the straightforward charge of "Hard Times" through the easy gait of "Everything You're Breathing For," they deliver a visceral gut punch while retaining all the finesse that marks the finest and most enjoyable electric blues explorations.

Adding depth and authenticity in much the same was as Dead Confederate's Hardy Morris, Mark Melicia generates such power and majesty from the raw, impassioned wailing blues that Robert Plant comparisons are unavoidable. Coming from a frame that shouldn’t support such a voice, Melicia delivered the swagger of the opener “Real Hard Headed” with the same zeal, if not really the same cockiness, as the celebrated singer and he buoyed “Can’t Keep No Good Boy Down,” with a remarkable folk-blues fervor. It’s on the slow burning tunes where Melicia’s mastery flourishes; on a new track, “Cry Wolf,” he conjured the tortured blues with the same inflections and gravity as Janis Joplin in her prime.

The Parlor Mob are spending the rest of the winter down south before heading overseas for a few dates in England.

Peter Gabriel To Protest At The Oscars

You can bring Peter Gabriel to the Oscars, but you can't make him sing. The cerebral singer, long an activist for human rights, is giving the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences a nice little headache. Nominated for Best Song for "Down To Earth," his contribution to Wall-E, Gabriel has opted against performing on the broadcast after learning that he and the other two nominated songs would be given approximately ninety seconds each as part of a mid-show medley. Given the long and often ghastly performances from years past, it's hard to figure how the Academy could want to limit Gabriel's exposure or M.I.A.'s, whose "O Saya" from Slumdog Millionaire is also nominated. Then again, this is the same group that opted to nominate nothing over Bruce Springsteen's "The Wrestler."

If someone else sings "Down To Earth" while Gabriel watches on, it will bring to mind the 1985 Oscar telecast when Amy Irving sang "Against All Odds" while Phil Collins inexplicably sat in the audience. Perhaps the Oscars have an anti-Genesis bias or maybe just really dig Mike Rutherford? Interestingly enough, that year Collins, Ray Parker, Jr. ("Ghostbusters") and Kenny Loggins ("Footloose") all lost to Stevie Wonder, who took home the award for the diabetes-inducing "I Just Called To Say To Say I Love You."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Garrison Starr: Sun Studio Sessions "Gasoline"

You may recall Garrison Starr from her major label days at Geffen Records or maybe the two she did with Vanguard. Either way, she's always been an indie troubadour at heart. Here Garrison, accompanied by Jay Nash, performs "Gasoline" live at Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee:

Besides often touring with Jay, over the years Garrison has toured with Rhett Miller (from Old 97's), Edwin McCain, Mindy Smith, Melissa Etheridge, Steve Earle, Melissa Ferrick, and Mary Chapin-Carpenter. You can hear more songs from Garrison and see tour dates here.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Lost Untangled Borrowing Action Figure Idea?

Lost is no doubt a television phenomenon. The show has a huge following, but like any show, its producers are looking for ways to draw more viewers. One problem Lost has though are its incredibly intricate plot lines that have weaved a somewhat complicated web over 4+ seasons.

Now in Season Five, Lost producers have introduced a way for new viewers to catch up on what has happened in prior episodes without having to sit through all the prior season DVDs, which (even though it seems like the thing to do to catch up) might also still leave new viewers scratching their heads a bit. So, to help new viewers they've created a video type of cliff notes called Lost Untangled where they re-enact shows in short clips using action figures giving you the major plot line highlights.

However, the Fine Brothers, a comedy duo, say they've been doing Lost parodies with action figures for sometime and hint that the show may have borrowed their idea. From their blog the write: "We will never truly know the back story of how this came about, but it is hard not to feel like someone at ABC saw our series, and rather than reach out to us to create it, did it themselves." The Fine Brothers don't seem to be contemplating legal action they say they just want the recognition for their creative endeavours.

