Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday's Earful: Living Colour

By: David Schultz

On the strength of Vivid and Time’s Up, Living Colour became one the handful of bands from the peak of the MTV era to couple critical acclaim with widespread mainstream success. Not only did they catch the attention of Mick Jagger and open numerous stadium shows on The Rolling Stones'Steel Wheels tour, Living Colour was a main cog in the initial Lollapalooza tour which laid the groundwork for the modern festival scene. Right around the time when Nirvana, Pearl Jam and the rest of the grunge rockers emerged from the Pacific Northwest, the keys to the rock and roll kingdom were unquestionably within Living Colour’s reach. In a tragedy of Shakespearean proportion, right when the world was at their fingertips, Living Colour ceased to exist. They would return in the summer of 2001, creating a stir with a massively attended free show at Central Park’s Summerstage, but by the time they released Collideoscope, their 2003 comeback album, they had to rebuild their momentum from a near standstill. That process of reestablishing their foothold continues this fall: on September 1, Living Colour will embark on their first significant tour of the United States in many years and on September 15, Megaforce Records will release The Chair In The Doorway, their first studio album in six years.

In preparation for their upcoming tour, Living Colour played a short set as part of The Roots weekly jam session at New York City’s Highline Ballroom. In addition to previewing "Behind The Sun" (download free mp3 here!), “DecaDance” and “Bless Those” from the new album, they reemerged to join The Roots for a collection of Sly & The Family Stone songs. In playing until the wee hours of the morning, Living Colour reminded everyone of their nonpareil talent. Last Thursday, the band gathered an assemblage of family, friends and press at their studio in Prospect Heights in Brooklyn to introduce The Chair In The Doorway on a personal basis, playing it in its entirety in an intimate setting.

If anyone had reservations about whether Living Colour had toned down their sound for this album, the presence of a gigantic punchbowl filled with earplugs at the entrance to the studio immediately erased any doubts. Lead singer Corey Glover even referenced the fact, reminding everyone: “We are Living Colour and yes, we’re still loud.” Fresh off a lengthy stint with the touring company of Jesus Christ Superstar, Glover’s voice is as strong as ever. A good portion of Chair retains the heavy, hard rock sound that has been the band’s calling card since Stain, their first album with bassist Doug Wimbish. The album’s also replete with the sociological and political commentary that marks their most incisive work. Where Collideoscope pushed steadily forward at a relentless pace, Chair has more variety. The heaviness of “DecaDance” and “The Chair” yields to the crackling upbeat pulse of “Behind The Sun” and guitarist Vernon Reid’s mesmerizing guitar riff, which he taps out with three fingers on the fret, before giving in to the blues-tinged “Bless Those,” one of the two songs on which Reid shows off his master-level slide guitar skills. There’s even a bit of a disco twist – Living Colour style – at the end of “Young Man.”

The showcase was not without its emotional moments. Before “Out Of Mind” (or possibly “Not Tomorrow”), Reid explained that during the recording of the song they learned that Glover’s mother had passed away and dedicated the song to her memory. In the midst of the song, Glover became overwrought with emotion. The band played through, allowing the singer a moment to compose himself, and after an affectionate hug from Wimbish, who radiates enough positive energy to single-handedly bring about the peaceful revolution contemplated by the Woodstock generation, Glover launched back into the song with out a waver in his voice.

After concluding the night with a strong rendition of “Asshole,” to which they suggested the kids in the crowd not pay too much attention, drummer Will Calhoun’s son interrupted Reid’s closing remarks by calling for one more song. When asked by Reid what he wanted to hear, he requested “Should I Stay Or Should I Go,” which prompted Glover to jokingly chide the elder Calhoun about his son not wanting to hear one of their songs. Refusing to quash a child’s initiative, the band played The Clash song in their own inimitable manner.

Many of the songs on The Chair In The Doorway have yet to be aired out in public so last week’s showcase not only served as a preview of the new album but also a dress rehearsal of sorts. With the tour about to start and the album’s release a couple weeks off, it’s unclear whether Living Colour’s return will be met with the excitement it deserves. Reid, Wimbish and Calhoun can all lay credible claims to being the best in their field. In fact, when you get down to it, Calhoun and Wimbish remain one of the best rhythm sections in the world. You would be hard pressed to come up with a better tandem. Even if you think you have, you haven’t. When you factor in Glover, one of the stronger and more charismatic lead singers to ever front a band, once again people’s favorite color should be Living Colour.

Chickenfoot Rocks Atlantic City

Chickenfoot w/ Davy Knowles & Back Door Slam
August 22, 2009, House of Blues in Atlantic City, NJ

Review and Photos By Jim McCoy.

The House of Blues played host to both established rock royalty and a heralded newcomer when Chickenfoot rolled into town with Davy Knowles & Back Door Slam this past Saturday. Davy Knowles, a young but already veteran touring musician hailing from the Isle of Man, warmed up the enthusiastic crowd with his authentic blues rock before ceding the stage to Chickenfoot.

2009.08.22 Chickenfoot - Sammy Hagar


Fronted by Sammy Hagar, Chickenfoot includes fellow Van Halen alum Michael Anthony on bass, the powerful Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers) on drums and Joe Satriani picking up the guitar god duties. Not a simple Van Hagar redux , Chickenfoot puts forth original riff-oriented hard rock without dipping into the Van Halen back catalog. With no member asserting a clear leadership role (Hagar stated from the stage that Chickenfoot is not ‘his’ band) the sound is tight and full of energy with the focus on the song rather than any one member’s considerable abilities. In old school rock fashion, Smith ended the entertaining, high-energy show by kicking and throwing his drum set all over the stage.

2009.08.22 Chickenfoot - Michael Anthony


Chickenfoot’s debut is not a Joe Satriani album with a superior rock vocalist; nor is it simply Sammy Hagar’s new band with yet another guitar hero by his side. Perhaps in order to avoid criticism as a Van Hagar clone band, Satriani appears to hold himself back a bit in the context of Chickenfoot. When not playing his blistering but tasteful leads, which are more blues and rock-oriented than the modal and highly-technical fare that can be found on his solo efforts, Satch centers on riffage from the arena rock playbook rather than overtaking the song by dipping into his bag of virtuoso guitar pyrotechnics.

