Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuesday's Earful: BuzzUniverse @ Sullivan Hall

By: David Schultz

Whenever anyone describes a band as playing “world music,” it’s usually taken as an oblique way of saying that they play music that derives from Africa or the Caribbean. BuzzUniverse, who takes the universe part of their name seriously, has carved out a nice niche for themselves by putting their own spin on the world music concept, incorporating South American gaucho rhythms and Latin American flair into blend of blues, funk and mountain-class bluegrass. After experimenting with a larger version of the band, BuzzUniverse has stripped back down to their original four-piece configuration: Alex Garay on vocals and lead guitar, Greg McLoughlin on bass, Dave Migliore on drums and Brian Ciufo on sax.

One thing that’s marked BuzzU’s shows over the past few months has been their willingness to experiment and refusal to remain static. Their penchant for incorporating jamband oriented rhythms into the song structure of progressive rock makes many of their songs perfect vehicles for other musicians to join in. At Sullivan Hall, violinist Meredith Bogacz sat in for the heart of their set, inspiring a zany dancing reverie from Garay with a traditional Irish jig and on “All Of My Friends,” blending in with Ciufo’s subtle baritone and soprano sax to provide a wonderful counterpoint to McLoughlin and Migliore’s sinuous beat. Broadening their universe, Aaron Wilkinson of the Honey Island Swamp Band sat in on mandolin for BuzzU’s version of the Marshall Tucker Band’s “This Ol Cowboy.”

BuzzUniverse will be offering a couple free shows in New York City over the next couple weeks. On July 4, they will be playing a 3:00 p.m. set at the South Street Seaport and on July 16, will be entertaining Manhattanites in Union Square Park with a set starting at 6:00 p.m.

Monday, June 29, 2009

New Jeff Buckley Track

Jeff Buckley is another one of those talents we lost far too soon. Like his posthumous success with Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", Buckley's take on "We All Fall In Love Sometimes", written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, will remind of us of what we lost.

The song will appear on the soundtrack for the new film My Sister's Keeper, starring Cameron Diaz, Alec Baldwin and Abigail Breslin. You can listen to it here.

The soundtrack also includes songs from Regina Spektor, Pete Yorn and James Blunt.

Yonder Mountain String Band Tour Dates

Yonder Mountain String Band have announced a slew of summer tour and festival dates. The dates are a lead up the release of their latest studio record "The Show" due to hit stores September 1st. The end of the released dates include shows with Xavier Rudd and a few with the Dave Matthews Band.

Wed-Jun-24-09 Glen Allen, VA Innsbrook Pavilion (with Martin Sexton)
Thu-Jun-25-09 Jim Thorpe, PA Penn’s Peak
Fri-Jun-26-09 Bridgeport, CT Klein Theater
Sat-Jun-27-09 Buffalo, NY Buffalo Rocks the Harbor
Sun-Jun-28-09 Troy, NY Revolution Hall
Wed-Jul-01-09 Lancaster, PA Chameleon Club
Thu-Jul-02-09 Indianapolis, IN Vogue Theater
Fri-Jul-03-09 Peoria, IL CEFCU Center St
Sat-Jul-04-09 Cincinnati, OH Moonite Gardens
Sun-Jul-05-09 Rothbury, MI Rothbury Music Festival
Wed-Jul-08-09 Syracuse, NY Wescott Theatre
Thu-Jul-09-09 Great Barrington, MA Mahaiwe Theater
Fri-Jul-10-09 Tarrytown, NY Tarrytown Music Hall
Sat-Jul-11-09 Masontown, WV All Good Festival
Sun-Jul-12-09 Louisville, KY Forecastle Festival
Fri-Jul-17-09 North Plains, OR Northwest String Summit
Sat-Jul-18-09 North Plains, OR Northwest String Summit
Sun-Jul-19-09 North Plains, OR Northwest String Summit
Tue-Aug-11-09 Kansas City, MO Crossroads
Wed-Aug-12-09 Des Moines, IA Simon Estes Amphitheatre
Thu-Aug-13-09 Davenport, IA RedStone Room
Fri-Aug-14-09 Bayfield, WI Big Top Chautauqua
Sat-Aug-15-09 Apple Valley, MN Weesner Amphitheater
Sat-Aug-22-09 Alta, WY Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival
Thu-Aug-27-09 Boulder, CO The Fox Theatre
Fri-Aug-28-09 Morrison, CO Red Rocks (with Xavier Rudd)
Sat-Aug-29-09 Santa Fe, NM Paolo Soleri (with Xavier Rudd)
Sun-Aug-30-09 Flagstaff, AZ Pine Mountain (with Xavier Rudd)
Tue-Sep-01-09 West Valley City, UT USANA Amphitheatre (with DMB)
Wed-Sep-02-09 Reno, NV Hawkins Amphitheater
Fri-Sep-04-09 George, WA Gorge Amphitheatre (with DMB)
Sat-Sep-05-09 George, WA Gorge Amphitheatre (with DMB)
Sun-Sep-06-09 George, WA Gorge Amphitheatre (with DMB)

Photo credit: Tobin Voggesser.

Monday's Earful: Michael Jackson - What Are We Mourning?

By: David Schultz

On the day that Elvis Presley died, an anonymous music industry executive reportedly commented that it was a phenomenal career move for The King. It’s an apocryphal anecdote that has persisted to this day because in a deeply cynical way, it contained a somewhat significant kernel of truth. “Good career move” wasn’t my first thought when I heard that Michael Jackson had died but after seeing the pictures of people gathering outside the hospital and watching the reaction from aggrieved fans around the world, I’m starting to think that Jackson's death has caused a wholesale reevaluation of the singer's life and career. It's something that never would have happened during his lifetime.

The first two acts of Jackson’s life are unequaled: as the pre-teen lead singer of Jackson 5, he fronted one of the most successful groups of the Motown era and Madonna notwithstanding, Jackson was the biggest star of the Eighties - Thriller having saved the music industry from the brink of its post-Disco ruin. He entertained millions, his shy off-stage demeanor a stark contrast to the confident stage performer. Sadly, as his career went into decline, act three featured self mutilation through plastic surgery, child molestation charges accompanied by criminal charges and gargantuan out-of-court settlements and a mountain of debt that would raise eyebrows if it we didn’t live in an age of billion dollar buyouts. Having transformed himself into a punch line, bands working Michael Jackson montages into their set lists wouldn’t be shortchanging a full career retrospective if they finished a medley of “ABC,” “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” and “Beat It” with The Who’s “Fiddle About.”

A masterful performer and entertainer, from the late Sixties through the Eighties, Jackson never seemed to take a wrong step, mainly because everything was choreographed to the nth degree. He’s been called “The King Of Pop” for so long, most seem to forget it’s a name he gave himself. When not on stage, where everything could be scripted, he never seemed comfortable in his own skin, literally. Perhaps growing up in a world where everything was planned in advance, Jackson never learned how to spontaneously interact with people. It’s baffling to imagine that this current outpouring of undying love from people who never met Jackson comes from anything that arose from within the singer. His public persona was awkward and distant, not warm or emotive; his interviews always seemed overly orchestrated, designed to prevent any serious inquisition into the singer’s bizarre lifestyle choices; he appeared in public one time too often wearing surgical masks that gave the appearance that he didn’t deign to breathe the same air as the commoners and then there’s the child molestation charges that dogged him in his latter years and caused him to move to Bahrain. For the last decade or so, schadenfreude and Michael Jackson have gone hand in hand.

The Michael Jackson being mourned and remembered has been gone for more than a decade. If we had wanted to pay homage to the passage of an era and revel in the greatness of the songs of Off The Wall and Thriller – for which Quincy Jones deserves no small share of credit – we could have done so at any time since the turn of the century. Now that Jackson is gone, we seem to want to erase the third act of his life or at least minimize its importance. In all the major papers and music sites, the photos are of Jackson from his younger, pre-plastic surgery days because this is the Michael Jackson we all want to remember: the 10-year-old fronting The Jackson 5 on “I Want You Back,” the moonwalking superstar singing “Billie Jean” on the Motown 25 special, the high school letter jacket clad dancing zombie from the “Thriller” video and the co-organizer of USA for Africa and “We Are The World.” With Jackson gone, we’ve decided to dwell on the good and ignore (temporarily) the bad, ugly and flat-out weird.

I wager it’s not so much Jackson’s death we are all collectively mourning; rather, it’s the passage of a happy vestige from our own youth.

Thea Gilmore: Sun Studio Sessions "Old Soul"

Thea Gilmore has been dubbed "the best British singer-songwriter of the last 10 years, and then some" by Uncut Magazine. But, the press aren't the only ones taking notice. Joan Baez personally invited Gilmore to tour with her and in 2008 the music icon sang with Thea for "Low Road" on her critically acclaimed release LieJacker. Sun Studio provided a perfect backdrop for her insightful lyrics and warm delivery. Check her out below performing "Old Soul."

Speaking to her song writing skills, The Independent calls Thea "The most prolific and intelligent wordsmith of her generation" while MOJO opines "deceptively populist and deceitfully dark."

You can learn more about Thea and hear more music on her MySpace page.

Marco Benevento Trio To Headline Let it Roll Festival

The Pawnshop Roses and Number Line Productions announced that the Marco Benevento Trio will headline the the "Let it Roll" Festival at Sunnyview Farm in Ghent, NY the weekend of September 18th and 19th. Benevento and band join Jammy winners the Breakfast as the latest additions to the lineup.