Yet, the Fine Brothers aren't the only ones doing action figure versions of Lost. Indeed, they may not have even been the first. The Kirk and Skylar Show starting filming it's condensed recaps with action figures back in December of 2007 and got a bit of press when they launched in early 2008 including an Entertainment Weekly feature. Kirk and Skylar Folk re-enacted the entire first season of Lost and now for Season Five have topped both ABC's Lost Untangled and the Fine Brothers by taking the creative process a step further by posting parodies of "deleted scenes" from Lost as they imagine them complete with obscure references from the series and beyond.

So far for Season Five of Lost, they have created suggested deleted scenes for "The Little Prince" (view here), "Jughead" (view here), "The Lie" and "Because You Left (view here) episodes. Seems the Fine Brothers are correct about one thing for sure, there is indeed creativity thriving on the web that networks and established production houses should be tapping into.

Rebecca Hart To Play Joe's Pub On February 15

Rebecca Hart & The Sexy Children will be playing Joe's Pub within The Public Theater on Sunday night, February 15. The showcase will be the lovely singer's debut on the Pub's cabaret stage. Backed by The Sexy Children - who are Dan Barman and Licorice's David Lott and Matt Epstein - Hart will make her return to the New York area after an extended engagement in Louisville, Kentucky with Rock & Roll: The Reunion Tour.

Monday is a holiday so New Yorkers have no excuse for not coming to Joe's Pub and having a good time on Sunday night.


By: David Schultz

Z Rock, IFC’s not very Conchord-like series about a hard rocking power trio that pays the bills by playing children’s birthday parties, plays off the real life story of its stars, ZO2. Unlike the days when The Monkees and The Partridge Family faked their way through many of the songs, today’s rock music based shows opt for The Commitments style of casting, figuring its easier to find musicians who can act then the other way around. (You can all insert your own Scarlett Johansson joke here). The Brooklyn based ZO2 – brothers Paulie Z and David Z and Joey Cassata are no neophytes to this scene, Paulie Z sang on many of Howard Stern’s novelty songs, David Z played bass with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Cassata spent time under the makeup with the Blue Man Group. They even paved the way, if not exactly providing the source material, for Britney Spears’ latest little controversy with “If You See Kay,” off their 2007 release Ain’t It Beautiful.

Much like the Flight Of The Conchords, ZO2 can get people into the club, drawing a healthy number of fans to New York City’s Mercury Lounge this past Friday night. Playing the Merc as if it was Madison Square Garden, the Z brothers revived a lot of Seventies silliness with lots of arm waving and penitent thanks but also touched on the strengths of the arena rock era, strong power chords and the boozy, confident swagger that carried into the hair metal of the Eighties. They also served up a scorching cover of "Tom Sawyer," with David Z nailing Geddy Lee's bass line and coming impressively close to his decidedly distinctive vocals.

With his wild white-boy afro, Paulie Z looks like he stepped off the cover of Frampton Comes Alive and alongside his insanely buff brother, they look like someone’s homogenized version of what a rock band should look like. Looks can be deceiving though. Although no one would characterize ZO2 as cutting edge or hip, with heavy Kiss-style guitar riffs and straightforward Seventies-style radio-friendly songs, the band’s set was loose and fun. Seeing them play might not fill you with the urge to go out and buy any of their music; it will make it hard for you to surf past Z Rock when it returns to IFC later this year.

Clapton & Winwood Announce 2009 Tour

Last February, Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood rewarded people's blind faith in rock and roll with three sold out shows at Madison Square Garden. Close friends, the two have always enjoyed played together and will spend a good part of the Summer of 2009 setting tongues awag with a brief U.S. tour.