2009.08.22 Chickenfoot - Sammy Hagar


However, the solid debut album is only a taste of what is to come. Although Chad Smith is committed to recording the new Red Hot Chili Peppers release this October and their subsequent tour, Chickenfoot has vowed to continue the catchy hard rock sound that has been found lacking in the newer bands entering the arena circuit.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday's Earful: Bob Dylan; The Who

By: David Schultz

In 1997, Bob Dylan sent his most ardent fans into career retrospective mode when he entered the hospital with a near-fatal heart infection. At the time, Dylan's career was in one of its cyclical nadirs but upon his release, that would all soon change. In the studio, Dylan put the finishing touches on Time Out Of Mind, which would become a critically lauded, Grammy winning success; on stage, Dylan had once again become a potent force, assembling a band that was his best since The Band. When Dylan resumes touring on October, Charlie Sexton, who along with Larry Campbell anchored his stellar turn-of-the-century crew, will return to the fold.

IN MORE BIZARRE DYLAN NEWS, it appears that he will be following up the Mexican cantina-tinged Together Through Life with Christmas In The Heart, an album of Yuletide classics. While I'm still open to the possibility that this is a hoax, it looks more and more that if this is a put-on, it's a well thought out one. Fueling the "Christmas Creep," the album will be released October 13 with the proceeds going to hunger relief charities.

WITH ENDLESS WIRE, THE WHO tacked on an excellent final refrain, a coda if you will, to their legendary career with "Tea And Theater" possessing the right amount of sentimentality to serve as fitting last words. On his blog, Pete Townshend has revealed that The Who aren't done and he and Daltrey intend to take "the more conventional songs" from an upcoming rock opera, Floss, and compile them for a 2010 release. The new opera seems to revolve around a retired rocker who sheds his role as a house-husband and captures his generation's zeitgeist, much to his wife's chagrin.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thursday's Earful: The Script @ Webster Hall

By: Deirdre Bones

The Script have certainly enjoyed a glamorous summer: after warming up the crowd for Paul McCartney at Citi Field in New York and popping up on MTV, the Today show and Jimmy Kimmel, they jetted back to Dublin to greet U2’s early arriving fans at Croke Park. They’ve continued their purple patch, returning to New York City as a headliner, selling out Webster Hall as part of their American tour. Presenting a very different musical experience to recent Irish successes in America, such as the saccharine Swell Season or the electric rock sound of Bell X1, The Script’s American R&B influenced sound is quite different to anything that we have come to expect from an Irish pop band. Taking up where The Commitments left off many moons ago, The Script are striving to bring Soul back into Irish music, accepting the self-created mantle of “U2 versus Timbaland, Van Morrison remixed by Teddy Riley." Their approach has produced interesting and decidedly popular results. The trio's debut single, “We Cry,” reached #13 on the UK charts and their second single, “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved,” proved to be their breakthrough hit reaching #2 on both the Irish and UK charts.

They’ve had a decent amount of commercial success and repeat radio airplay in Ireland and the UK. Of course, accusing a band of being a commercial success is usually a backhanded compliment, not in this case however. The Script are a very polished outfit and gleam with a studio sheen. While that will undoubtedly result in chart topping hits and sell albums by the bucket load, it unfortunately may also raise some sneers amongst “serious music fans” that will take rapacious delight in pointing to the murky boy-band history of two of the band members. Admittedly, the girls at Webster Hall screaming as though they were at a Jonas Brothers concert was a bit of a red flag for the serious music enthusiast, but to overlook The Script for these reasons would be a mistake. They certainly are finessed, gleaming and ready for TV, but they are also damn talented as their performance at Webster Hall clearly showed.

Full of energy, The Script clearly get a kick out of performing and unquestionably know how to work an audience. They arrived on stage, building up the anticipation by playing chords while hidden by the lights and then broke out with “Before the Worst” in full force. They established a good rapport with the audience and by relating anecdotes and spilling family secrets shrunk the spacious room into an intimate concert hall. Lead singer Danny O’ Donoghue has a powerful, resonant voice which is not fully showcased in many of their songs. However, his acoustic version of “I’m Your”s exhibited his voice very well and in his performance of “Rusty Halo” he went into full ‘Springsteen’ mode. Guitarist Mark Sheehan also boasts an excellent voice in addition to his guitar skills and his interaction with the crowd was very genuine. Together with drummer Glen Power, they interact extraordinarily well.

At the end of the set, they trotted out an Irish flag with New York written on it and unsurprisingly garnered roars of delight from the many ex-pats in attendance. However, much of the crowd was made up of Americans which is a testament to their spreading sphere of support. Undoubtedly, The Script will go on to even more major success than they are already enjoying. Their songs are ready for multiple radio plays and the joy that they show in performing will also take them along way even if it is without the support of the serious music buffs, who really should give them another listen – even ex-boy-band singers deserve a second chance.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wednesday's Earful: Bon Iver; Third Eye Blind

By: David Schultz

Since the collective love fest lauded on For Emma, Forever Ago in everyone's best of 2008 roundups and the January release of Blood Bank, his follow-up EP, it's been a while since we've all had the opportunity to gush over Justin Vernon and his delicate genius. Well, leave it to Bon Iver to come up with a hip way to play a concert. On September 27, he/they (your guess is as good as mine) will play a sunrise concert at the Hollywood Forever cemetery in Los Angeles, CA. With the gates opening at midnight, this seems like an odd opportunity to party in a graveyard and then chill with some gloriously beautiful music in the rays of the early morning sun. As the cemetery is the final resting place of Cecil B. DeMille, Douglas Fairbanks, Jayne Mansfield and Rudolph Valentino, there will never be a better time to bust out a cover version of The Kinks' "Celluloid Heroes."