Sunnyview Farm is a gorgeous 1200 acre farm located in Ghent, NY, which is just over an hour north of Woodstock, that has played host to rock and roll royalty over the years including John Lennon, Willie Nelson and Levon Helm.

To date, beyond the hosting Pawnshop Roses, additional confirmed acts include Leroy Justice, Teenage Prayers, The Leaves, Dead River Company and now Mountain Jam regulars Buzzuniverse. Additional acts will be announced soon. Tickets are available here.

Ghent, NY is conveniently located near Albany (45 minutes), Boston (2.5 hours), NYC (2 hours), Burlington, VT (3 hours 45 minutes) and Philadelphia (4 hrs). The “Let It Roll” Festival is an all-ages even and adults 21 and over can enjoy B.Y.O.B. Food and nonalcoholic concessions stands will also be in place. In addition, ample grassy fields will provide parking for cars, RVs, and buses and plenty of room will be designated for setting up camp to spend the night.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson 1958 - 2009

Ben, the two of us need look no more
We both found what we were looking for
With a friend to call my own
I'll never be alone
And you, my friend, will see
You've got a friend in me
(you've got a friend in me)

Ben, you're always running here and there
You feel you're not wanted anywhere
If you ever look behind
And don't like what you find
There's one thing you should know
You've got a place to go
(you've got a place to go)

I used to say "I" and "me"
Now it's "us", now it's "we"
I used to say "I" and "me"
Now it's "us", now it's "we"
Ben, most people would turn you away
I don't listen to a word they say
They don't see you as I do
I wish they would try to
I'm sure they'd think again
If they had a friend like Ben
(a friend) Like Ben
(like Ben) Like Ben

Friday's Earful: The Blues Brothers

By: David Schultz

Like most of you, I’ve watched The Blues Brothers an extraordinary number of times over the last three decades and with repeated viewings you start to notice certain things that just don’t make very much sense. I’m not talking about things like the Bluesmobile’s ability to defy the laws of physics and automotive mechanics, Ray Charles remarkable accuracy with firearms or that no one within the white supremacist organization knows the address of Wrigley Field. I'm referring to things that really sit and make you wonder. Take for example . . .

Before the Good Ole Boys arrive at Bob’s Country Bunker, The Blues Brothers have posed as them, filled the place up, apparently played a full set, loaded out and stuck around until the place is empty. When the Boys finally do roll in, they hardly seem concerned that they may have arrived after closing time and missed their entire show, do they? It begs the question, when exactly did the Good Ole Boys think they were going on? But wait . . .

The Blues Brothers have sold out the Palace Hotel Ballroom, which seats five thousand people, and everyone has come to see them. After making the crowd wait for them to come on stage because they’ve run out of gas and hit on Twiggy, they finally take the stage . . . to dead silence. What crowd of 5,000 have you ever been part of that greets the headliner without making a noise? Or how about . . .

While waiting for The Blues Brothers to get to the Ballroom, Cab Calloway and the band stall for time by playing “Minnie The Moocher.” When the curtain opens, the band is dressed in tuxedos which they weren’t wearing and playing behind formal boxes that didn’t exist just moments before. Once Calloway is done, the band is back in their casual clothes and the set has changed. Other than Britney Spears, Madonna and Justin Timberlake, who changes clothes and sets that quickly? And finally . . .

Once The Blues Brothers go into Wilson Pickett’s “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love,” they win over the crowd in less than half a song. More than sway the audience, they have them up on their feet, clapping in unison and dancing wildly. Dead silence to massive approval in less than three minutes. When exactly does that occur?

Next week on killjoy korner, Earvolution points out how a single gopher would unlikely provoke as much damage to a golf course like the one in Caddyshack and explains how the gopher's skeletal structure would make his dance to "I'm Alright" impossible. As to how Kenny Loggins' music could make any living creature dance is beyond Earvolution's comprehension.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursday's Earful: Richard Swift @ Piano's' Jim James

By: David Schultz

“These are songs.”

That’s how Richard Swift began his early evening set at Piano’s on New York City’s Lower East Side. A true statement although in all actuality, Swift could have prefaced the night by emphasizing “these are songs.” A musician’s musician, Swift has voice that floats on air, possessed with an elusive quality that slides between plastic soul and pop genius. On The Atlantic Ocean, his recently released album, Swift's songs unfold as amidst a surreal cabaret, revisiting a time when all that an artist needed was the ability to craft a good song.

At Piano's, Swift touched on healthy doses of The Atlantic Ocean, letting his voice, which hardly looks like it should come from him, and, of course, the songs waft throughout the hall. For "A Song For Milton Fehr," everyone but the drummer found a keyboard to bang out the song's sprightly tune and for the final offering, the joyous"Lady Luck," Swift went into full soul singer mode, the performer coming through. In contrast to artists who try to emphasize the showmanship inherent in a live gig, it's refreshing to see someone like Swift with the confidence to let the songs take center stage.

UNDER THE NOT-SO SECRETIVE GUISE of Yim Yames, My Morning Jacket lead singer Jim James will be releasing a solo EP of George Harrison covers entitled Tribute To. Recorded shortly after Harrison's death in 2001, James' homage to the Silent Beatle will be released on August 4. However, if you can't wait until then, or just want to verify that James hasn't been possessed by the spirit of the Swedish Chef you can download as well as pre-order the album at YimYames.com starting July 7. If you really can't wait, you can download "Behind The Locked Door" for free right away.

The EP will contain covers of:

Long Long Long
Behind That Locked Door
Love You To
My Sweet Lord
Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)
All Things Must Pass

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wednesday's Earful: Beck; Keller Williams

By: David Schultz

With record labels losing their importance in getting music into the ears of people who listen to it, artists are coming up with new and different ways to release albums. Radiohead’s much-publicized, pay-what-you-want scheme may have been a shot across the bow of the establishment and inspired some imitators but it didn’t start a free music revolution. The new scheme, at least for the summer, seems to be a one-at-a-time plan

Beck, essentially a free agent as far as record deals go, will experiment with the idea as part of his newly created Record Club. Starting with Velvet Underground and Nico, Beck will invite friends like MGMT, Devendra Banhart and Jamie Liddell, into the studio to cover a classic album in its entirety with little rehearsal. The results will be released on a weekly basis on his Web site with Beck’s cover of “Sunday Morning” kicking things off.

Record Club: Velvet Underground & Nico 'Sunday Morning' from Beck Hansen on Vimeo.

KELLER WILLIAMS WILL ALSO BE trying out weekly allotments of new music. As the calendar counts down to the release of his ODD, Williams will release it a track at a time as part of his Once A Week Freek. In addition to the new studio material, Williams will also make available live recordings and unreleased songs currently residing in the vault. The tracks will sell for 99 cents a pop with some coming bundled with free bonus material.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday's Earful: The Return of Living Colour

By: David Schultz

In the spring of 2006, I interviewed Vernon Reid in conjunction with the release of Masque’s Other True Self. Being a tremendous Living Colour fan, I couldn’t help but inquire about whether the band that had such an influence on my taste in music had anything planned for the future. Reid’s response was a question in itself: does Living Colour have anything else to say? It appears that the answer is a resounding “Yes!” On September 15, Living Colour will release The Chair In The Doorway, their first studio album since 2003’s Collideoscope, and will follow it up with a world tour, which will include a trek across North America.

Though a reunion of sorts, it’s more of a return. After splitting in 1995, Reid, Corey Glover, Doug Wimbish and Will Calhoun truly reunited in 2000 and found a renewed purpose in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks; as a New York band, they had something to say. Living Colour also returned to CBGB, one of the venue’s that allowed the fledgling band room to spread their wings, to play a benefit in an effort to keep the legendary club from closing. With Corey Glover occupied with his role as Judas in a national touring production of Jesus Christ Superstar for the past 2 ½ years, any true Living Colour plans were placed on hold until now, although they did play a benefit show in support of Barack Obama’s candidacy at Le Poisson Rouge in September of 2008.

If Living Colour has something to say, there’s no question that it will be worth listening.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday's Earful: Metric @ Terminal 5

By: David Schultz

I first became acquainted with Emily Haines about three years ago, when Broken Social Scene made their way through New York City with Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning anchoring the Canadian collective. One of about 20 people that shuffled on and off the Webster Hall stage that night, Haines was the only one that made a lasting impression with me. With her punk though Debbie Harry-cool attitude, Haines practically stole the show every time she emerged. Like most people who have passed through Broken Social Scene, Haines had her own band, Metric, a feisty little outfit whose latest album, Fantasies, culls together songs that have been kicking around their repertoire for the last couple years. It’s a bold, robust collection that offers a glimpse at what The Breeders might have been up to had drugs not slowed down their momentum in the 90s.

Last week, Metric pulled a hearty crowd into Terminal 5, New York City’s cavernous west side pseudo-lounge. Fronting Metric, the athletically built Haines bears a slight resemblance to Uma Thurman and is every bit the rock and roll frontwoman, embodying a little bit of everything. When she stalks around the stage lost in a benign rhythmic rant, she channels the ardency of Patti Smith, when she bounces around the stage, halfway between skipping and bounding, you wonder if this could have been Gwen Stefani’s destiny had No Doubt not skewed into the mainstream and no one ever created the word “Hollaback.” A fine band, Metric makes up for the awkward and tired Beatles and Rolling Stones comparison in “Gimme Sympathy” and the rah-rah sentiment of “Stadium Love” by overlaying them with thunderous beats and new wave sheen.