June 10: East Rutherford, NJ - Izod Center
June 12: Philadelphia, PA - Wachovia Center
June 13: Washington, DC - Verizon Center
June 15: Columbus, OH - Schottenstein Center
June 18: St Paul, MN - Xcel Energy Center
June 20: Omaha, NE - Qwest Center
June 21: Denver, CO - Pepsi Center
June 23: Dallas, TX - American Airlines Center
June 24: Houston, TX - Toyota Center
June 26: Glendale, AZ - Arena
June 27: Las Vegas, NV - MGM Grand Arena
June 29: Oakland, CA - Oracle Arena
June 30: Los Angeles, CA - Hollywood Bowl

Counterclarkwise At The Connecticut Yankee

San Francisco's Connecticut Yankee will host the February 20 debut of Counterclarkwise - a band made up of Tea Leaf Green's Josh Clark and Scott Rager, Particle and Phil Lesh & Friends keyboardist Steve Molitz and ALO bassist Steve Adams. The band, which will be playing a batch of Clark originals, should be quite familiar with each other: Adams spent lengthy stretches of 2008 with Tea Leaf Green while Reed Mathis toured with the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and Clark spent a month with Particle in late 2007 when Ben Combe left the band before their winter tour.

Clark can put on a great show with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and a glass of scotch, he should tear it up with Molitz, Rager and Adams sharing the stage. This might be a one-off performance for the group, so act accordingly.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Taking Flight: Andrew Bird At Carnegie Hall

By: David Schultz

A night removed from the elegant but more bohemian confines of Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg, quirky songsmith Andrew Bird’s practice, practice, practice paid off and the Chicago native found himself center stage at Carnegie Hall. Striding alone onto the stage, Bird indulged every violinist’s fancy and filled the austere confines of the hall with his own playing. After paying proper respect to the storied venue, Bird removed the coverings that served as faux shoes, brought out his band, which included Martin Dosh, and played the rest of the night in his stocking feet.

Bird’s devoted the majority of his Carnegie Hall appearance to songs from his latest album Noble Beast, the title of which, the affable singer revealed, should be pronounced with proper David Attenborough inflections. Making use of a violin, xylophone, a looping machine and a marvelous ability to whistle, Bird makes fantastic music out of the instruments most people abandon after elementary school. When he shuns convention and plays the violin ukulele style, as on “Imitosis,” he sprinkles the delicate sounds into the music akin to Jerry Garcia.

Carrying on in the same vein as his 2007 album Armchair Apocrypha, Bird fills his songs with cryptic, higher education based imagery and a glut of multisyllabic words. The complex songs aren’t indicative of Bird’s psyche. On stage, he’s a relaxed and engaging showman. On idiosyncratic yet elegant songs like “Oh No,” Bird shook his head back and forth with cocksure Beatlemania relish while his lower body bounced in jittery Elvis Costello like contortions. His strength is his supreme mastery of composition. The only slow spot of the night was when he moved the set away from his own brainchilds in favor of Dosh’s “Not A Robot, But A Ghost” the dreamy electronica no equal to Bird’s erudite pop.

For the encore, Bird truly opened up. Returning by his lonesome, he slipped into pure Lyle Lovett mode for “Why?” easing through the song’s spoken breaks with a facile dexterity. Showing off Carnegie Hall’s marvelous acoustics, Bird unplugged his violin for a run through “Some Of These Days,” ostensibly ending the night, With the second encore bringing the impatient rushing back into the hall, Bird closed out the show with a speedy and potent run through “Fake Palindromes,” causing a raucous unsophisticated final burst from the crowd.

For a hallowed and revered a locale, there’s something about Carnegie Hall that brings out one’s inner impish troublemaker. As I sat in one of the comfortable balcony enclosures with my shoes surreptitiously removed and tucked under the chair in front of me, I couldn’t help but feel a kinship with Bird, who likewise felt the need to shed his restrictive footwear. After all, who wants to come to Carnegie Hall if you have to act like an adult?

Monday, February 09, 2009

Robert Plant and Allison Krauss Sweep Grammys

Robert Plant and his lovely duet partner Allison Krauss had a monster night at the Grammy's picking up five awards including the prestigious Album of the Year and Record of the Year for Raising Sand. I felt this record deserved to win but thought they may split these two awards with Coldplay who had big momentum coming into the evening. It was a major victory for a smallish label like Rounder over the big push given to Chris Martin and his bandmates. It is hard to call a rock legend like Robert Plant an underdog, but he and Krauss were indeed just that entering the evening as many were predicting a huge sweep for Coldplay.