ROB TANNENBAUM, FORMER EDITOR OF the now defunct Blender and one half of Good For The Jews has reemerged as a guest columnist over at New York magazine's Vulture blog. Going back to his Rolling Stone days, where he authored their first cover story on Guns N' Roses, Tannenbaum has always been one of my favorite writers; he's one of most insightful and, at times, funniest music journalists out there. His latest missive for Vulture, In Defense Of Third Eye Blind, drifts into laugh-out-loud territory and is funny on numerous levels. Make sure to read to the comments: the impact will be lost without digesting them.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tuesday's Earful: The Dark Side Of The Rainbow; The Rolling Stones Cocksucker Blues; The Beatles Yellow Submarine

By: David Schultz

Seventy years ago today, MGM released The Wizard Of Oz. While the film ranks as one of the most beloved of all-time, it gained a whole new following in the mid-Nineties when an uncharacteristically intrepid group of stoners, likely to lazy to turn off the TV while they blasted Dark Side Of The Moon, came across a startling number of coincidences between the images on the screen and the sound in their speakers. A cosmic version of getting your peanut butter in my chocolate or vice versa.

Although Roger Waters acts coy when asked about whether Floyd had any intent to coordinate its classic album with the film, the odds are improbably highly against it. Rather, what seems to have transpired is a fantastic sense of synchronicity that trumps anything The Police came up with in 1983.

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the movie, let's watch it as no one ever intended.

IN A LESSER KNOWN BIT of stoner-synchronicity, someone put down the bong long enough to figure out that Floyd's "Echoes" matches up perfectly with the end of Stanley Kubrick's 2001. For those who can't get enough of nonsensical synchronization, check it out.

EVER SINCE IT WAS FILMED, it's been rumored that Cocksucker Blues, Robert Frank's documentary capturing the post Exile On Main Street, post Altamont Rolling Stones, is the best rock and roll documentary ever filmed. I say rumored because despite being commissioned the Stones, they quashed its release, finding it inappropriate and too revealing. Almost a quarter century later, the rock doc has leaked onto the Internet. Not being fluent in French, I think part 1 has been removed due to content issues but parts 2 through 9 remain extant, so this link takes you to part 2. If you're savvy enough to get that far, you can figure out the rest.

WHILE THE DEAL DOESN'T APPEAR to be written in stone, Robert Zemeckis and Disney in the process of navigating the obstacle of rights and clearances needed to remake Yellow Submarine, The Beatles 1968 animated feature film. Zemeckis has grand plans for the project: rather than re-animate, he wants to utilize the new 3D performance-capturing technology that he used on The Polar Express and Beowulf. While Help! and A Hard Days Night get regular airings on cable TV, screenings of Yellow Submarine, along with Let It Be and Magical Mystery Tour have become scarce to non-existent. If Zemeckis succeed in bringing his plan to fruition - he's targeting 2012 - let's hope it gets these buried Beatles movies back in circulation.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday's Earful: BuzzUniverse On The River

By: David Schultz

BuzzUniverse’s return to the New York Harbor last week marked their second voyage as a headline attraction aboard The Half Moon. Where the previous year’s river-cruise was beset with near-torrential rain and waves that tossed the ship like the S.S. Minnow, this 3-hour tour found calm waters with the breeze and BuzzU’s repertoire of jamband influenced rhythms that delve into a variety of musical styles providing a brief and welcome respite from the unrelenting humidity that has besieged New York City over the past couple weeks.

Right from the start of their set, BuzzUniverse had the upper level of the ship dancing with abandon. The boats that host the concert cruises have always struck me as floating equivalent of fraternity basement and with a floor full of people using all the available space with their funky struts, a multitude of sweaty arms flapping with abandon, the show took on a decidedly exuberant collegiate feel. Now a lean four-piece, BuzzUniverse has seemingly found a nice comfort level: bassist Greg McLoughlin and drummer Dave Migliore keep things funky; Brian Ciufo provides soulful and erudite touches with his baritone and soprano sax and Alex Garay nimbly moves from VU Yule-era strumming to traditional gaucho bounce of a Colombian caballo, all while charismatically fronting the band.

As has become the norm at their recent New York shows, BuzzUniverse found room for a multitude of guests. Violinist Meredith Bogacz, who occasionally let a smile crack through her dour expression, had the biggest impact, blending nicely with Ciufo’s soprano sax to expand the possibilities of songs like “This Ol’ Cowboy” and inspiring Garay into a manic ballet of a jig with a Civil War era, Irish reel. Rosie Lazroe followed up The Jack’s opening set, which left trails of Allman Brothers smoke streaming behind the boat (even if their closing cover of Tears For Fears “Head Over Heels” seemed like something played on a dare), by sitting in with BuzzU. Easy on the eyes with a voice to match, Lazroe would sit in with BuzzUniverse, adding companion vocals to “Caballo Viejo” and her bandmate Kurt Balchan contributed some excellent slide guitar work to “The Rock”

One of the nicest things about going to any show is seeing how music can unify any crowd, mainly how it can close any generational gap. About halfway into the set, Garay’s mother made her way onto the dance floor, her refined two genteel two-step adding a refinement to the dance floor mayhem. When Garay handed her a pair of maracas during the encore, you got to experience one of those concert moments that come along so very rarely.

Before coming to Ghent for the Let It Roll Festival, BuzzUniverse will play an open admission show on September 10 at the newly opened Brooklyn Bowl. There’s really no excuse not to go, as John Belushi memorably said, “don’t cost nothing.”

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday's Earful: The Decemberists; Pitchfork Top 500 of the 00s

By: David Schultz

Sprinkled amongst recreations of Aja and Gaucho on their summer tour, Steely Dan has been playing select Internet request nights, letting their avid fans pick the night's set list. Going one step further, The Decemberists are willing to adopt Bartertown law and live by the mantra of "spin the wheel, make a deal." (Actually, that's from Jake "The Snake" Roberts, the real Beyond Thunderdome quote didn't quite fit there). On September 19 at New York City's Terminal 5, The Decemberists will be taking a respite from their full-scale recitation of The Hazards Of Love to let the fickle finger of fate have its way, playing a "lottery" show. Per the band,

"We received an urgent missive from the boys at the Decemberists SubTerra Campaign Organizational Front (DSCOF) the other day, bringing to our attention that a glaring hole had appeared between the first and the third days of the "A Short Fazed Hovel" Tour 2009, Phase 3. Apparently we had booked a show that day on a scarcely populated atoll off the coast of northern Maine which had succumbed to a mysterious sneaker tsunami and had vanished into the Atlantic ocean, its population of hypersensitive palette-enhanced pygmies disappearing entirely with only a crate of artisanal cottage cheese remaining as a testament to their ancient society."

