Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Springsteen To Close Out Giants Stadium

With demolition looming, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band will close New Jersey's Giants Stadium with three shows to take place September 30, October 2 and October 3. Much in the same way that Billy Joel was an apt act to play the final concert at Shea Stadium and Paul McCartney the appropriate singer to sing its last song, no other choice but New Jersey's favorite son would suffice for the last show at the Meadowlands. (Stifle yourself Bon Jovi fans, this is no contest).

For those confused as to why the New York Giants play in New Jersey, for football purposes, New York moved to New Jersey about twenty years ago and in addition to hosting many Giants and Jets games the stadium has played host to numerous Springsteen shows.

Tickets will go on sale June 1 at 10:00 a.m. Expect Ticketmaster to treat this one with extra special loving care.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Richard Swift: The Atlantic Ocean

By: David Schultz

For a period of time during the Seventies, pop music wasn’t considered a derogatory term. In the aftermath of The Beatles, many talented artists took pride in creating slickly produced, tidily compact songs that aimed for nothing more than three minutes of pleasure. Drugs and booze notwithstanding, in what other time could Harry Nilsson and John Lennon spend quality time in the studio together. Endorsed by Wilco, Richard Swift’s latest album, The Atlantic Ocean, has that type of bright, benign McCartney sheen to it, echoing that era when being called pop or being compared to McCartney wasn’t intended as a backhanded compliment.

A good portion of Swift’s album has a home-concocted, DIY feel, sounding like he put it together in a well-stocked laboratory of a home studio. Swift generates this clean sound with not much than his thin, tremor-laden voice warbling over simple synthesized chords. It's music that unfolds and envelops your consciousness rather than boldly presenting itself and demanding attention. Notwithstanding its Beatles’ style orchestration fills, “R.I.P.” joins “Already Gone” in Swift’s surreal cabaret and “Bat Coma Motown” swings to a laissez faire beat cribbed from the funeral marches of the New Orleans bayou.

The Atlantic Ocean saves its best moments for last. The simple piano chords of “The End Of An Age” has the feel of a boozy pianist baring his soul before an apathetic audience, a loneliness of the long distance runner for the piano man. “A Song For Milton Fehr,” an ode for the dancing guru and stretching maven has a sprightly bounce and “Lady Luck” bristles with the joy and energy of Sly & The Family Stone. Swift’s style isn’t going to appeal to those who need their music spoon fed to them in easily digestible riffs. Patient listeners with discerning ears who give Swift’s music a chance to envelop them will find themselves gravitating back towards Swift's fascinatingly compelling album.

Rocky Mountain Licorice

Licorice will be heading to Colorado this week, embarking on a small tour of the Rocky Mountain State before their June 5 appearance at the Telluride Jazz Festival. As a prelude to the tour, the New York based foursome played their first show at the Gramercy Theater, the largest room they've played in New York City. Chad Dinzes' keyboard rolls on "What's Your Status In London," David Lott's guitar riffs on "El Corazon Estalla" and Matt Epstein and Josh Bloom's intricate rhythms didn't get lost in the spacious environs. Rather, Licorice's music filled the room quite grandly, giving an indication that they're ready for the bigger rooms. The Gramercy set also featured the return of Sabriena Stone, who celebrated her birthday by belting out a sultry version of "Stormy Monday" and reteaming with Lott on a classic version of "Freeze."

Licorice's Colorado itinerary:

May 30 Cactus Jack's Saloon, Evergreen, CO

June 1 Chipper's Lanes, Fort Collins, CO

June 2 Dulcinea's 100th Monkey, Denver, CO

June 3 The Eldo, Crested Butte, CO

June 4 Fly Me to the Moon Saloon, Telluride, CO

Upon their return, Licorice will appear at the storied Blue Note Jazz Club on June 20 as part of the venue's Late Night Groove Series.