Coldplay was not leaving empty handed though. They did win Song of the Year for "Viva La Viva" - not too shabby. It was a fun night to watch with U2 kicking things off, a great collaboration from Jay Z, Kanye, T.I. and Lil' Wayne and it was very cool to see Dave Grohl backing Paul McCartney on the drums. And, it was nice to see that Robert Plant was genuinely happy to win these Grammys on top of everything else he's done in his storied career. Meanwhile, Allison Kraus extended her lead as the leading lady Grammy winner of all time -26 and counting!

Backyard Tire Fire: Sun Studio Sessions "One Wrong Turn"

Backyard Tire Fire has been on a roll of late. The blue-collar band from the Chicago area is a mainstay on the road and their hard work has been paying off. Honest Tune magazine did a big year end feature on the band and their debut for Hyena Records, The Places We've Lived, found its way on several "best of" lists for 2008. You can check out "One Wrong Turn" here as the latest webisode of the Sun Studio Sessions:

Backyard Tire Fire was also recently named Paste Magazine's band of the week. They are a great live band worth checking out when they come to your area. You can see their tour dates here and pick up a copy of the record here.

Licorice @ Sullivan Hall

By: David Schultz
Photos by: Lesley Bogdanow

Just before heading to Maryland for a show at the Santa Fe Cafe in College Park, Maryland, Licorice played a tight Friday night set at Sullivan Hall. Making great use of the extra lighting installed for the evening's Phish themed headliner, Licorice added a little psychedelic flair to the evening, often retreating into the lights and letting the music envelop the room.

Licorice's set mixed staples from A Million Grains Of Sand like "What's Your Status In London?" and "A Million Grains Of Sand" with newer material like "Perry Street" and "Seven Day Storm." The multi-colored light show added a nice trippy flair to the set and Licorice played along, taking the closing jam of "Freeze" in a couple if experimental directions.

On February 12, two Licorice side projects, Silvertone and the Jazzy Children, will play the Ace of Clubs in New York City. On February 15, David Lott and Matt Epstein will step into their roles as sidemen when Rebecca Hart makes her debut at Joe's Pub in the Public Theater.

U-Melt Kicks Off 2009 Winter Tour

At the end of January, U-Melt revved up for their Winter tour with an excellent Saturday night show at Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey. Although I normally subscribe to the "No Jersey" rule when it comes to going to shows, U-Melt's Hoboken gig would be their only local appearance under they return to New York City and take over B.B. King's on April 10. Among the show's highlights: Zac Lasher playing Paul McCartney's "Let Em In" as an intro to a wild cover of The Beatles "Tomorrow Never Knows," the debut of a new tune, ,"Tiny Giants" and the revival of an old one, the beautiful "Twilight's Song" and a fine run through "Question Matters" which included a segue into and out of Frank Zappa's "Apostrophe." Often overlooked, Adam Bendy is continuing to emerge as a strong bass presence, a worthy foil to the electrifying guitar work of Rob Salzer and a fine compliment to exemplary skills of drummer George Miller.

Earvolution has long sung U-Melt's praises and it seems like others are catching on. Hidden Track recently posted an insightful interview with Lasher and Jambase has a thoughtful review of U-Melt's recent gig at Higher Ground in Vermont which also has a brief yet funny Q&A with the band.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Ticketmaster Accepts Responsibility For Springsteen Snafu

In the midst of a rare lovefest being foisted upon Ticketmaster in the aftermath of Live Nation's bungling of the online sale of tickets for Phish's 2009 reunion tour, the ticketing behemoth strangled the goodwill like Lenny holding a fuzzy rabbit. Fans clamoring for tickets to Bruce Springsteen's American tour were greeted with screens informing them that the system was undergoing "routine maintenance"or even worse, redirected to Ticketsnow, the Ticketmaster owned resale site, where they were given the opportunity to purchase seats with an exorbitant markup.

In addition to the uproar of the fans, Springsteen even chimed in with a stern, very Boss-like reprimand:

"Last Monday, we were informed that Ticketmaster was redirecting your log-in requests for tickets at face value, to their secondary site TicketsNow, which specializes in up-selling tickets at above face value. They did this even when other seats remained available at face value. We condemn this practice."