"We decided, in honor of the victims, that we'd play a show in New York City at Terminal 5 on that day, the 19th of September. But we thought we'd try to make it interesting: in homage to that totally awesome scene in Dragon Slayer, we Decemberists will perform a set that will be entirely left to the hands of fate -- we will draw songs from a lottery and dutifully play them, regardless of their quality or presence in our memory. Decemberists songs, naturally, but you do never know what bizarre cover songs or strange commands may end up in the pile."

Colin Meloy's ability to ad lib and engage an audience ranks amongst the best there's ever been, so giving him a lottery gimmick to work with will surely result in something memorable. If you aren't going to be in Ghent for the Let It Roll Festival, this will be an adequate substitute . . . plus you get to honor pygmies.

PITCHFORK IS COUNTING DOWN THE top 500 songs of the aughts, ruling the decade over with more than four months to go. When lists like these come out, I figure out how many songs or albums on the list I own. I'm probably not alone in this. For Pitchfork's list though, I'll confess: it would probably be more productive to figure out how many of the songs I've actually heard of. There's some good stuff here and the writing, as always, is top notch.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thursday's Earful: Keller Williams Odd

By: David Schultz

Family Guy once lampooned Randy Newman by depicting him as a survivor of a Y2K apocalypse that sits in a field literally singing about what’s going in front of him. His droning narrative become so annoying, the Griffins leave him behind as well as a consistent source of food. On Odd, his eleventh studio album consisting primarily of road-tested live pieces, Keller Williams seems to be adopting the animated Newman philosophy, warbling in his soothing hushed tones about whatever seems to be at the forefront of his consciousness. The difference though is that Williams is legitimately funny.

Taking observational dialectic in a musical direction, Williams wistfully waxes philosophic over his inability to communicate with the household pests he’s about to poison (“Warning”), vents his spleen over a dishonest promoter who seemed like a decent enough guy (“Spartan Darn It”), gets paranoid in line at the airport (“Doobie In My Pocket”) and creates the senior-citizen’s version of “Margaritaville” (“Lost”). The most entertaining track, “A Day At The Office,” comes replete with irony as he worries, quite comically, about what Blender magazine might do if he gives his heartfelt response to their opinion that the best thing about him is that there’s only one of him. As it turns out, the answer to his question is “go bankrupt and fold.”

On Dream, Williams went overboard with guest musicians and put his prodigious guitar skills at the forefront. With the exception of “A Song For Fela,” Williams pulls a 180 on his latest and lets his lyrics carry the album, singing over relatively simple strumming or uncomplicated looped beats. Probably the most inventive thing about the album was its release, which Williams orchestrated through his Web site posting it one track at a time. Fortunately, Williams doesn’t need innovation to be entertaining and his penchant for observation goes well beyond “left foot, right foot; left foot, right foot.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wednesday's Earful: Rich Casella @ Fontana's; BuzzUniverse

By: Deirdre Bones

Hard rock was the name of the game when Rich Casella appeared at Fontana’s as part of a Roomful of Sky Records showcase. Although not officially signed to RoSR, Casella has become a fixture at the label’s New York City showcases and his renowned guitar talents were a welcome addition to the fine night of music.

This was my first exposure to the artist known as “The Guitar Wizard”; Casella has built up quite a following for himself in New York and he is indeed worthy of that title. Leading an amped up trio, Casella took over the showcase from Dave Sasscer, who wound down his smooth rock set with a light summery Latin vibe, and intensified the atmosphere. There can be no question that Casella is indeed a guitar genius, his ability on the guitar is simply phenomenal and a joy to watch. He began his set with a heavy electric sound, verging into the world of death metal, before revealing a softer, contrasting side, performing arena rock sounding songs which were, in many ways, a better vehicle for his voice.

There can be no doubt that Casella’s main draw is his guitar genius as that is where his real talent lies. He appears to get totally lost in the music he is playing, refusing to let a song go until he’s extracted every note possible out of it. At times he does this to a fault, like the committed painter who is such an artiste that he worries about letting the painting go, working on it until it no longer resembles what it started out to be. That being said, a Picasso is still a Picasso no mater how much time Pablo works on it.

WON'T YOU LET THEM TAKE YOU ON A SEA CRUISE? Tomorrow night, BuzzUniverse will be taking to the New York City waters as part of the Rocks Off Concert Cruises series. OK, the boat won't be going out to sea but it will be taking a tour of New York City's East River and New York Harbor. BuzzU used last year's appearance on the river as a celebration for the release of LiveVibes At The Donegal Saloon and this year's show, with The Jack opening up, looks to be equally enjoyable. The Half Moon departs from the dock at East 23rd Street at 8:00 p.m. sharp.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tuesday's Earful: Pearl Jam Vs.

By: David Schultz

In the crush of new music that descends upon us every Tuesday and the eagerness to discover something new and revelatory, it’s fun to occasionally take a glance backwards and rediscover a record that has been in your collection all along. The news of the impending release of Backspacer must have put Pearl Jam into my subconscious and it’s led to a renewed appreciation for their 1993 sophomore album Vs. In the months following the release of their debut Ten, Pearl Jam found themselves on MTV and at the forefront of the grunge revolution. Bringing the sincerity back to rock and roll that the hair bands had all but drained free, grunge rock, especially Pearl Jam, made it feel OK to really love music once again. With Vs., Pearl Jam served notice that they would not be going away anytime soon. Of the bands that emerged from the Pacific Northwest in the early 90s, very few turned out to be one trick ponies. Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains all managed to beat the sophomore jinx and Cameron Crowe’s Singles capitalized on and helped perpetuate on the flannel draped scene.

On Ten, Vedder emoted his way through Pearl Jam’s debut like a less drugged out, more focused version of Jim Morrison, finding many listeners eager to get wrapped up in the band’s earnest commitment. Solidifying his status as a grunge-era Messiah, Vedder once again ripped open his soul on Vs. His penchant for dreamy murmuring would continue to obscure any attempts to decipher exactly what he’s singing but it never clouded the meaning; when he screams “it’s my blood,” there’s no doubting his sincerity. Moving from the howl of "W.M.A." through the calm reminiscent tones of "Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town," Vedder continued to carve out the niche and mold the persona that would define him and Pearl Jam for the next decade and a half.