Tuesday's Time Waster: Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Inductees

Can you name the 164 inductees to the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame? In 15:00 minutes nonetheless.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers: Sun Studio Sessions

Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers bring a unique approach to their music blending harmonies with acoustic folk rock with a funky edge. On tour this summer with Sugarland, the band also has a new album due out September 6th on Vanguard Records. As the Boston Globe described, "Kellogg's music is semi-gritty, melodic alt-country. Think early Wilco, Whiskeytown, or Tom Petty. Relaxed, yet passionate."

Here the band performs "4th of July" - a great example of their sound - live from Sun Studio:

You can hear more from Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, along with learning tour dates on their Myspace page here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Trey Lockerbie: Sun Studio Sessions "Sullivan Street"

Trey Lockerbie is a terrific young songwriter based in Nashville that stopped by Sun Studio to perform some tracks for us, including "Sullivan Street" which appears on his new "Hummingbird EP." Writing about the EP and the track, John Tumminello says:

The Hummingbird EP" journey ends with the stark piano of "Sullivan Street," a moving ode to the album cover of "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan." Picture a romantic scene from an old movie that takes place on a rainy night in Washington Square Park. A guy comes across a beautiful girl sitting alone on a park bench "like she needed the water to wash her away." He offers his umbrella, and they walk arm in arm "like two lovers on a Bob Dylan cover, soaked to the bone leaning into each other, and the warmth of her smile was unfamiliar to me, just like the sidewalks on Sullivan Street." This is the stuff screenplays are made of. During their short journey together, the singer falls in love with the beautiful stranger, who seemingly only needed someone to walk her home. He then ends up "alone in the park, in the rain, like I'm needing the water to wash her away." On "Sullivan Street," Trey's music, lyrics and vocal delivery paint us yet another perfect bittersweet scene of hope and heartache, love and loss.

Check out the video and see if you agree!

You can join Trey and his band tonight in Nashville at 3rd & Lindsley for the "Hummingbird EP" release party and get all his tour dates on his MySpace page.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

This May Not Be It: Jackson's OS2 Shows In Jeopardy

A little more than a month ago, Michael Jackson made history by selling out a run of 50 shows at London's O2 Arena. Now, it appears that his family is preparing to tell him to beat it. Per TMZ, AllGood Entertainment, the organizers of a proposed Jackson 5 reunion tour that would ideally have featured Michael and Janet, have filed a cease-and-desist order in a bid to stop the shows from taking place.

Frank Delio, on behalf of The Jacksons, entered into some sort of agreement for an all-inclusive Jackson extravaganza that included a non-compete clause covering the time period of the OS2 concerts. Given that the King Of Pop's involvement with any reunion discussions may be tenuous at best and there's no indication that he signed anything himself, it's a near certainty this will be resolved before the first scheduled date of July 8.

Unless Jackson doesn't want this situation cleared up. If the past has taught us anything, Jackson is skilled at coming up with convenient excuses and plausible rationalizations for questionable behavior, With these shows, Jackson has a lot of hype to live up to and this may provide him with the out he may be looking for.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Walkmen on Sun Studio Sessions

The Walkmen perform "Canadian Girl" live in Sun Studio. This was a fun band to record as they are big fans of the great Roy Orbison who of course started his amazing career in this very room. When you watch the video below, check out the backing horns. These guys literally responded to a classified ad and walked in off the street just about 30 minutes before showtime. Of course, this being Memphis you never know who is going to show up for something like this. We were all blown away when the legendary Ben Cauley of the Bar-Kays walked through the door!

Ben was a founding member of the Bar-Kays (Stax house band) and was the only survivor of the plane crash claimed the life of soul icon Otis Redding and four of Ben's Bar-Kays bandmates. Over 60 years old and he can still blow! Check him out:

The Walkmen are currently on tour with the Kings of Leon and you can get all the tour dates on their MySpace page. You can also request this installment, and all the Sun Studio Sessions, on your local PBS affiliate!