"We perceive this as a pure conflict of interest. Ticketmaster is there to ensure that we have a good, fair sale of our tickets at their face value plus normal ticketing charges. TicketsNow is supposed to be a secondary site where people who already have tickets may exchange, trade, and, unfortunately, speculate with them. We have asked this redirection from Ticketmaster to TicketsNow cease and desist immediately and Ticketmaster has agreed to do so in the future and has removed its unwanted material from their and our site."

"We know the many cynical arguments some make in favor of the Ticketmaster system: There are rumors that some artists or managers participate in Ticketmaster charges--we do not. There are rumors that some artists or managers are receiving a percentage of the amount above face value at secondary outlets like TicketsNow--we do not. Some artists or managers may not perceive there to be a conflict between having the distributor of their tickets in effect "scalping" those same tickets through a secondary company like TicketsNow--we do."

Where Live Nation took the Bush approach, declaring "Mission Accomplished" because they sold all their Phish tickets, Ticketmaster has done an Obama, accepting responsibility and admitting their screw up. In addition to conceding that the Springsteen sale was not their "finest hour," Ticketmaster announced that they would refund the difference to fans who inadvertently bought tickets through Ticketsnow. Even more impressive, Ticketmaster will accede to Springsteen's request and cease linking to Ticketsnow during high demand, online sales.

“While we were genuinely trying to do the right thing for fans in providing more choices when the tickets they requested from the primary on-sale were not available, we clearly missed the mark,” said Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff. “This redirection only occurred as a choice when we could not satisfy fans’ specific search request for primary ticket inventory but to make sure there is no misunderstanding in the future, we also publicly state that we will never again link to TicketsNow in a manner that can possibly create any confusion during a high-demand on-sale.”

Langerado Cancels 2009 Festival

The 2009 Langerado Music Festival scheduled for next March in Miami, Florida has been cancelled due to slow ticket sales. While many are pointing to the down turn of the economy as the cause for Langerado's cancellation, Phish playing their first reunion shows at the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia could not have helped. Unlike those who have lost their savings making questionable investments, anyone who purchased tickets to the Langerado Festival will have their money refunded in full.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Day The Music Died: Fifty Years Later

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the plane crash that resulted in the deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and "The Big Bopper" J.P. Richardson. After playing at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, the rockers' plane went down shortly after midnight on February 3, 1959.

It's an understatement to say that the tragic incident has left its mark on rock and roll history. As documented in Killing Yourself To Love, the Iowa site was an unavoidable destination of Chuck Klosterman's road trip involving the locales of infamous rock and roll deaths. In Almost Famous, Billy Crudup's impromptu version of "Peggy Sue" when Stillwater's plane hits turbulence is intrinsically both eerie and funny without needing any explanation. It's inspired fine feature films like The Buddy Holly Story and La Bamba as well as "American Pie," Don McLean's acoustic guitar epic that's inspired many drunken singalongs.

Remarkably, Holly was only 22-year-old when he died; meaning had he lived , we would all be falling over ourselves to pay much much more than the $1.25 it cost to see the Winter Dance Party at the Surf Ballroom fifty years earlier.

"American Pie" covers more ground than the plane crash, so in pertinent part, here you go:

A long, long time ago . . .
I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And, maybe, they'd be happy for a while
But February made me shiver
With every paper I'd deliver
Bad news on the doorstep;
I couldn't take one more step.
I can't remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.
So bye-bye, miss american pie.
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
And them good old boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye
Singin', "this'll be the day that I die."
"This'll be the day that I die."

Monday, February 02, 2009

Jonas Brothers to Play Saturday Night Live

The Jonas Brothers have taken the tween world and the White House by storm. Now Sasha and Malia Obama's favorite band will see if they can entertain a more adult crowd as Just Jared reports that they will take the hallowed Saturday Night Live stage on Valentine's Day night, February 14th. Alec Baldwin of 30 Rock will host the show.