Many of the trademarks of Pearl Jam’s future work can be found here: layered within “Animal,” Vedder intones the band’s five against one mantra as if in a trance and the band's acerbic political wit reveals itself for the first time on "Glorified G," a mocking jibe at the NRA and those who love their guns a little too much. On the opening strains of "Go," the albums first track, Jeff Ament's bass guitar boils as if simmered by the fires of Hell and its questionable whether guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard have ever sounded better in the studio, Vs. capturing their interplay at its finest. From the roadway rumble of “Rearviewmirror” and stadium-quality riffs of “Daughter” and Dissident" through the soft peaceful wash of “Indifference” that would mark much of their post-millennium output, McCready and Gossard turned the tried and true double guitar format on its head.

Pearl Jam's shot across the bow though is the phenomenal “Leash.” Embodying everything that makes rock and roll fantastic, Vedder’s howl to “drop the leash” carries as much weight as Roger Daltrey talking about his generation or Bob Dylan singing about what blows in the wind. It’s a clarion call to arms and rallying cry to the youth of the world to stand up and be heard. It would only be just the beginning.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday's Earful: The Dead Weather; The Kills

By: David Schultz

The Dead Weather, Jack White’s latest non-White Stripes project, may not have taken off with the same booster rockets as The Raconteurs or captured the collective curiosity like his “Fly Farm Blues,” purportedly created on a challenge during the filming of It Might Get Loud, but their debut effort, Horehound, is a worthy addition to White’s already prodigious and prestigious catalog. As if to prove he can anchor a successful band no matter what he does, White moves behind the drums for The Dead Weather, leaving the ambulatory positions for Queens Of The Stone Age guitarist Dean Fertita, Raconteurs and Greenhornes bassist Jack Lawrence and Allison Mosshart, the chain smoking lead singer of The Kills. Recorded quite quickly at White’s Third Man Studio, Horehound doesn’t differ greatly from what you would expect from anything involving White: hard hitting drums, concise guitar licks and impassioned lead vocals permeate the album.

Going back and listening to Midnight Boom, The Kills’ 2008 release, you can hear a little bit of the origins of The Dead Weather. Mosshart’s delivery seems tailor made for a Jack White ensemble and the album carries on with the similar pulsing beat. Consisting of Mosshart, guitarist Jamie Hince and a well-programmed drum machine, The Kills third album is a high-energy affair with tons of attitude. Borrowing the guitar line from Pearl Jam’s “State Of Love And Trust,” “Last Day Of Magic” echoes back to the grunge era and “Tape Song” could have been ripped from Robert Smith’s closet of coyly backed mopefests. The album’s best moments though are its indie dance numbers: the beast-circling-its-prey beat of “U.R.A. Fever” complementing the come-hither swagger of “Getting Down.”

If Horehound has you interested in Mosshart, Midnight Boom will get you hooked.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday's Earful: Woodstock - 40 Years On

By: David Schultz

This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Arts Fair; a fact that you will no doubt be bombarded with over the next three days. While most people look at the festival in the context of today's festivals that tend to run with clockwork precision, what really stands out about Woodstock is the fact that as much as everyone may want to believe that it could happen again, it simply couldn't. The magic of Woodstock was a half million people treating each other kindly and with respect. Sadly, this will never happen in today's world. In a world of VIP passes, hyperactive youth and the Baby Boomers sense of entitlement to not be hassled when they go to any show, no festival of Woodstock's size and scope could ever give rise to a near unanimous communal spirit. It's what the Woodstock promoters found out at Woodstock 99.

The Woodstock generation made the festival's reputation but the music was pretty memorable as well. Many of the musicians went on to have legendary careers, others became footnotes. Here's what happened to the artists that walked the stage forty years ago.

Richie Havens
Being one of the few artists present when the Festival was about to start, Havens turned his impromptu opening slot at Woodstock into a small charter industry of kicking off festivals and concerts. He’s released dozens of albums, covering everyone from The Beatles and Dylan to The Who, with his most recent album, Nobody Left To Crown, being released near the end of 2008

Swami Satchidananda
The man who gave the opening benediction would start the Integral Yoga Institute and open the Light of Truth Universal Shrine. He passed away in 2002 and did not factor in the naming of Danananackroyd.

Sweetwater
No one would fault you for mistaking this group for Stillwater from Almost Famous. You would be wrong nonetheless. A few months after Woodstock, lead singer Nancy Nevins was injured in car accident, injuring her vocal cords and suffering brain damage. The band’s career never recovered.

The Incredible String Band
The Scottish folk group may have ceased playing in 1974 but you can still hear them in the psych-folk bands of today.

Bert Sommer
A folk singer who never saw any lasting success, Sommer would play with The Left Banke and appear in one of Sid & Marty Krofft’s lesser-known kids shows. He died in 1990.

Tim Hardin
The folkie was better known as a songwriter than a singer, penning the folk standard “If I Were A Carpenter” and Rod Stewart’s “Reason To Believe.” He spent most of his post-Woodstock life battling heroin addiction, dying of an overdose in 1980.

Ravi Shankar
The world’s most famous sitarist is best known for playing Woodstock and The Concert For Bangladesh. His friendship with George Harrison had a great influence on the Beatle’s solo work. Nowadays he may be best known for being Norah Jones’ father.

Melanie
The female folkie has a long unheralded career, continuously working and releasing albums at a decent clip.

Arlo Guthrie
The son of legendary Woody Guthrie, Arlo never had to rest on his father’s laurels. Nary does a Thanksgiving go by – or seem proper – without hearing “Alice’s Restaurant” on the radio and his Carnegie Hall performances are a New York tradition.

Joan Baez
Still a standard-bearer for the Woodstock generation, her post-Festival career has been marked by four decades of activism. She still appears at benefits and lends her voice to worthy causes. She opened the Philadelphia portion of Live Aid with “Amazing Grace” and recently appeared at the 50th anniversary of the Newport Folk Festival.

Quill

Never getting beyond cult band status, Quill broke up within months after playing Woodstock. They were one of the few bands that failed to parlay their appearance at the festival into any type of success.