Having mistimed the start of Metric’s set, I got a firsthand taste as to how miserable a venue Terminal 5 can be. When people talk about a place having bad sightlines, they aren’t even imagining the extent of the potential horrors of Terminal 5. As they may hold the roof up, you can forgive the giant columns that present the largest physical obstructions, but you cannot tolerate the fact that the venue is not set up to adequately provide proper viewing for its posted capacity. If you’re down on the floor, you are most likely fine. However, once you make your way up to either of the two balconies, which spread far back from the rails that overlook the stage, you are terminally screwed. Without the height to play power forward in the NBA, the angles are just too poor to be able to see anything but the back of the person in front of you if you are not leaning on the rail. There is one section of the balcony that is set up perfectly: the VIP area has a raised level that allows you to see over the first wave of bodies. Of course, that area is rarely packed and it usually goes to waste. This explains why the floor at every T5 show is a crowded mess. It's the only place where you can see the band.

Next time you're heading to Terminal 5 for a sold out show, be smart: have that one last drink at the venue instead of the bar (I strongly recommend the nearby Jake's Saloon on 57th Street and 10th Avenue for pre-show drinks) and if you haven't eaten, rest assured, there is a empanada concession on the second floor.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pawnshop Roses to host "Let it Roll" Festival; World Cafe Tonight

Taking a cue from moe and their now annually successful moe.down festival, the Pawnshop Roses are co-hosting their first annual "Let it Roll" Festival at Sunnyview Farm in Ghent, NY the weekend of September 18th and 19th.

Sunnyview Farm is a gorgeous 1200 acre farm located in Ghent, NY, which is just over an hour north of Woodstock, that has played host to rock and roll royalty over the years including John Lennon, Willie Nelson and Levon Helm.

So far, confirmed acts include Leroy Justice, Teenage Prayers, The Leaves, Dead River Company and BuzzUniverse. Additional acts and headliners will be announced soon. Tickets available here.

Ghent, NY is conveniently located near Albany (45 minutes), Boston (2.5 hours), NYC (2 hours), Burlington, VT (3 hours 45 minutes) and Philadelphia (4 hrs). The “Let It Roll” Festival is an all-ages even and adults 21 and over can enjoy B.Y.O.B. Food and nonalcoholic concessions stands will also be in place. In addition, ample grassy fields will provide parking for cars, RVs, and buses and plenty of room will be designated for setting up camp to spend the night.

Meanwhile, the Pawnshop Roses headline the World Cafe Live tonight in Philadelphia with special guests Justin Jones and The Morning Pages, starting at 8pm.

Friday's Earful: The Death Set

By: David Schultz

In the neverending search for new music to listen to, sometimes you don't need to go any farther than your own iPOD. Originally from Australia, The Death Set are a energetic shouty kind of band. On Worldwide, their full length debut released almost a year ago, they manage to capture all the frenzy and mania of punk rock with nary a pronounced guitar. Using electronica derived drums, a variety of keys and a touch of bass, The Death Set bring the rawness of basement punk into the high tech world. Give a listen and you will agree with their boast in "Intermission" and not be one those who "wonder why the people cry The Motherfuckin' Death Set."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thursday's Earful: Dylan Covers

By: David Schultz

For Heroes, the compendium of covers whose proceeds go to War Child International, an organization dedicated to aiding children worldwide afflicted by war, Beck completely reinvented Bob Dylan’s “Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat.” After listening to it for about the 50th time over the past few weeks, it prompted me to start discussions over whether Beck’s version of the Blonde On Blonde classic was the best Dylan cover ever. Of course, whenever such a subjective question comes up, it can mean only one thing: it’s list time.

Some artists have made their careers out of covering Dylan: Peter, Paul & Mary, Richie Havens and The Byrds rode Dylan’s coattails for many years at the expense of writing their own material. Even when Dylan retreated away from anything close to memorable music, his words and music were kept alive. For much of the 80s, the Grateful Dead rarely let a live show go by without a Dylan cover.

However, a comprehensive list of Dylan covers is not a novel exercise. Right around the time of Heroes’ release, Paste Magazine offered their all-inclusive, though relatively conservative, take on this idea. For this list of 5, we’re skipping the obvious: Jimi Hendrix’ take on “All Along The Watchtower” will always take the prize for best Dylan cover ever and the joyless droning version that The Dave Matthews Band included in a decades worth of shows just loses out as worst cover to the horrifying version of “Forever Young” that will.i.am cut for that Pepsi commercial.

What follows are the five Dylan covers that never seem to get the praise and discussion they deserve.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: “Like A Rolling Stone”

From Hendrix’ revelatory set at Monterey Pop in 1967, his version of “Like A Rolling Stone” usually gets overlooked as his closing take on The Troggs’ “Wild Thing” pretty much blew everyone away even before he ritualistically set his guitar on fire. Despite forgetting a verse, something he acknowledges in the midst of the song, Hendrix found the same streetwise state of mind from which to deliver the song as Dylan. In Hendrix’ hands, it still feels like gospel . . . only with awesome guitar solos.

Warren Zevon – “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”

Engaging in an unsettling bit of gallows humor, Zevon covered “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” while dying from mesothelioma. What might have been a sobering take on Dylan’s contribution to Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid, retains a bit of the song's gravitas but turns into a relatively uplifting affair as Zevon hardly seems afraid of death. Near the end of the song, he demands that the doors open up, cause he's coming. Facing his own mortality, Zevon's interpretation is one many wouldn't have the fortitude to try.

Denzel Washington – “The Mighty Quinn”

This cover can only be found within The Mighty Quinn, one of the more underrated Denzel Washington films. A different version appears on the soundtrack, a light peppy reggae take that pales in comparison to the delivery in the film. Playing a detective in a small Caribbean village, coincidentally named Quinn, Washington ambles into a bar and starts Taj Mahal's "Cakewalk Into Town" on the piano before a hushed crowd. The rest of the band has other ideas and to Washington's character's initial dread, they slowly sabotage the song and amble into “The Mighty Quinn,” ultimately sucking Denzel into joining in.

The White Stripes – “Love Sick”

Never recorded in the studio, The White Stripes incorporated the latter-era Dylan classic into their live sets with relative frequency. Jack White’s frantic yawp works wonders with "Love Sick," turning Dylan's wizened delivery on its head and giving the song a hyperactive sheen and a manic edge. As White is want to do, he also adds some guitar pyrotechnics that light up the otherwise patient and deliberate opener to Time Out Of Mind.

Bryan Ferry – “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”

Adding a jaunty hop to The Freewheelin Bob Dylan classic, Ferry's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" seems more like a haughty, breezy taunt than a foreboding warning. From These Foolish Things, Ferry's 1973 coverfest, Ferry chops through the songs concisely poetic descriptions and observations without the sense of sorrow of the original. Like everything Ferry touches, he makes "Hard Rain" distinctly his own.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wednesday's Earful: Wooden Shjips

By: David Schultz

The last band I caught at the 2008 South By Southwest Festival was Wooden Shjips at The Tap Room at Six. Having become infatuated with the band’s post-John Cale Velvet Underground sound a few months prior, I was quite excited to see the San Francisco foursome turn the room into their own psychedelic garage. As they’ve yet to come to New York in the ensuing year and a half, I’m doubly glad I caught them. Otherwise, I’d be hard pressed to prove they actually exist. Their apparent aversion to being seen in public just adds to their mystique. Hearkening back to the less-trippy days of acid rock, the Shjips offer a heady, adrenalized version reminiscent of the Syd Barrett freakout days of Pink Floyd.

On Dos, their recently released sophomore album, Wooden Shjips offer another dose (see the title works on so many levels) of their hallucinatory garage rock, stretching five songs over a quickly paced forty minutes. On “Down By The Sea” and “Fallin’,” the albums two lengthiest jams, bassist Dusty Jermier and drummer Omar Ahsanuddin lock in to a repetitive rhythm, hitting it early and not wavering from it one iota over the progression of the song. The subtle repetition lulls you in and when Ripley Johnson unleashes his reverb heavy guitar licks on top Nash Whalen’s Ray Manzarek inspired organ melodies, you get a sense of what the 21st Century Doors should really sound like.

Now, would someone bring these guys to New York already!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday's Earful: The Decemberists @ Radio City Music Hall

By: David Schultz

Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Matt Groening have never been shy about taking shots at Seth McFarlane as they seem to take great offense when their shows are discussed in the same conversation as Family Guy. Pointing to their ability to create humor around the themes of a single story, the creators of South Park and The Simpsons find Family Guy’s scattershot barrage of non sequitur jokes cheap and simplistic and not up to their standard. If Colin Meloy were so inclined, I would imagine he could look around and feel similarly irked when The Decemberists are likened to their fellow bands. Merriweather Post Pavilion may have cool songs about summer fashion and comatose lions and Veckatimest has tons of dreamy, hypnotic melodies but neither has any narrative structure or thematic continuity; they are just a compendium of short stories. Joining Green Day in restoring credibility to the concept of the concept album, The Decemberists created a larger-than-life rock opera with The Hazards Of Love, populating their fairy tale universe with a handful of slightly more than one-dimensional characters.