Ben Harper & Relentless7: Aggressively Led

By: David Schultz

Going back as far the big band era, whenever an established band replaced their lead singer, the microscope under which they operate and the scrutiny given to their every move can be excruciating. Not so much when the backing band is replaced; Janis Joplin moved from Big Brother & The Holding Company to the Kozmic Blues Band, Tom Petty has had successful albums with and without the Heartbreakers and Bob Dylan didn’t falter after his band became The Band. Sometimes though, the change of band - a la Jimi Hendrix and the Band of Gypsys – can signify much more. With a modicum of fanfare, Ben Harper swapped out the Innocent Criminals, his longtime backing band, in favor of Relentless7, a more streamlined power trio comprised of guitarist Jason Mozersky, bassist Jesse Ingalls and drummer Jordan Richardson.

To celebrate the release of their debut album, Ben Harper & Relentless7 played the majority of White Lies For Dark Times, revamped a couple Harper live staples and added a pair of choice covers over a two hour set at a packed and steamy Webster Hall in New York City. Harper hasn’t subsumed his winning personality or evocative vocals into a new collective. To the contrary, Relentless7, at least on stage, competently fulfills the role of master sidemen, allowing Harper to work the room.

For those looking for clues as to Harper’s future direction, there were two telling moments to the performance. Right at the outset, Harper sat down with his Weissenborn lap steel and tore into a viscous rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Time, Bad Times.” For the rest of the night, the mighty Zep’s specter would loom over the show with Harper infusing the night with a heavy dose of electrified blues. In the past, Harper has shown an inclination for diving into the deep end of the classic rock end of the pool but has always stopped short of bringing the Innocent Criminals all the way there. If the Webster Hall performance signifies anything, it might be that Harper’s formed Relentless7 out of a desire to leave “Steal My Kisses” and his other lighter fare behind and move from the fraternity/sorority basements into more mature realms.

Reading more tea leaves, a less subtle clue to Harper’s mindset came during the encore. Addressing the calls for “Burn One Down” and “Sexual Healing,” Harper issued a slight declaration of a new day. Chastising the requests, he proclaimed that he’s no longer a “human jukebox” and adamantly declared that he’s not playing those songs any longer. Immediately appeasing any hurt feelings, Ingalls quickly launched into the riff taken viral by Vanilla Ice and Harper brought soul-inspired flair to “Under Pressure.”

White Lies For Dark Times owes a debt to the classic rock oeuvre. Replete with Harper’s customary array of uplifting and motivational lyrics and newfound penchant for earthy guitar licks, Lenny Kravitz’ fans will have to deal with the fact that Harper recorded the album they’ve been wanting from Kravitz since the Mama Said days. At Webster Hall, the songs took a more pronounced Zeppelin feel than found on the album. On “Number With No Name” and “Keep It Together,” Harper and Relentless7 ripped riffs and ambiance right out of Page and John Paul Jones handbook. The music makes up for some clunky lyrical imagery: when Harper is at his best, as on “Better Day,” which he stripped of all its Indian-inflected rhythms and turned into a blues-rock rave up, he can be an uplifting spiritual force; when he paints pictures of walls talking back or brags about needing to live his life to wear boots like his, he’s coming dangerously close to high school poetry.

The Henry Clay People provided a scintillating opening set, full of the excitement that only be provided by a young band on the rise flush with the wary optimism of throwing themselves into their musical career at the expense of all else. Opening up with “Something In The Water,” whose sentiment of “for cheap or for free” could be an anthem for living in our recent economic downturn, the band named for one of America’s most gifted orators trucked through a set of loose and raucous bar band rock and roll. Pulling out of their cover of “Beast Of Burden,” fronted by a slightly uneasy Andy Siarra, Eric Scott and Noah Green never changed the beat while frontman Joey Siarra moved in and ambled through snippets of Lou Reed, The Faces, The Who and David Bowie lyrics before finishing the medley amongst the crowd on the floor.