Keef Hartley Band
Playing Woodstock was easily the high point, if not the only point, in this band’s short career. A jazzy combo, they released four albums before breaking up in 1972.

John Sebastian
A talented harmonica player and inductee into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, Sebastian’s post-Woodstock career will probably be best known for writing and singing the theme to Welcome Back Kotter.

Santana
One of the handful of artists that would perform at the 1994 Woodstock sellout and avoid the disastrous 1999 edition. Santana would spend the 70s as a Guitar God, the 80s and 90s as a borderline nostalgia act and then a stupendous Grammy-winning revival in the 00s.

Canned Heat
More than 40 members have circled through Canned Heat over the last four decades. The band is still around though but the only original member is drummer Fito de la Parra with Larry Taylor and Harvey Mandel occasionally rejoining Canned Heat for select shows.

Mountain
A powerfully heavy band, their three albums released between 1969 and 1972 remain their defining output, although they’ve managed to remain a viable live entity. The raucous “Mississippi Queen” and Leslie West’s penchant for entertaining guest spots will always keep Mountain from slipping into obscurity.

Grateful Dead
Woodstock defined the festival experience and afterwards The Dead redefined the live concert experience. Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995 marked the end of the band; although through Bob Weir’s Ratdog and Phil Lesh & Friends, there is ample opportunity for Deadheads to relive the glory days. Just his past summer, a reformed Dead with all the surviving members toured the U.S.

Creedence Clearwater Revival
Mixing San Francisco headiness with Southern sensibility, CCR created the swamp rock choogle out of thin air. After an acrimonious breakup fueled by discontent with their record company, CCR’s voice, John Fogerty refused to play his old songs out of sheer spite. After being unsuccessfully sued for plagiarizing himself, Fogerty returned to his classic material, making them staples of his live show.

Janis Joplin with The Kozmic Blues Band
Sadly, Janis would be gone a little more than a year after performing at Woodstock with her post-Big Brother band. On her way to becoming a potent live force, Joplin toured Canada with The Grateful Dead and recorded enough material for Pearl, her memorable posthumous release. Despite dying at 27 years old, she lived a historic life and remains the prototype for female blues singers.

Sly & The Family Stone
Destroyed by indulgence, they were pretty much done by the mid-70s, right about the time that their funky sound would have morphed into disco. Stone became a recluse and from the 90s on, his appearances were usually very brief and equally bizarre.

The Who
Keith Moon’s death in 1978 derailed the run of one of the biggest and greatest bands of all time. After a 1982 farewell tour, The Who return in 1989 for a 25th Anniversary tour and would sporadically and lucratively tour for next twenty years. John Entwhistle died in 2002 and in 2006, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend released Endless Wire, a fitting final chapter.

Jefferson Airplane
Along with the Grateful Dead, Grace Slick and company would also perform at Altamont with Marty Balin getting knocked out midset in a scuffle that involved the Hell’s Angels. In 1974, the Airplane became Jefferson Starship and after much legal wrangling morphed into Starship, the Grace Slick led version of the band released the abortion known as “We Built This City.”

Joe Cocker
His revelatory rendition of “With A Little Help From My Friends,” which ultimately became the theme to The Wonder Years became one of his many famous covers. In addition to The Beatles, Cocker would memorably cover The Box Tops, Leon Russell and Dave Mason. He won an Oscar for “Up Where We Belong” and Kim Basinger made his version of “Leave Your Hat On” oh so much more memorable.

Country Joe & The Fish
“Country” Joe McDonald and Barry “The Fish” Melton went as far as a band devoted to protest songs could go. By 1971, they were more interested in appearing in Maverick cinema and in 2001 had to fend off a copyright infringement suit over their most well-known “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixing-To-Die Rag.”

Ten Years After
English blues bands were all the rage in the Woodstock era and Ten Years After remains a leftfield selection on classic rock radio. The band had a nice little run until lead singer and guitarist Alvin Lee became engaged in other projects. Without Lee, the band quietly faded away.

The Band
Robbie Robertson would leave The Band in 1976 and even though most of The Band despise it, The Last Waltz remains one of the era’s defining concert films. They would reform without Robertson in 1983 and play in various iterations until 1999. Richard Manuel would commit suicide in 1986 and Rick Danko would die in his sleep in 1999. Levon Helm’s career has had a recent renaissance, his Electric Dirt released this past June.

Blood, Sweat & Tears
By the time they got Woodstock, Al Kooper had left the band but with David Clayton-Thomas singing lead, BS&T had an early-70s run of jazz-rock albums that retain a certain oddball charm. For those who abhor Isaac Newton, Blood, Sweat & Tears made sure that we knew that what goes up, must come down.

Johnny Winter
After Woodstock, Winter began his move into the category of revered guitarists who never really hit it big yet will be cheered wildly upon being brought on stage by people who probably never heard him play but want to feign familiarity so they can keep their classic rock cred.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
With or without Young, Crosby, Stills & Nash would remain a vital and important cog in the classic rock scene. Their most revered output came in 1969 and 1970, most notably Déjà vu. They will headline one of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame benefit shows this October.

Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Pre-Woodstock, Butterfield was probably best know for being the purveyor of the Chicago blues that backed Dylan’s controversial electric set at the Newport Folk Festival. Post-Woodstock, the influential harmonica player would do a lot of session work, most notably with The Band.

Sha Na Na
Their appearance at Woodstock helped bring about a revival for 50s nostalgia that resulted in the TV show Happy Days and their own syndicated late70s variety program. John “Bowser” Bauman had the greatest success outside the band, hosting a later-day version of The Hollywood Squares.

Jimi Hendrix
Just over a year after the revelatory performance that ended Woodstock in the wee hours of Monday morning, Hendrix would be gone. Of all the performers that played 40 years ago, none influenced rock and roll to the degree that Hendrix did. There have been and there will be many guitarists that will draw comparisons to Jimi but there will never be another.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thursday's Earful: Tea Leaf Green; The Verve

By: David Schultz

Right about the time that Phish went on their recently ended hiatus, the mood on their message boards started to turn. Instead of the Phish forums becoming a place where people could share their common love of the band, swap stories and exchange ideas, they became a venomous pit of mean-spirited criticism. Keeping in mind that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, Tea Leaf Green guitarist Josh Clark has scolded the fans on the TLG forum for overstepping their bounds with their remarks about bassist Reed Mathis.