Unlike The Crane Wife, which had critics falling all over themselves to lavish praise upon Meloy and The Decemberists, The Hazards Of Love wasn’t draped in the same adoring cloak. While not unfair, the criticism leveled at the album - it’s verbose, it’s overblown, it’s excessive – ignored the reasons why everyone seemed to like The Decemberists in the first place. A moving and enthralling album, The Hazards Of Love is unlike anything else released this year. Last week, before a packed Radio City Music Hall, The Decemberists played their new opus before an enraptured crowd without many frills, opting to leave the theatrics to the imagination. While they didn’t bring a children’s chorus on stage for “The Hazards Of Love Part 3 (Revenge!)” - the image of a youthful chorus happily singing about returning to life to take revenge on their rakish father would have been slightly disturbing – they replicated all of Hazards’ prog-rock frills and neo-classical embellishments. Notwithstanding Lavender Diamond’s Becky Sharp sashaying grandly in a flowing white dress as the heroine Margaret and My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden stomping around like the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Karen O as the evil-hearted queen, the imagery and music were allowed to take center stage. Radio City’s normally fine sound had one stumble, during “The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid,” Worden’s majestic voice seemed to get lost in spacious theater. Otherwise, there was little left wanting.

Due to curfew issues, Meloy prefaced the second set with an announcement that it would have to be “more rock and less talk.” No worries though, Meloy is quite the chatterbox and couldn’t help engaging with the audience. Prior to a quick rendition of “Dracula’s Daughter,” Meloy pointed out that while most people would opt to play their best songs once they reach Radio City's hallowed stage, he would go against the tide by playing his worst. In addition to recent material like “The Crane Wife 3,” “O Valencia” and “Sleepless,” from the Dark Was The Night compilation, The Decemberists played a healthy smattering from their early catalog. In the midst of a lengthy version of “Chimbly Sweep,” Chris Funk and Meloy became engaged in an oddly structured guitar duel which seemed to be a battle of who could come up with the most unrhythmic solo until Meloy cheated and riffed on The Beatles’ “Blackbird.”

Keeping Worden and Sharp involved, The Decemberists went off the charts, playing “Crazy On You” with the two lovely singers tearing the house down. Unless seeking some sort of irony, Heart is rarely the go-to band for hairraising covers but when presented with two strong-voiced female singers, it’s really not that bad a choice. For the encore, R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, who had played with Robyn Hitchcock earlier in the show, joined in for a cover of “Begin The Begin.” Meloy’s exuberance for playing with one of his professed influences more than made up for the eloquent singer’s struggle with the song’s deliberately deemphasized vocals.

After a respite following their performance at Bonnaroo, The Decemberists will be bringing The Hazards Of Love around the U.S. and Canada for the rest of the summer. In October, they will return to Austin, Texas for the City Limits Festival, bringing their opera back to the city where they first played it live. Ignore whatever pissy reviews you've read. There will come a time in the future when people will make huge deal about The Decemberists playing The Hazards Of Love in its entirety, much like The Who doing Quadrophenia or if Peter Gabriel ever reunites with Genesis for The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. I can't fathom why anyone would wait for it to become a nostalgic event when they can go see The Decemberists play it now.

The above photo, taken by David Atlas, was sent to Earvolution with a request that we share it with our readers. A full set of Atlas' photos, which are quite good, can be found on the MSG site, which you can access by clicking here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday's Earful: Leroy Justice; Bonnaroo

By: David Schultz

Leroy Justice is a rock and roll band. There was a time when that was all that needed to be said. Were this 1973, Leroy Justice would be heralded within the pages of Rolling Stone and The Loho Sessions, their superb recently released sophomore effort, would provide ample fodder for free form AOR rock radio. Unfortunately, Jann Wenner’s mag seems too preoccupied with Britney Spears, The Jonas Brothers and the sexual politics of Adam Lambert to care about the American rock and roll scene and true rock and roll has long vanished from the terrestrial airwaves with satellite radio programmers now acting as the guardians of the gate. Despite feeling forsaken, true rock and roll still exists. It may not be as prevalent as it once was in the collective mindset but it has yet to be driven back underground.

On their sparkling debut, Revolution’s Son, Leroy Justice served notice that they could be the wild-eyed menacing stranger that kicks in the door of the saloon and demands to be reckoned with. On The Loho Sessions, the New York based fivesome shows that behind the feral façade, there is a wickedly keen intelligence and to be the gunslinger that underestimates the savviness within is to risk dire consequences. Finding the intersection of Exile-era Rolling Stones, the Allman Brothers Fillmore odysseys and the Let It Be Beatles, The Loho Sessions documents the band’s evolution from barroom blues rockers into a mighty rock and roll band. Getting past the distracting similarity between the opener “All My Life” and Billy Joel’s “The Stranger,” Jason Gallagher’s confident vocals, Sloan Marshall’s timeless organ riffs and Brendan Cavanaugh’s Skydog- quality slide guitar burrow into the recesses of the rock and roll soul and evoke an instinctive yet familiar response that fine classic rock can generate, only without the nagging tug of nostalgia. It’s a glorious revelation to know that bands still make this type of music.

At their recent “raveup” for The Loho Sessions’ release at New York City’s Mercury Lounge, Leroy Justice hit the majority of the album’s multitude of high spots, more than holding their own on a bill with Backyard Tire Fire and the Hill Country Revue. On many numbers, like “Steel Girl,” “So High” and “Temporary Cure,” which floats on an absolutely fantastic Cavanaugh slide-guitar riff, Justice wound their way through to masterful denouements, bringing the instrumentals into the forefront with gratifying skill. The slight twang that occupies Gallagher’s vocals gave the proper desolate feel to the easy acoustics of “Bathroom Wall,” an aching, southern-rock style ballad and invested “Mickey,” his character study of an aging veteran, with the right amount of empathy. With “Out Of Sea” marching to the same cadences set on their early album, Justice slowed down their version of their debut album’s title track to a deliberate and strident beat. Tapping into the vein of the classic rock era, their closing cover of “Whipping Post,” couldn’t have been a more natural or befitting end to the set.

For those who worry if the rock and roll they grew up on had entered its death throes: fear not, you shall be served well by Leroy Justice.

OTHER THAN WATCHING A COUPLE sets on the AT & T Webcast, I came nowhere near Bonnaroo this weekend. However, the Hidden Track folk and the Jambands.com crew made their way down there and have compiled their own reports and the best of others. The festival is too big to offer true comprehensive coverage but between HT and Jambands.com, you'll not only get a good sense as to what transpired in Manchester, TN but probably more news and opinions on Phish's participation than you ever thought could exist.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday's Earful: The Hold Steady @ The Bowery Ballroom; Bonnaroo @ Your Home; Faith No More

By: David Schultz

“We Are The Hold Steady.” It’s the coolest phrase in rock and roll; legitimately, it can only be said by five people and usually only lead singer Craig Finn needs to proclaim it. Unless you’ve been living under a rock or listening to Hot 100 radio, you’ve come across the Minneapolis fivesome that now calls Brooklyn their home. Since releasing Almost Killed Me in 2004, The Hold Steady have been almost single-handedly keeping the youthful spirit of rock and roll alive. If you’re no longer roaming grassy fields looking for a kegger or figuring out new ways to get loaded at a fraternity party, The Hold Steady will make you remember why that all seemed like fun. Like no other band, The Hold Steady make you feel young again.

This past week, Finn and the rest of The Hold Steady are taking a small victory lap around New York City, playing two shows at Manhattan’s Bowery Ballroom and two more at its Brooklyn doppelganger, the Music Hall of Williamsburg. It’s a return to their roots of sorts; on Tuesday night, Finn mentioned that they hadn’t played the Bowery in nearly 4 years. In deference to the realization, The Hold Steady played nearly every track off their 2005 masterpiece Separation Sunday, cruising through the gritty bounce of “Cattle And The Creeping Thing,” “Banging Camp,” and “Stevie Nix.” Knowing that there’s been enough cowbell already, Bobby Drake removed it from “Charlemagne In Sweatpants” and still made it awesome.

From looking at Finn, he seems like the overeducated, whip smart teenager that the cool kids taunted or ignored in high school. Only instead of getting his overly cinematic revenge by living well, Finn outshone everyone by becoming the coolest rock star on the planet. A jittery bundle of spastic energy on stage, Finn barks out his lyrics with the conviction of a bar room prophet. Like Kerouac riffing on Dean Moriarty tales, Finn has dozens of twice told tales of Charlemagne and Hallelujah perpetually stumbling their way through parties and life with a somewhat clueless ennui. He’s even found a way to add footnotes to his own songs, moving away from the mike and just adding in whatever emphasis he feels necessary.

In lauding the then-maligned Bonnie and Clyde as speaking for a whole generation, Pauline Kael noted that “once something is said or done on the screens of the world, once it has entered mass art, it can never again . . . be the private possession of an educated or ‘knowing’ group.” She could’ve been talking about The Hold Steady. Having just gone on a small European tour with the Counting Crows and about to pair up with the Dave Matthews Band for a few shows, its probably time we started to brace ourselves that we are about to lose this band. Their compendium of Springsteen-style narratives, the constant references to unified scenes and positive jams and Stay Positive’s timeless arena rock are destined to find an audience on a wide scale. No doubt, it will be frustrating. When the Hannah Montana fan outgrows the Achy Breaky spawn and starts talking about how killer parties nearly killed them, a small part of us may be thankful that the kids are going to be alright but a larger part is going to die that day.