The Grammy nominated trio recently sat down with Katie Couric to talk about some of their influences. It warmed my heart to hear two of the three cite Johnny Cash and the third say Bono (who of course was shredded for wearing his influences on his sleeve on Rattle and Hum). You can check out a clip here:

Beyond the SNL appearance, The Jonas Brothers: 3D Concert Experience will be in theaters on Feb. 27th.

Bruce Springsteen U.S. Tour Dates

After rocking the Super Bowl halftime show, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are ready to take the party across the country. Bruce was in great form last night rolling through a medley of "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out," "Born to Run," "Working On a Dream" and "Glory Days."

It was obvious that Bruce was having as much fun as the crowd. The band sounded great and looked ready for the road. Here's a current list of announced U.S. dates:

April 1 San Jose, CA HP Pavilion
April 3 Glendale, AZ Arena
April 5 Austin, TX Frank Erwin Center
April 7 Tulsa, OK BOK Center
April 8 Houston, TX Toyota Center
April 10 Denver, CO Pepsi Center
April 15 Los Angeles, CA Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena
April 21 - 22 Boston, MA TD Banknorth Garden
April 24 Hartford, CT XL Center
April 26 Atlanta, GA Philips Arena
April 28 - 29 Philadelphia, PA Wachovia Spectrum
May 2 Greensboro, NC Greensboro Coliseum
May 4 Hempstead, NY Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum
May 5 Charlottesville, VA John Paul Jones Arena
May 7 Toronto, ON Air Canada Centre
May 8 University Park, PA Bryce Jordan Center
May 11 Saint Paul, MN Xcel Energy Center
May 12 Chicago, IL United Center
May 14 Albany, NY Times Union Center
May 15 Hershey, PA Hersheypark Stadium
May 18 Washington, DC Verizon Center
May 19 Pittsburgh, PA Mellon Arena
May 21, 23 East Rutherford, NJ Izod Center

If for some reason you were one of the few people who missed the Super Bowl you can catch clips of Bruce's half-time show here.

Amy LaVere on Conan O'Brien and Sun Studio Sessions

Memphis siren Amy LaVere plays Conan O'Brien tonight and you should definitely tune in to watch. But, you can also catch her here this morning on the latest installment of the Sun Studio Sessions (select "high quality" for best picture):

Amy had a great year in 2008, with highlights including playing Bonnaroo, touring Europe and performing on Jools Holland. This year is shaping up to be even better. Beyond the Conan appearance, you'll soon to be able to catch Amy on MTV's upcoming web series "5 Dollar Cover" (created by Hustle & Flow director/writer Craig Brewer) that features other Memphis luminaries including members of Lucero, Muck Sticky and the lovely Clare Grant.

Britney Spears May Cancel Tour?

Britney Spears may cancel her upcoming tour, reports TMZ. But, it is not because she's having a setback on her road to career redemption. The buzz is that Britney is trying to secure an agreement with ex-husband Kevin Federline to take the kids on the road with her and may not go without them if a deal is not reached in the near term.

As of now, tickets remain on sale for all of Britney's tour dates. Her "Circus Tour" is set to kick off March 3rd in New Orleans. We'll have to wait to see if it goes as planned. Why not just hire K-Fed as a backup dancer and make it all one happy family? Oh wait, you don't think that's what Kevin is thinking too do you...

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Phish Addresses The Live Nation Phuck Up

Phish addressed the colossal disaster (read cluster f*$k) that passed for Live Nation's attempt to handle the online distribution of tickets of their upcoming summer reunion tour. The following is posted on the band's Web site

"We have heard from many fans regarding this past weekend's onsales, particularly the shows that went on sale via Live Nation's website. Many of you experienced extremely long wait times, error messages, and quite simply, an inability to get through and purchase tickets. Clearly, the system was unable to handle the extraordinary demand. We're very sensitive to making the process of getting Phish tickets as straightforward as possible. We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your continued support and patience."