One of the friendliest and easygoing people you will meet, Clark gently chastised a segment of the fan base in his own inimitable manner. In a post on the forum Clark wrote:

"While we appreciate and thank you for giving us the opportunity to share our art with you and complete the creative circle, I feel it necessary now to remind you of the amount of blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice that goes into being in a grassroots band like this one. The reward is not mansions, Lamborghini's and caviar, its the pleasure of making great music exclusively. The demands of constant touring are not easy to survive under and its your support that makes life on the road bearable."

"Having said that I would like to address the current discussions going on here regarding our very own Reed Mathis. First of all he is Tea Leaf Greens Bassist. This constant stream of petty criticisms and comparisons is juvenile and embarrassing. Ben left the band. We want to keep playing, let this forever be the light above the door if you want to go with him."

"Tea Leaf Green is Reed Mathis, Josh Clark, Trevor Garrod and Scotty Rager."

"Reed has bent over backwards to assimilate his sound and styles into tea leaf green music and for the better if you ask me. You want the funk, go see Parliament. You want sparkling harmonies go check out the fleet foxes. you want to rock the fuck out stay right here, but figure it out and let us work."

"This is not an overnight process. When Tea Leaf Formed Ben had been playing the bass for less than a year, I the guitar for three, Scotty on the kit for four, and Trevor had just begun to explore his songwriting talents. Fortunately we had great fans with patience to allow us to develop individually and collectively, simultaneously granting their support. Here I ask you of this again. I know this is a public forum, but this is also our house. show some respect. Don't shit where you eat. "

"Reed has been changing his life completely and putting up a great deal of sacrifice to help make Tea Leaf Green the best band in the land. He's here to stay and I expect him to be welcomed as one of four and kindly at that. "

"Don't be Hateful, Be Grateful."

THE VERVE HAVE APPARENTLY BROKEN up again. Were this 1994, people might care. I'm sure they'll be back when The Rolling Stones license "Bittersweet Symphony" to a popular film and there's money to be made on a reunion tour.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wednesday's Earful: U-Melt @ Sullivan Hall

By: David Schultz

Taking their cue from an article by Grateful Dead historian David Gans, jambands.com keeps a section on the site entitled Box Scores where you can find the setlist from the previous night’s Bob Dylan, Phish or Dave Matthews Band show. Likening the peculiarities and idiosyncrasies of a well-played Dead show to those found at any baseball game, Gans understood that despite the uniformity of the context, the particulars can be endlessly diverse and like snowflakes, never the same. U-Melt may not be the only band providing a different wrinkle with each individual show but they are one of the few that continuously and reliably keep things fresh. Each U-Melt show is worth attending; you will see something memorable.

This past Saturday night, U-Melt returned to New York City for a late night gig at Greenwich Village’s Sullivan Hall. Their first Manhattan show since headlining the BB King Blues Club this past April turned out to be a boisterous affair, the crowd revved up with a rambunctious enthusiasm that added to the atmosphere. A second set romp through “Marvin The Pussy” saw U-Melt working in tandem with the crowd, who hung with every peak and valley of the songs swirling bounces as if it was Phish playing “You Enjoy Myself.” The set featured long time U-Melt staples like “Green Amber” and “Green Paper Society,” relatively newer tunes like “Question Matters” and “Tiny Giants” and the debut of two new tracks, Lasher’s “Honey Sucker” and Salzer’s “Momentary Luminaries.”

With the weekend marking the anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s passing, guitarist Rob Salzer teased bits and pieces of The Dead throughout the night, drawing the biggest reaction when he inserted the squonky riff of “Shakedown Street” into an encore cover of Kool & The Gang’s “Get Down On It,” a song introduced as one that Garcia would never have played. Dead samples notwithstanding, Salzer once again established that his reputation as one of the most electrifying young guitarists is far from hyperbole. Easily the most mild-mannered member of the band, it’s easy to overlook bassist Adam Bendy, so we won’t do that here. Matching Salzer and keyboard maven Zac Lasher’s creative and intricate licks, Bendy artfully weaves his bass lines around the mania, especially while Salzer shreds. Over my last few U-Melt shows, I’ve started to gain a real appreciation for what Bendy does on stage.

Lasher creates such lush melodies and atmospheres with the keyboards, guiding the mood from the carnival trot of “The Fantastical Flight Of Captain Delicious” through Disco Biscuits-style electronica. To appropriately provide an edification of drummer George Miller’s capabilities of synchronization and metronomony, you occasionally have to make up a word or two. He puts forth a Herculean effort behind the kit, relentlessly keeping the energy of the crowd from waning and nailing the vocals of the Frank Zappa covers as if channeling the man himself.

Their extended first set featured a pair of notable guest appearances from singer Jenn Ritchie and saxophonist Ed Palermo. As Ritchie stormed through a rampant version of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock And Roll,” you couldn’t help but realize that Robert Plant’s otherworldly voice hit levels that most male singers can’t reach. To really do the song the same way, you do need a powerful female lead. Given the complicated twists and turns of even your average U-Melt song, the straightforward amped-up blues framework of Zeppelin classic seemed relatively simple in comparison.

Sharing U-Melt’s fascination and appreciation with the complex arrangements of Frank Zappa, the eponymous head of the Ed Palermo Big Band was a match made in Joe’s Garage. After combining on a stout run through “Cosmik Debris,” Palermo added extraordinary flourishes to an extended take on “Apostrophe,” the result being one of the finest versions of the song I’ve heard to date. Palermo also showed a wonderful facility for adaptation, deftly picking up on the subtle Latin flavors of U-Melt’s “Carne.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tuesday's Earful: Blues & Lasers @ Brooklyn Bowl

By: David Schultz

This past Friday night, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals free show at Prospect Park as part of the Celebrate Brooklyn series was just the start of the evening for Scott Tournet, Benny Yurco and Matt Burr. Within a couple hours of the Nocturnals finishing off “White Rabbit” at the Bandshell, Blues & Lasers, Tournet’s hard-charging, roadhouse blues project, kicked into the heavy downbeat of “Who Do You Think You Are” at the newly opened Brooklyn Bowl in the Williamsburg section of the borough. Hardly spent from their stint in the park, the three Nocturnals, drummer Steve Sharon and bassist John Rogone were oceans away from your standard bowling alley fare.