At that point, The Hold Steady fans will have to make a choice: embrace the youngsters who won't care that you saw them on the Boys & Girls In America tour and create that unified scene Finn likes to reference or turn into the stereotypical hipster fan and dump the band cause they got too famous.

FOR THOSE OF YOU THAT abhor camping or had that little pesky day job ruin your trip down to Manchester, Tennessee for the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, AT & T has you covered. With iClips becoming a predominantly pay-per-view service, AT & T will be webcasting sets from the likes of Andrew Bird, Ben Harper & Relentless 7, Animal Collective, St. Vincent, The Decemberists and Grace Potter & The Nocturnals. There are a couple late evening "to be announced" slots that you can only hope will be filled with live feeds of Phish and Springsteen. You can watch the Webcast by clicking here.

80s FOOTNOTE FAITH NO MORE reunited Wednesday night at London's Brixton Academy. Rolling Stone has the story. Not to give away anything but, brace yourself, they played "Epic."

Robert Pollard Emerges from Hiding with Cosmos

By: Rinjo Njori

For Robert Pollard fans two months without fresh recorded output is an eternity. Over the last decade he has recorded more studio albums than The Beatles, Badfinger, The Jam and Oasis put together. Back in March, it appeared that the Circus Devils' Gringo might be his last album for six whole months. Speculation over the self imposed hiatus caused a stir: several blogs wondered if Pollard was taking a "vacation" while others panicked and suggested that he was collaborating with Kanye West and the Black Eyed Peas. Either Pollard got cold feet or he was "playing" the blogosphere by seeding those wild rumors. Well, the 52 day wait is over and Cosmos has arrived.

This time Pollard has teamed up with Richard Davies (The Cardinals), David Mineham (The Neighborhoods), and Malcom Travis (Sugar) for the psych-rock tinged Cosmos. Is Cosmos a huge departure from Boston Spaceships, Pollard Solo (Hi-Fi or Lo-Fi), or Kanye West? No. But does it matter at this point? Two tracks are available for streaming at Rock-A-Thon. "Hail Mary" gives Pollard a break in the vocals department with Davies sounding like an anglo variation of Pollard, only softer and heartfelt. Pollard jumps back on vocals for the piano driven "Nude Metropolis." If you think you can wait until next week to listen, then you don't know Robert Pollard.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rancid: Let The Dominoes Fall

By: Rinjo Njori

Five or so years after Indestructible, Rancid return with nineteen reliable punk anthems. During that period the Transplants and Lars & The Bastards released lackluster, borderline criminal sophomore albums, Tim Armstrong released a "free" solo album and Matt Freeman filled the vacant bassist spot in Social Distortion. Filling in any blank spots on their calendar with a Rancid tour or "spreading" the persistent Operation Ivy reunion rumors kept Rancid in the picture. At this point no one doubt's Tim, Lars, and Matt's songwriting abilities and their ability to keep the punk flame burning. This album does raise the question what keeps the band going when their six previous albums could fuel the band for the next decade?

If you are looking for guys that kept punk "Punk!" back in the 90s, then look no further than "Bravest Kids" and "East Bay Night." These two songs are vintage Rancid. Although they would not be out of place on . . . And Out Come the Wolves, they are a bit too polished for Let's Go. "Last One to Die" balances ska with some rap elements and makes you wonder how Armstrong went so wrong with the Transplants' Haunted Cities. Rancid hasn't taken any big risks since Life Won't Wait. The biggest risk on the album is "Civilian Ways," the country tinged song would fit perfectly on Armstrong's solo album but mixed in with 18 other songs that move effortlessly between the punk and ska genre, its clearly out of place. "Dominoes Fall" might be the most underrated title track on Rancid's five named albums. The zippy bass line matched with the organ keeps the song pumping. In contrast, "L.A. River" almost comes off as fun, but ends up feeling silly as Frederiksen belts out his "shimmy, shimmy, shimmy." This only highlights Frederiksen's weaker songs and overall lackluster contribution. This song is a long way off from "Listed M.I.A."

Rancid delivers vital songs when the punk and ska burn at both ends. Let the Dominoes Fall doesn't come close to Life Won't Wait, but doesn't stink up your music player like Rancid (2000). Until they stumble, it is pretty obvious that Rancid will keep doing what they are doing, even if the fans stop coming.

Thursday's Earful: The Dark Star Orchestra; Keller Williams

By: David Schultz

On July 11, the Dark Star Orchestra returns to Governor’s Island to kick off the second season of The HighLine Ballroom’s concert series The Beach At Governor’s Island. Taking the concept of a tribute band to another level, the DSO has been recreating Grateful Dead concerts in their entirety for more than a decade, inspiring such similar acts like Strange Design (Phish). The Dark Star Orchestra – currently comprised of Rob Barraco (keys), John Kadlecik (guitar), Rob Eaton (guitar), Kevin Rosen (bass), Rob Koritz (drums), Dino English (drums) and Lisa Mackey (vocals) - performed the Dead’s May 1, 1977 set from Palladium in New York City on their last visit to the Island.

In addition to the Dark Star Orchestra, Keller Williams, who’s been known to include more than a couple Dead tunes into his wide ranging set lists, will bring his solo looping Freek show to the Island as part of the bill.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wednesday's Earful: Little Richard @ BB King's

By: David Schultz

Whenever a living legend - especially one you’ve never seen before - comes to town, there is no question about whether you go. The mistake would be to have expectations that you are seeing them in their prime or that you’re going for any other reason than to be in the same room and get a sense of what made them great. Sometimes you get something that seems ripped from a time capsule; other times you get Little Richard this past Sunday night at the BB King Blues Club & Grill in New York City’s Times Square.

Little Richard’s pedigree needs no embellishment and along with Elvis Presley, Ray Charles and others, deservedly was part of the first class inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Now nearing 77 years old, in reportedly poor health and currently wheelchair bound due to a degenerative hip condition, Little Richard’s stage show felt a lot like sitting for ninety minutes with your senile grandfather, except his rambling stories involved him inventing rock and roll and every so often he let out a shout in which you could hear the genesis of The Beatles. A less generous interpretation would involve speculation about whether Little Richard had dipped a bit too deep into his pain medication but given how prone he was to distraction, his constant questioning of whether the audience was having a good time – think Eddie Murphy’s routine about his grandmother asking, “What time is it?" – and the somewhat bewildered expression on his face, clearly Mr. Penniman was not on the top of his game.

Playing with a full band, Richard showed glimpses of the musical innovator from the Fifties and even if dampened a bit, his extroverted personality and sense of humor are still present. Once settled at his piano bench, he joked about the difficulties of being in a wheelchair, revealing that when he tells whoever’s pushing it to “shut up,” they strand him. In running through classics like “Good Golly, Miss Molly,” “The Girl Can’t Help It,” “Keep A-Knockin,” “Jenny, Jenny” and, of course, “Tutti Frutti,” he played about a minute or two of each, enough to make you feel like he sang it but coming no where close to full versions. Rather than pad out the set with his sizable catalog of classics, Richard had a pair of guest singers come out and offer tepid covers of Jimmy Reed and Sam Cooke. Even if they were offering something better, everyone had come to see the man in the sparkly white suit.

Going on will more than anything else, Richard entertained in a manner that has been ingrained into his soul by more than half a century of experience. It’s likely something he can do without giving it too much thought. There was probably a way to write a more meanspirited account of the show but other than living up to the stereotype of bitter, harsh Internet journalism, what would that really serve? When I’m nearing 80, I hope to be able to bask in as much love from strangers as Little Richard did on Sunday night. Given the line full of people who wanted to meet him, shake his hand and get an autograph that snaked around the perimeter of the cabaret at the end of the show, it seems many are willing to remember him the way that he was: one of the greatest of all time.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Tuesday's Earful: Woodstock At 40

By: David Schultz

This summer marks the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, the 3 day music festival in Bethel, New York that helped define the Sixties. The commemoration of the event starts today with the reissue of Michael Wadleigh’s Academy Award winning documentary Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music, on which a young pre-Mean Streets Martin Scorsese toiled as editor and helped create the film’s multi-panel presentation.

The summer months will likely see a whole host of Woodstock remembrances of varying quality. One which doesn’t seem probable is the rumored anniversary celebration in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York put together by Michael Lang, who helped organize the original festival. With the actual anniversary dates, August 15-18 unavailable, the Brooklyn event seemed doomed from its inception.

On a more definite note, on August 18, Rhino will release 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur’s Farm, a 6 CD set which will recreate the festival in chronological order over its 77 tracks. Those hoping to get those long unheard Quill, Bert Sommer and John Morris tracks as well as the continual updates on the quality of the acid being passed around can rejoice but anyone looking for music from The Band’s set will have to keep searching. Listeners can judge for themselves if The Grateful Dead’s harsh self-assessment of their set was accurate: 40 Years On contains their complete version of “Dark Star.”

The most authentic anniversary celebration will take place in Woodstock at the Bethel Woods Center For The Arts, which sits on the site of the original festival. On August 14, Richie Havens will once again open the festivities with a show featuring the “Heroes of Woodstock” taking place the next night. The Levon Helm Band, Jefferson Starship, Ten Years After, Canned Heat, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Mountain, Tom Constanten (Grateful Dead) and Country Joe McDonald are scheduled to perform.