Unless Harper has become a supercilious perfectionist, the Webster Hall show may have been quietly recorded for a future release. After feedback marred a five second portion of the moody extended ending section of “Fly One Time,” Harper called a small conference and they did the song again, albeit to a less impassioned reaction. For those who want a little bit more certainty in hearing Harper’s new band live, he’ll be bringing Relentless7 as well as the Henry Clay People around the United Sates and then Europe for the rest of the summer.

Mountain Jam 2009 Schedule

The 2009 Mountain Jam schedule has been released. The festival, presented annually by Warren Haynes and Radio Woodstock at Hunter Mountain in upstate New York, will take place in three weeks, spanning May 29 through May 31. In addition to Friday and Saturday night sets from Gov't Mule and a Sunday night set from the Allman Brothers Band, this year's Mountain Jam will feature return sets from Tea Leaf Green, Umphrey's McGee and Michael Franti & Spearhead and the debuts of prog-rockers Coheed & Cambria and the hippest band on Earth, The Hold Steady.

On the late night front (cause after all, if you're going to be in the woods, why sleep), Girl Talk will be DJing on Friday night and Saturday night will feature dueling sets from Earvolution favorites U-Melt in the Colonel's Hall and BuzzUniverse on the Solar Stage within the campgrounds.

The Return Of The Live Music Blog

Timed to coincide with the end of Phish's hiatus, Justin Ward and his Live Music Blog have also emerged from a lengthy slumber. As this has always been one of my favorite blogs, I'm not sure how I missed this but apparently the LMB has been back since the end of March. So, if you were as clueless as me, go check out the revamped site.

Welcome back Justin!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Giraffes: Standing Tall

By: David Schultz

A force of nature that must be experienced to be truly understood, The Giraffes defy conventional description. For starters, it’s a toss up between whether guitarist’s Damien Paris assault charge after getting shot in the leg by a fire marshal or lead singer’s Aaron Lazar’s two heart attacks before the age of thirty constitutes the band’s most bizarre biographical fact. Even stranger, once The Giraffes hit the stage with their wicked brand of surf metal, the crowd showers them with cheers and douses them with random cups of beer. Yes, it is perfectly acceptable and possibly encouraged to throw beer on the band. This may be the one thing Chris Martin will never be accused of plagiarizing.

Live, Paris pounds through hardcore and metal riffs with a sense of purpose, bouncing around the stage never missing a beat, even when hoisted five feet above the ground on drummer Andrew Totolos’ shoulders. In contrast to the hardcore strongman, bassist John Rosenthal looks like a post-modern Rick Nielson bashes away at the bass and the always dapper Lazar manages to keep the same content expression, even when showered in suds, his face remains frozen in a rictus of pleasure, like a slightly demented Brandon Flowers.

The Giraffes are way too savvy to just unleash random bits of fury at the audience. They have salacious fun with their lyrics and stage banter – who doesn’t like a song describing how to have fun with assholes - Lazar can howl with the best of them but he can also sing. This Saturday, The Giraffes will be headlining the Mercury Lounge in New York City, ostensibly for a record release party. (Fair play to anyone who figures out what record they are releasing). They remember that a rock and roll show is supposed to be fun, so leave the pretentiousness at home. Just remember, ride the rail at your own expense.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Lou Reed: Metal Machine Misery

By: David Schultz

Fans of Lou Reed have always possessed an unwavering sense of loyalty towards the mercurial legend. It’s been said that they would pay top dollar to see Reed bang two cats together and walk away raving about the avant-garde originality of the feat. Perhaps giddy from the praise he earned by resurrecting Berlin from its depressing grave, Reed tested the “two cat” theory at New York City’s Blender Theater at Gramercy by revisiting another one of his Seventies efforts, the unlistenable Metal Machine Music. More than 30 years later, people still don’t know what to make of Reed’s hour long opus of formless feedback. Was it a serious effort? Was it Reed’s unique way of getting out of his record deal with RCA? Did the label one up him by calling his bluff and releasing it? It surely didn’t help matters when Lester Bangs proclaimed it the greatest record ever made or when German orchestras started treating it as a source for classical interpretations.