Modest Mouse Joins Snoop Dogg and Ryan Adams at Langerado Festival

The Langerado Music Festival is upping its game. While it has been a significant festival the last several years, this year's line up seems more diverse and an attempt to push Langerado into the upper festival echelon. Modest Mouse is the latest addition to the annual Florida gathering joining Snoop Dogg, Death Cab for Cutie, Ryan Adams and The Cardinals as some of the marquee names.

The rest of the line-up isn't too shabby either. Highlights include Broken Social Scene (great with or without Feist), Cold War Kids, Flogging Molly, Mute Math, Gym Class Heroes, The Pogues and Matisyahu. The Zach Brown band will also bring their anthem "Chicken Fried" to represent the country set while rubbing shoulders alongside festival mainstays like Umprey's McGee, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Michael Franti and Steel Pulse.

Besides some new names, there is also a new location. This year Langerado moves to Bicentennial Park in Miami on March 6, 7 and 8th. Tickets are on sale now.

Phish Phans Phrosty Over Live Nation's Phailures

Live Nation’s foray into the world of online ticketing took a large step backwards on Friday with Phish phans overloading the fledgling site with requests for the Vermont band’s first set of show since 2004. Much like the New York Mets completely underestimating the traffic that would result from offering Billy Joel tickets for his “Last Play At Shea,” Live Nation was completely unready for the onslaught of Phish requests, moving slowly, acting unpredictably and conking out in the middle of ticket purchases.

Live Nation, a spin-off of the detestable Clear Channel Communications network, wants to challenge Ticketmaster as the go-to site for tickets. Instead of providing a more fan-friendly alternative, Friday’s performance has resulted in praise for Ticketmaster’s ability to handle large scale tickets sales.

Anyone around for the Pearl Jam v. Ticketmaster brawl in the 90s could never have foreseen a day when music fans would yearn for Ticketmaster as the ticket vendor of choice.

Britney Spears Seeks Restraining Order; Jessica Simpson Seeks Restraint

Britney Spears took more steps to distance herself from her not so recent past as she reportedly obtained a restraining order against Osama "Sam" Lutfi and one-time "boyfriend" Adnan Ghalib on Friday. Technically, Britney's dad, who acts as her legal conservator got the order against Ms. Spears' former mates.

Losing these losers is not the only thing Britney has shed recently. Pics released from recent tour rehearsals show her looking quite trim and fit. The shots are a stark contrast to Jessica Simpson who as noted in this video report has taken heat for bulking up and sporting "mom jeans" on stage:

Britney is gearing up for a tour set to kick off March 3rd in New Orleans.

Madonna European Tour Dates

Madonna just won temporary custody of her children and may be planning a move to the U.S. (to be closer to Alex Rodriguez?). But, Guy Ritchie won't get much of a break from seeing Madonna's name in the UK and European papers as she'll be back in the Old Country quite a bit in 2009 as her "Sticky and Sweet Tour" heads across the Atlantic.

Madonna will perform 20-25 shows overseas this year starting July 4th in London. Here's the list of dates released to this point:

July 4 London, ENG O2 Arena
July 7 Manchester, ENG Manchester Evening News Arena
July 11 Werchter, BEL Festivalpark
July 14 Milan, ITA San Siro
July 21 Barcelona, SPA Olympic Stadium
July 23 Madrid, SPA Vicente Calderon
July 28 Hamburg, GER Trab-Arena Hamburg Bahrenfeld
July 30 Oslo, NOR Vallehovin
August 4 Tallinn, EST Tallinn Song Festival Ground
August 6 Helsinki, FIN West Harbour
August 9 Gothenburg, SWE Ullevi
August 11 Copenhagen, DEN Parken
August 13 Prague, CZE Chodov Natural Amphitheatre
August 15 Warsaw, POL Bemowo Airport
August 18 Munich, GER Olympic Stadium
August 20 Ljubljana, SLO Hippodrome

Paul Oakenfold will open for all the announced dates. The "Sticky and Sweet" tour grossed over $250 million in 2008, so it is not surprising to see Madonna extend it into a second year. That's more than even A-Rod makes!

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!