The festivities will stretch into the fall; on October 25, West Fest, a left coast celebration of the festival, will take place in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. The free show will feature performances by Country Joe McDonald, poet Michael McClure and Ray Manzarek of The Doors, The Chambers Brothers, Barry “The Fish” Melton, Blue Cheer, Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks, guitarist Harvey Mandel and Denny Laine of The Moody Blues.

The low key celebrations will hopefully restore the dignity to a festival whose legacy of brotherhood and communal goodwill has been consistently raped by those trusted with its care. Woodstock 94 in Saugerties, New York cast the first stain upon the storied festival’s reputation and five years later, the commercialism and lawlessness of Woodstock 99, held on an Air Force base in Rome, New York, destroyed any shred of the festival’s status as an ongoing symbol of love and peace. Co-opting Woodstock’s peaceful ideals as a marketing tool, Woodstock 99 marked the lowest point in the uncomfortable shotgun marriage between art and commerce.

The entire festival season is premised on recapturing the magic that occurred at Woodstock in 1969; it's a feat unlikely to ever be repeated. To put things in persepctive as to how things have changed in 40 years: this year's Bonnaroo featuring Phish and Bruce Springsteen costs roughly $250 not including food, drink and travel and you will not get on the campgrounds without a ticket; at the original Woodstock, where The Who and Jimi Hendrix performed, tickets were $18, people shared everything they had and most people were let in for free.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Monday's Earful: TV On The Radio @ Central Park; Dirty Projectors

By: David Schultz

The Summerstage series of shows in Central Park is supposed to be an enjoyable way to spend a glorious summer evening in New York City. For the most part, it typically works out that way, although Mother Nature occasionally throws a wet blanket on the festivities. This past Friday, the first major show of the 2009 season featuring Brooklyn’s funkified art-rockers TV On The Radio, had all the makings of a wonderful night of inventive modern rock under the stars. Even if the weather did everything it could to put a figurative and literal damper on the evening, TVotR put forth a radiant performance that outlasted the rain that had pestered City dwellers all day long. The only thing that could have made the atmosphere more perfect would have been a lightning storm to provide an organic light show – although that definitely would have resulted in a rare Central Park cancellation.

Picking up where Prince left off in “1999,” TV On The Radio play a feisty and imaginative brand of apocalyptic dance music full of Jaleel Bunton’s lightning quick drum riffs and ominously portentous horn fills. When you add in lead singer Tunde Adebimpe’s remarkably versatile vocal skills, you get a band that moves you with its power instead of superficial beats. Under the auspices of Dave Sitek, TV On The Radio has crafted two of this decades most well-received albums: Return To Cookie Mountain and Dear Science. Sitek’s reputation has extended to other projects, balancing fine productions like the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s recent It’s Blitz and his own side project Iran’s Dissolver with dreck like Scarlett Johansson’s Anywhere I Lay My Head. Although in all honesty, would you have said no to the sexy starlet? I watched two hours worth of The Nanny Diaries just cause she was in it.

The Friday night weather was absolutely miserable and the crowd was noticeably thinner. Apparently, scenesters willing to go to the cool show for appearances sake melt when wet like the Wicked Witch of West. With the rain alternating between a steady shower and a light misting, the majority of the little more than half capacity crowd that braved the inclement weather spent the main part of the set hunkered under umbrellas. TV On The Radio’s reputation as a live band hasn’t caught up with their status as studio monsters. An appearance on Saturday Night Live (coincidentally repeated this weekend) did nothing to change that perception as they battled a murky mix that buried a lot of aural mélange. Playing to the converted, those in attendance likely knew that TVotR’s live set would be worth getting soaked; the people who needed convincing likely never made the trip.

Staying true to the first rule of playing before a crowd that’s standing in the rain, Adebimpe, Sitek, Bunton, bassist Gerard Smith and guitarist Kyp Malone, whose ABA-era afro seemed impervious to the weather, kept things upbeat. “Golden Age” shook with the funkiness of old-school Prince, “Halfway Home” marched forward on its hard rock derived beat and “Shout Me Out” and “Dancing Choose” had the soggy crowd doing their own version of Gene Kelly’s famous hoofing. The weather only moved beyond inconvenience during the encore rendition of “Love Dog.” As the song moved into its soulful final throes, the sound system simply shorted out leaving the band unamplified. Unfazed, they never skipped a beat with Bunton’s drums and the Antibalas horns remaining loud enough to be heard as Adebimpe’s wordless crooning slowly became audible as the techs restored the sound.

THANKS TO THE HORRIBLE WEATHER, I didn’t make it to Summerstage in time to see the Dirty Projectors opening set. I’ve really been enjoying their latest album Bitte Orca and see the Dave Longstreth led group as part of the New Mavericks of rock and roll. Rather than latching onto a genre, bands like Dirty Projectors, White Denim, Menomena and to a lesser extent Grizzly Bear and St. Vincent are simply making music and going in whatever direction they feel like taking it. If the song doesn’t need a chorus, one isn’t forced in; if a glockenspiel would make things sound better, no preconceived notion keeps it out. Bitte Orca gets better with each listen because there’s so much to hear. I’m disappointed a few drops of water kept me from missing them.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Liam Finn Touring with Eddie Vedder Performs for Sun Studio Sessions

Liam Finn originally hails from Australia, but identifies New Zealand as his home country as he moved there as a child. You'll recognize Liam's famous last name, as his father is Neil Finn from 1980s chart toppers Crowded House. Liam joined his father on covering The Beatles' "Two of Us" for the I Am Sam soundtrack and has played some Crowded House reunion shows. However, Liam does not rely on his lineage and has set forth to forge his own musical identity.

Since striking out on his own, Liam has performed on the David Letterman show as well as logging appearances on Craig Ferguson and Jools Holland. Liam has also done multiple tour dates with Eddie Vedder as well as the Black Keys. Below Liam, along with band mate EJ Barnes perform "Second Chance" from his album I'll be Lightning for Sun Studio Sessions:

Liam is currently on the road again this year with Eddie Vedder and you can see all the tour dates on his MySpace page.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Friday's Earful: Dave Matthews Band

By: David Schultz

When the Dave Matthews Band comes to New York City, they usually play large fields like Randall’s Island or Central Park or when forced to economize manage to cram their whole show into the tiny, little Madison Square Garden. On the eve of the release of Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, dedicated to saxophonist LeRoi Moore who passed away last year from injuries suffered in an ATV accident, the DMB played, for them, an intimate performance at the Beacon Theater. In a nice touch, the Fuse network, (hey, a channel dedicated to music, didn’t MTV once do that), simulcast the show commercial free.

For some reason, television networks do a lousy job broadcasting live concerts, feeling the need to enhance the event with moronic commentary or poor camera angles. Until HBO figured out how to properly telecast a show, home viewers were subjected to atrocities like the MTV VJs squawking all over Live Aid or VH1 deciding that the middle of The Who tearing through “Won’t Get Fooled Again” would be a good time cut to a commercial break. Doing a fine job of staying out of the way, Fuse had the cameras in the right places and let Matthews and the band carry the show. While a broadcast will never replace the live experience, I thought Fuse admirably made you feel like you were in on what was transpiring. They also didn’t care that the show ran over, staying with it until the final note. My only complaint, Steve Smith, our insipid host for the evening, was absolutely atrocious during the encore break, patronizing the viewing audience about whether there would be an encore and conducting a God-awful interview with fans at the back of the theater, asking such incisive questions like “Did they play the song you wanted?” Really? They should have just let the cameras roam the crowd until Matthews returned.

As for the performance, the DMB predictably focused on their latest album and based on the live renditions, the new stuff sounds great and I can’t recall when Matthews seemed as loose and relaxed with his stage banter. In playing a solo acoustic rendition of Pete Seeger’s “Rye Whiskey,” Matthews made up for his failing voice on the high notes with sheer will, winning the already convinced crowd over with the effort. The Beacon’s enthusiasm came across pretty well on TV and almost created a spontaneous moment when the overwhelming chant for “Halloween” seemed to place the band on the verge of calling an audible. When the audience began chanting “LeRoi! LeRoi! LeRoi!,” I couldn’t help but wonder what was going through the band’s mind. While I’m sure Matthews Band fans are affected by Moore’s death, it cannot possibly be on the level that it touched Moore’s band mates whose lives and careers were dramatically affected by their friend’s passing. They must have been touched on an instinctive level but at the same time must have wondered what the audience was trying to accomplish by chanting Moore’s name. It was a truly nice gesture and the intent admirable but was it sympathetic, empathetic or purely self-aggrandizing and selfish. Days later, I'm still not sure.

The Greatest Benefit Lineup Ever

Jazzy Goodtime's
8 Hour Jazz Benefit
2 Songs Will Be Played

Organized by The Skinny Palmer Trio to raise money for "Tick Tock" Simpson's arthroscopic microsurgery to reattach the ulnar nerve


Gooey Martin
Willie Mims
Dropjaws Turner
Sketch Friendly
Tootsie Childs
Sammy Biltmore
No Talent Jones
Anwar Benitez
Bossy Marmalade
Bad Check Mazursky
Ray Ray Takamura
Shaky Premise
Bootsy Crouton
Richard Sakai
The Pre-Marital Sextet
CSI Miami
D.W. Jitters
The Chubb Group
Cantaloupe St. Pierre

and many many more funny names

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Thursday's Earful: Greil Marcus; Bob Dylan; Paul McCartney At CitiField

By: David Schultz

About a year ago, I came across former Rolling Stone editor Greil Marcus’ 1975 opus, Mystery Train. Don’t act too surprised, the Largehearted Boy isn’t the only one who reads, you know. In his influential novel, one of the first extended works of critical music analysis, Marcus sussed out the origins of American rock and roll, recasting the music of the Sixties and early Seventies in the context of its blues and country roots, concluding with the biggest amalgamation of homegrown superstardom: Elvis Presley. In Like A Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan At The Crossroads, Marcus attempts to ply his incisive acumen to a single song, Dylan’s monumental 1965 anthem.