Seeing as others do it for him quite admirably, Reed has never been one to go out of his way to perpetuate his own mythology. In fact, he probably spreads ample disinformation about his past either out of boredom, amusement or a sheer disdain for inquisitive reporters. Sitting behind a keyboard and some assorted electronics, Reed began Friday night’s show, the second of two, by addressing the Metal Machine myth as directly as he ever does, i.e. obliquely. In introducing his inaptly named Metal Machine Trio, a quartet consisting of himself and Sarth Calhoun tweaking various knobs and saxophonists Ulrich Krieger and John Zorn wailing away furiously, Reed pondered if the fact that we were all here meant that he must have been serious about the original effort.

No one can fault Reed for false advertising. The tickets for the show made no bones about what Reed was offering this night, informing the unwary that there would be “no songs, no vocals.” Right from the start, Reed and Calhoun stoked a flicker of pulsing feedback and nursed it into an ear shattering blast of noise, the walls vibrating with the overwhelming hum. It proved too much for some: within ten minutes, multiple fans seated near the front rows angrily grabbed their coats and despondently headed for the exits. Reed did pick up a guitar about half way in but only used it to crank out the same note in a repetitive drone. While not exactly creating music in the traditional sense, Krieger and Zorn proved fascinating as their improvisational runs had an eclectic howl and streetwise hipness that approached art.

Adopting Reed’s penchant for succinct expression, the night could pretty much be described as follows: for an hour, Lou Reed made noise. People sat and listened. To the best of my knowledge, no cats were harmed . . . unless they listened to the show.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Tinted Windows: Tinted Windows

By: Rinjo Njori

Godwin Alexander, of the fictitious Rock After Dark, dubs Tinted Windows "terrific guys." The rest of the media dubs them a power pop super group. While power pop super groups aren't anything new, this quartet is odd for many reasons. The marketing behind Tinted Windows conjured up images of early 80s, late night video shows and skinny ties. Brilliant or insane? Taylor Hanson (see Hanson) is no stranger to mainstream pop music. Oddly enough his hometown has given the power pop genre some of it's most iconic artists (e.g. Dwight Twilley, Phil Seymour, 20/20). Without a doubt, power pop is the red headed step child of rock and roll. So, on some bizarre cosmic plane it's only fitting that Taylor Hanson sheds some of that pop snakeskin and lives up to his hometown pedigree. Luckily Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne, That Thing You Do) and Bun E. Carlos (Cheap Trick) provide the cred where the skinny ties fail. Only slightly more surprising than Taylor Hanson's participation is James Iha's spot-on pop riffs. This coming from a guitarist who spent the better part of a decade playing in Smashing Pumpkins ("Today" is a great pop song) and then a few years in the prog metal outfit A Perfect Circle. Together they have recreated and updated the California power pop sound a quarter of a century after it was completely ignored the first time around.

Tinted Windows starts off strong with back to back kick ass singles. "Kind of Girl" could easily assume the throne of Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl" and might be destined for Now 99. Iha's riffs are simple and avoid sugary trappings. Schlesinger and Carlos are a flawless with a perfect balance of skill and giving the fans what they want. Hanson oozes confidence as the front man. Sure he has fronted a band since he was a tween but Tinted Windows is fairly adult, when compared to the sugary sweet "Mmmmbop." "Messing With My Head" and "We Got Something" are more traditional rock songs but over multiple listens they are stronger than "Kind of Girl" and ultimately this is where Tinted Windows strength lies. Intentional or not, "Without Love" is reminiscent of some of the best stuff Dwight Twilley and Phil Seymour put out in the late 70s. Although the song feels out of place, the song itself redeems the lackluster ballads on the rest of the album, but more credit is owed to the aggressive approach the band takes with the song.