Ostensibly a dissertation on the significance and importance of “Like A Rolling Stone,” Marcus’ prior gift for prose goes horribly and at times embarrassingly askew. He buries his bloated study in senseless digressions on off-topic subjects like the Pet Shop Boys’ “Go West,” verbose explanations of what emotions are conveyed by guitar licks, bass lines and drum shots and speculative extrapolation of the import of a song’s delivery. That’s not to say that Marcus doesn’t ably describe 1965’s musical and sociological landscape but in stretching a subject more apropos of a feature length article into a two hundred page explique, Marcus loses his sense of purpose and never reaches his lofty goal of placing "Like A Rolling Stone" in its proper historical context.

Written forty years after the fact, Marcus’ tome doesn’t offer anything new or insightful to the Dylan canon. Those looking for a compendium of trivia associated with the song’s recording will have found their Bible; the book is awash in minutia as Marcus details each and every take in painstaking detail. Ultimately, to really get the proper feel for “Like A Rolling Stone,” you’re better off setting Marcus’ book aside, putting on a pair of headphones and just chilling out to Highway 61 Revisited.

THE NEW YORK METS HAVE left their fans wanting come the end of the last two seasons but when it comes to bringing classic rock to the ball park, they wisely step out of the way and let more competent folks handle matters. (Let's face facts, if Omar Minaya was in charge of booking acts at Citi Field, he'd overpay for the reunion of Menudo and Ricky Martin would injure himself before the show). With an eye towards history, Paul McCartney will christen the stage at the new Mets stadium on July 17 and July 18. In 1965, The Beatles famously played Shea, marking the first time rock and roll occupied the stadium and just last year, he turned my Paul McCartney theory into Schultz' Law of Paul McCartney by treating fans to "Let It Be" in closing out the encore of Billy Joel's Last Play At Shea.

Tickets go on sale on June 15 at 10:00 a.m. through the Mets ticketing system 507TIXX.com. A word of warning, the system was woefully ill equipped to handle the influx of traffic produced by the Billy Joel concerts and there has been no indication the bandwidth problems have been addressed.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Wednesday's Earful: Hill Country Revue; Phish In Boston

By: David Schultz

The Hill Country Revue answers the question of what Cody Dickinson and Chris Chew did while their fellow North Mississippi Allstar spent a year amongst the Crowes. Rounding out their latest project with vocalist Daniel Coburn, guitarist Kirk Smithhart and drummer Ed Cleveland, the HCR adopt a heavier take on the Delta blues that fuels the Allstars. In early April, the Revue made their New York City debut, opening for the NMA at the HighLine Ballroom (conveniently covered for jambands.com by your humble narrator), and recently returned to the Big Apple for a featured slot at the Mercury Lounge.

It might be simplistic to characterize the Hill County Revue as the Luther-less All Stars but it would not be unfair. At the Merc, the HCR tore through healthy chunks of their recently released debut, Make A Move, and while they pack a mighty punch, there’s no avoiding letting your ear drift towards spots where Luther’s slide would be a perfect accent. The project serves as a welcome introduction to Smithhart and Cleveland, both entertaining musicians that are a treat to watch. However, Coburn never quite sets himself apart from the pack. He carries the right look - what’s there to hate about a bluesman that proudly bears a PBR patch on his jean jacket - and provides competent lead vocals but may the most interchangeable band member.

Besides getting a sense as to how much the massive Chew truly resembles a professional wrestler, the best part of seeing the Hill Country Revue in such a small venue was getting a close up view of Cody Dickinson playing the electric washboard, a modern version of one of the oldest, most basic and, if you live by a river without a washer and dryer, utilitarian instruments. The scrambled techno-scratch Dickinson conjures up with his metal fingertips may not the most authentic of the Delta blues sounds generated by the Revue but when Dickinson’s washboard solo led into a take on the NMA’s “Psychedelic Sex Machine,” it produced one of the set’s finest moments.

PHISH OPENED THEIR HIGHLY ANTICIPATED summer tour this week at Fenway Park in Boston. Ryan Dembinsky wrote an excellent review of the show for Hidden Track that's well worth checking out.

Untapped Potential: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer Strip Down At The Beacon Theater

By: David Schultz

In 1984, Christopher Guest stumbled onto the form of moviemaking that would come to define his career. The fake documentary – ultimately to be termed the mockumentary – had its precedents but in allowing the entire cast to improvise practically all of their dialogue, Guest let his comedic troupe create indelible characters that were not only funny but remarkably multi-dimensional. When This Is Spinal Tap hit theaters, the world shook under the power of Guest’s new directorial style. Well, that’s not entirely true. For as revered as it is, Spinal Tap, possibly the most quoted film in cinematic history, barely registered a ripple upon its release. Mainly because Spinal Tap hewed too close to reality, Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer’s depiction of self-absorbed rock stars battling the tenuous nature of stardom and the surrealism of a life in the music business endured as only fine satirical portrayals can. Well, that and the fact that the music rocked and made your ears bleed!

Guest, McKean and Shearer were able to send up rock and roll as well as the entire folk scene in A Mighty Wind because they understand the genres all to well. The hootchie-cootchie man implications of the blues and hair metal’s lustful swagger (described in the movie as “retarded sexuality and bad poetry”) can all be found in the endless double entendres strewn through Spinal Tap’s repertoire, many of them so over the top, its surprising they are intended in jest. As The Folksmen, the three goofed all over the genre’s penchant for memorializing disasters and bludgeoning their listeners with odes to simplistic pleasures. It’s the intimate grasp of the core conceits and three chord rhythms that made the songs so fantastically entertaining.

Stepping out from behind their fictional dramatis personae for the first time since beginning to work together three decades ago, the three Saturday Night Live alums took to the Beacon Theater stage unwigged and unplugged. While it would have been truly funny had the three omitted any humor from the show, it’s likely impossible for Guest, McKean and Shearer to not be funny around each other. Whether it’s McKean breaking out a dead-on impression of TCM’s Robert Osborne to kill time or Guest asking a doting mother if she has legal representation, it’s like they can’t help themselves.

Their two hour set at the Beacon Theater rifled liberally through the Spinal Tap songbook as well as the back pages of The Folksmen and Mitch & Mickey. Filling in the gaps, they brought out a couple songs from Red White & Blaine, the musical at the center of Waiting For Guffman. Thankfully, they drew the line there, forgoing “Terrier Style,” the rare song found within Best In Show, the one Guest-umentary to not include Shearer. Staying true to the promise of an unplugged show, the wigless Spinal Tap opened with an acoustic rendition of “Hell Hole” that gave the first inkling that this would be more than a nostalgic romp through the movie soundtracks.

Talking about their alter-egos in the third person, the witty trio related some of the stories behind the songs and offered a deadpan reading of the lines to be edited from the Spinal Tap script by the NBC censor. For the Mighty Wind and Guffman numbers, they played it straight, letting the images of a train crashing into a coal mine or the basic inanity of the lyrics serve as the punch line. On the Spinal Tap numbers, they went all out: “Big Bottom” became a cool jazz number complete with daddy-o fingersnaps and a Chicago-style dancer; Elvis Costello provoked a what-the-fuck reaction by bounding on stage for “Gimme Some Money” and they recreated mini-Stonehenge with dancing dwarves (sort of) for the epic “Stonehenge.”

Behind the costumes and immersed in their fictional personas, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that Guest, McKean and Shearer have created a couple dozen enjoyable tunes. In unwigging and unplugging and bringing the music around the country, the three are taking a well-deserved victory lap for successfully crossing the line between stupid and clever.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Tuesday's Earful: Tea Leaf Green Turns Coffee Bean Brown

By: David Schultz

In September of 2007, right on the heels of three stellar shows at New York City's Gramercy Theater, Tea Leaf Green packed fans into the upstairs lounge of the now-defunct Mo Pitkin's for an all acoustic show. At the time, I recall hearing that the set was earmarked for either satellite radio or some sort of Internet release in conjunction with eMusic. With neither of those options coming to fruition, the set finally sees the light of day as Coffee Bean Brown Comes Alive, released today on the Tea Leaf Green Partnership imprint.

Coffee Bean Brown has long been the transparent alias of the acoustic version of Tea Leaf Green and despite the fact that the Mo Pitkin's show was supposed to be a stealth performance, it turned out to be not that well kept of a secret. Along with a few dozen other Tea Leaf fans, I was present at the extremely tiny room for one of the more intimate shows I've ever seen. Although no one knew it at the time, this turned out to be one of Ben Chambers final shows with the band, his romp on "Biscuits" serving as an unknowing farewell to the New York Leafers. A fine mix of old tracks and, at the time, new songs, this set is more than a snapshot of one of Chambers' last gigs; in showcasing the quality songwriting and breadth of musicianship that makes Tea Leaf so intriguing it's well deserving of this featured release in its own right.