"Dead Serious" conjures up the worst early 80s rock/ power pop acts like Loverboy. Their attempt at the hard edge ballad genre of power pop is awful. Most bands failed at this before and Tinted Windows aren't the exception. Similarly, "Back With You" doesn't take advantage of the Cheap Trick connection and sounds too similar to "The Flame." The songs aren't that different, but Hanson just can't make it interesting and the fade out almost gives the impression that they just gave up on the song.

Tinted Windows probably aren't headed for a Knack like explosion. Taylor Hanson has grown up and is a credible front man. James Iha finally can get beyond Billy Corgan's Smashing Pumpkins revisionist diatribes about talent. Schlesinger and Carlos can provide moments of brilliance and credibility. If they achieve any level of success we can be assured that we won't have to witness a late 20-something utter the words "Mmmmbop" anytime soon. Tinted Windows have arrived, but will the masses flock to these terrific guys?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Tony Cox: Unpublished

By: Rinjo Njori

In the pop world, songwriters partner up with singers and trust them to bring their song to life. All too often the songwriter is ultimately forgotten. The hands on approach taken by Tony Cox might explain the lush melodies, chiming guitars, and a dash of "Brit Pop meets California" nostalgia but it also puts Unpublished in the latter category. Cox has managed to find himself some amazing partners to showcase his flawless tunes and entrust them with delivering his amazing music.

All the tracks (music and lyrics) on Unpublished were written by Tony Cox. With the help of Nigel Clark and Darren Finlan, those tracks are brought to life. Within the eleven tracks the standard themes of love, loss and want seed the songs. Just because Cox is behind the guitar doesn't mean he can't write some great lyrics. Cox wisely layers most of his songs with multiple guitar tracks but it's his willingness to experiment with keyboards that really brings most tracks to the next level. More than enough pop artists are all too willing to settle for the occasional piano to give a song a more layered feel with the synth being reserved for the new wave crowd or Prince.

"Life is Hardcore," Cox's most experimental track, might lean a little too heavy on electronic music. The song is a worthy musical exercise and far from gratuitous. No one is going to confuse Tony Cox for Neil Tenant, but mixed in with all the strong pop songs it shakes up Unpublished. "Fallen" and "Feel Real Love" are the best representations of Cox's ability as a songwriter. In some ways, "Fallen" is reminiscent of the acoustic songs Noel Gallagher seems to write without effort. However, Cox layers strings over what seems to be a wall of acoustic guitars. Where Gallagher aims for the simpler, stoic approach or goes over the top with big guitar sounds. Nigel Clark's vocals are Lennon-esque and it wouldn't be a far stretch to compare him to the older and more talented Gallagher brother without the cynicism. "Feel Real Love" would fit perfectly on Alex Turner's Last Shadow Puppets album if only Turner wasn't so obsessed with capturing that retro sound. Cox manages to find a balance between the song's Brit-pop influences and a modern day pop song. The pulsing bass line and horns make this song infectious. Cox wisely lays off the guitar and lets the beat carry the song. On "Say the Word," the warm harmonies, multiple vocals and agro make the song feel very California. Cox, Clark, and Finlan might not be the Beach Boys, but they prove here that the chorus is not the only place for group vocals.

Cox's fluid sound almost makes you wonder why someone with this much talent has managed to stay under the radar. If Clark and Finlan join him for the ride, I can't imagine how Cox couldn't avoid some devoted following. Unpublished clearly balances out the singer-songwriter dynamic with a degree of confidence that feels refreshing.

Free Coldplay

Finding yet another way to cut the record companies out of the distribution process, starting May 15, Coldplay will give everyone attending their shows a free copy of a 9 song live album entitled LeftRightLeftRightLeft. Not ones to foster the rich getting richer theory, they will also make the album available at no charge through their web site and permit anyone to download it until August 9. As of now, hard copies won't be available in stores with only concert-goers getting a physical disc.

The track listing:

Glass Of Water
Strawberry Swing
The Hardest Part/Postcards From Far Away
Vida La Vida
Death Will Never Conquer
Fix You
Death And All His Friends

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!