St. Vincent: Breakfast At Webster Hall

By: David Schultz

Ever since the release of her quirky and charming Marry Me, St. Vincent, known to her friends and family as Annie Clark, has entered the rarefied air of artists who cannot be criticized lest you be excommunicated from the hipster circle of trust. Like most people that reach that status, St. Vincent actually deserves the praise and merits more of a listen from the mainstream than she will likely ever receive. Given New York City's purported stature as a city at the forefront of the musical curve, St. Vincent's midweek show at Webster Hall, which helped kick start a modest U.S. tour, had a surprising number of tickets available.

On Actor, her latest effort released last month, St. Vincent continues on from where she left off with Marry Me. The waiflike creature who bragged about spending while Jesus saved is still dipping her toes in the pool of self-aware ennui, this time begging to be saved from her own desires on “Save Me From What I Want.” By design, Vincent’s airy melodies are derivative of the light and breathy soundtracks of Walt Disney feature films. While Clark’s pixyish good looks and diminutive stature are conducive to a halo of bluebirds and forest fauna flocking at her feet, she is more Holly Golightly than Snow White and even then, the whole combination seems to be an elaborate put on.

A former guitarist for The Polyphonic Spree, Clark knows how to dance to the beat of her own drummer and get everyone else in step with her vision. At Webster Hall, she used a pair of adjacent microphones to accent the split personality or conscience that lurks amidst her lyrics; a neat stage trick that gave the performance an understated edge. With a full band, the Disneyish frills are more atmospheric than cutesy and the new wave Talking Heads style bounce of songs like “Marrow” groove with a fine finesse.

Watching St. Vincent perform and listening to her lyrics, she is probably who Liz Phair would have grown up to be had the randy girl possessed more self-esteem and didn’t trap herself in the role of a smutty MILF by documenting her youthful fancy for blowing guys who acted like rock stars and treated her brusquely thereafter. More particularly towards Clark, her live show, however, brief, enhances future listens of both Marry Me and Actor. As they both come into clearer focus, you gain a better understanding of her fantastic ability to lay cheeky lyrics over near-saccharine instrumentation and wrap up the whole concoction in a blowsy yet concise burst of new wavish pop.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Jay Nash "Sun Studio Sessions" Hard Lesson To Learn

Jay Nash is on a roll. He's been touring from coast to coast here in the States and managed to find time to head over to Copenhagen to record for his new EP, all the stars in Copenhagen that hits iTunes and other outlets on June 16th.

In Copenhagen, Jay's drummer Frederik Bokkenheuser assembled a band of his old friends - Søren Andersen, Jesper Edvarson and Lars Andresen. Together with Frederik, Nash and the Danish musicians spent two days in Copenhagen's legendary Medley Studio rehearsing and and recording the four new tracks.

The next stop on the tour for Nash was Berlin, where he met up with an old friend, singer/songwriter/producer, Erik Penny. Penny had just moved into his new studio space and Nash had the Copenhagen masters with him, so the two decided to take advantage of the situation and lay down some additional tracks. Penny added the ghostly synth sounds that help to define the spooky intimacy on "everything." Jay also borrowed Erik's 1960 Gibson ES-330 to add a little something extra to the the track "Rainiest September."

Once he was back home in LA, Jay got together with Grammy award winning engineer, Seth Atkins Horan to put the finishing touches on and mix the songs. The end result is a short collection of songs that sound like they were recorded in one continuous lock out session, though they traveled half way around the world in order to be fully realized. The bonus track "Baby Tornado" was recorded right at Sun Studio.

Meanwhile, check out Jay, accompanied by the talented Garrison Starr, perform "Hard Lesson To Learn" live from here at Sun Studio:

Never one to sit home Jay has a slate of dates around the country this month. You can find all of Jay's upcoming tour dates over on his MySpace page.

Monday's Earful: Backyard Tire Fire

By: David Schultz

Backyard Tire Fire, one of Earvolution's favorites, returned to New York City last Wednesday for an early evening set at the Mercury Lounge. Having recently emerged from the studio where they have been toiling under the auspices and fine ear of producer Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), the Tire Fire still burns with the raucous energy that can only be generated by boozy, guitar-driven rock and roll. For their hour long set, Ed Anderson, his brother Matt and Tim Kramp previewed many of the songs that will presumably be on the yet-to-be titled new release. If the songs from the Merc are any indication, expect the new album to contain another heaping bunch of Ed Anderson's thoughtful slices of Americana over the BTF's well-polished variety of blues based classic rock. With Scott Tipping rejoining the band on guitar and Andrew Weir on keyboards, songs like "Road Song #39" - which given Anderson's potential to write a song a day, may very well be his 39th road song - have a heft to them; an encouraging sign that this band is still growing and getting even better.

For those who aren't familiar with Backyard Tire Fire, there's no time like the present to get acquainted. Given Anderson's prolific output, there's a small mountain of incredible music to sift through. Vagabonds & Hooligans, which shows off their ability for riff driven rockers, remains one of my favorites but The Places We Lived demonstrates that not everything needs to be done at maximum volume and there is no substitute for a well written song.

On a somewhat amusing note, the Tire Fire learned firsthand the perils of recording a great song entitled "Time To Go." Before closing with a faithful cover of Warren Zevon's "Lawyers, Guns & Money" and "How In The Hell Did You Get Back Here?," they battled a group of enthusiastic fans who in calling for the tune pretty much sounded like they were heckling the band. All you bands out there, keep that in mind if you've titled your arena rock anthem "Get Off The Stage" or "Leave, You Suck." Unless, you're Primus. In that case, carry on.

Tea Leaf Green: The Circus Comes To Town

By: David Schultz

The Band used to famously sing about life being a carnival, two bits a shot. Keeping the spirit of the Helm/Danko-sung classic alive, the travelling road show that is Tea Leaf Green likens itself to the circus coming to town. Without resorting to death defying stunts or sideshow freaks, Tea Leaf Green generates the equivalent wide-eyed excitement and exhilarating sense of wonderment as a night under the big top. Getting past the red and white tent that adorned the cover of last year’s Raise Up The Tent, Trevor Garrod has always filled his picaresque songs with the mindset of a self-aware, rakish vagabond and on “Criminal Intent,” Josh Clark’s demand to be taken to the circus comes straight from the seamy underbelly of the carnival. Just recently, the Tea Leaf Green three ring circus returned to New York City for a Saturday night show at The Fillmore NY at Irving Plaza as a stop on their just-concluded "Got No Friends" tour.

On their return to Irving Plaza, Tea Leaf didn’t stray far from their bread and butter, the complementary styles of Clark and Garrod, the yin to the other’s yang. For bands to be a true cohesive unit and propel themselves along a path to longevity, there needs to be more than one personality of intrigue. The Velvet Underground’s most inventive period occurred when John Cale was around to play the foil for Lou Reed, The Grateful Dead could become a different band depending on whether Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir were up front and the academic analysis of the Lennon/McCartney dichotomy has been run well into the ground. Throughout their two sets spread out over three hours, Tea Leaf moved between Garrod’s easy-going songs, filled with bucolic images and rural bonhomie, and Clark’s edgy bursts of primal, swaggering rock and roll. All the while, drummer Scott Rager and bassist Reed Mathis, who has returned to the band on a more permanent basis after splitting the past year between Tea Leaf and his commitments with the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, provide the framework that allows the music to travel in any direction they choose.

In a nod to their surroundings, Tea Leaf scattered hints of The Big Apple throughout the night: the show’s opener, "Carter Hotel," one of Clark’s most complete songs, takes its name and casts a rosy glow on one of Manhattan’s more infamous hotels and their encore, a heartfelt cover of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” openly pines for a return to the familiar confines of New York City. More subtly, Clark worked in the distinctively angular licks commonly associated with Talking Heads into “Soldiers Of Kentucky.”

After the “Carter Hotel” opener, Tea Leaf moved through a upbeat first set that played out with a sense of immediacy. An early run through “Incandescent Devil” and the live gem “Mistletwo” got the majority of the crowd moving and a measured run through the catchy “Don’t Curse At The Night” involved the rest. Easy going fare like "Papa's In The Back Room" and a cover of Dylan's "If You Gotta Go, Go Now" yielded to a mighty take on “Can You Guess It” which segued into Garrod’s steamy “The Devil’s Pay.” Normally an engaging stage presence, Mathis, who also opened the night with the Marco Benevento Trio, remained a sedentary, yet no less potent force on this night. More importantly, he and drummer Scott Rager, are starting to find a very comfortable zone together, coming together as a more cohesive unit.

Perhaps the most striking thing about Tea Leaf’s gig at the Plaza, especially the second set, was its tempest-in-a-teapot passion. Clark’s normally raspy voice tends to give his songs an air of confidence but the added bite with which he snapped off the lyrics to “Stick To The Shallows,” his effort at writing a Garrod-style tune, imbued the song’s folksy wisdom with an adamant mandate. Garrod seemed particularly moved by the spirit: at Clark’s urging, Garrod emerged from behind his keyboard setup during “Let Us Go” to uncharacteristically prowl the stage for his harmonica solo. Pumping one fist in the air in a slightly geeky fashion, Garrod got into Mathis’ face, much to the bassist’s delight, before riling up the crowd by taking his harmonica solo up onto Rager’s drum riser. The excitement of Garrod doing something unexpected and the cheers and smiles it provoked fulfilled the purpose that all good circuses serve: it truly made children of us all.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!