The two hour set included runs through Delta blues infused barroom rockers like “22 Times,” “Rooster” and “W.N.W.G.D.,” which had Tournet and Yurco gleefully playing off each other, but was mainly comprised of new songs that should shortly be making their way onto an upcoming album. Continuing in the same vein as their self-titled debut, songs like “Fallen Friend,” “I Ain’t Changing” and Take You Down” would have had a home on AOR radio back when it still existed. If the number of women congregating at Tournet’s feet like extras from Oliver Stone’s Doors movie is any indication, he’s getting his proper recognition as the guitar master he’s become. The newly recruited Rogone played a heavy bass slotting himself between the Sharon and Burr’s drum kits. The two drummers were a nice contrast in styles: Burr’s ferocious energy, often rising off the stool covering the drum kit from all angles, contrasting with Sharon’s calm reserve.

While Blues & Lasers permits Tournet, Burr and Yurco the opportunity to play with a harder edge than they do with Potter, it would be ignorant and downright incorrect to try to characterize the band as some sort of rebellion against The Nocturnals. Just like Warren Haynes getting to play a different role than he normally has with the Allman Brothers Band or Luther Dickinson’s complementary roles with the Black Crowes and the North Mississippi Allstars, Blues & Lasers is just a different form of musical expression. What does Potter think of whole thing? Well, a Blues & Lasers show without her in attendance tends to be a rarity or you can just listen to her kill the Hammond solos on “Devil Wrapped Around Me.”

The new Brooklyn Bowl is an incredible piece of work; it probably needs to be in Williamsburg as its unlikely such a cavernous edifice could exist for bowling and music in New York City. More than a dozen bowling lanes extend along the right side of the ample concert floor with keglers rolling perpendicularly away from the stage. When you factor in the two gigantic bar areas serving local microbrews and the innumerable high-definition movie screen sized TVs, you have a lot going on. The venue was thriving, although it’s unlikely everyone was there to see Blues & Lasers. Regardless, the multitude of activity did little to diminish the energy of the show, although after one song, Tournet idly wondered if the cheers were for the band or someone threw a strike.

Under Peter Shapiro’s auspices, the storied, beloved and irreplaceable Wetlands espoused and lived its Green ideals long before it became the hip thing to do. While he’s brought the Green mentality to the Brooklyn Bowl – it’s LEED certified – it doesn’t appear as it if Shapiro’s going for Wetlands II. The focus appears to be on running a self-sustaining bowling alley and nightclub but rest assured, when it comes to bringing in bands worth listening to, Shapiro takes a back seat to no one. Already scheduled: Toots & The Maytals (September 2), Karl Denson's Tiny Universe (September 11), Galactic (October 15, 16) and Shonen Knife (November 17).

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Watson Twins: Sun Studio Sessions "Only You"

The Watson Twins made a name touring and recording with indie sweetheart Jenny Lewis. The partnership was helpful to both sides and the ladies made some great music together. But, the Watson Twins inevitably evolved into a headline act in their own right. With a deal from Vanguard Records, Chandra and Leigh Watson have logged thousands of road miles in support of their EP Southern Manners (2006) and their full length effort Fire Songs (2008). Earlier this spring, the ladies stopped into Memphis to tape a performance for Sun Studio Sessions. Here is the first release from the taping, "Only You."



Sun Studio Sessions will begin airing as a regular half hour series distributed to PBS stations nationwide beginning January 2010. The Watson Twins will be featured with their own half hour show during Season One. Meanwhile the ladies will get back on the road this fall, tour dates are available on their MySpace page.

Monday's Earful: Grace Potter & The Nocturnals; Deer Tick

By: David Schultz

The Prospect Park Bandshell has long been centerpiece of the historic park nestled within the Park Slope section of Brooklyn. Serving as the counterpart to Central Park’s Summerstage, the Celebrate Brooklyn series of shows provides an annual slate of free concerts that strives to appeal to the borough’s wide-ranging tastes. No strangers to giving something back to a community, this past Friday night, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals made their first 2009 appearance in New York City, forgoing the unseemly sale of tickets and allowing the BRIC to pass the hat for donations to the cause.

The combination of a spectacular night, a gorgeous frontwoman and a fantastic band induced an exceptionally large crowd to migrate to the bandshell with just as many people lounging on blankets in the lawn space as filling the ample seating space. In a slightly surreal moment, New York State Senator Chuck Schumer briefly addressed the crowd, proclaiming this a night to celebrate two phenomenal women: Sonia Sotomayor and Grace Potter. Having met both, I can verify that Schumer is right: they are both quite cool. However, I doubt Sotomayor has pipes like Potter nor do I think she could get a crowd going by just shimmying with a tambourine or rocking a Hammond B3. In all fairness, Potter may be weak on Federal jurisprudence, due process and the limits of power of the executive branch.

Since Potter & The Nocturnals last played in New York City, Bryan Dondero has parted ways with the band with Blues & Lasers guitarist Benny Yurco and bassist Catherine Popper signing on. In contrast to Dondero’s reserve, Popper brings a feisty spark to the band, nicely complementing the charismatic Potter. While likely not intentional as it occasionally drowned out Tournet’s guitar, the Park’s sound mix prominently featured her bass. As you could hear nearly every note, it did make clear that Popper brings something tangible into this already cohesive unit. Likewise, Yurco, who has spent ample time playing with guitarist Scott Tournet and drummer Matt Burr in Blues & Lasers, meshes in seamlessly with The Nocturnals and provides a worthy foil for Tournet.

Opening with the hard-charging builds of “Some Kind Of Ride,” the Prospect Park set featured strengthened versions of “Joey” and “2:22,” a new layer of muscle added onto the frames of the Nothing But The Water tales of tattered feelings. For the majority of the efficient 80 minute set, Potter & The Nocturnals kept the energy level high, Burr bashing out the heavy 50s-style, girl group drum beat of “Mastermind,” Potter rocking her Gibson Flying V through the punk riffs of “If I Was From Paris” and Tournet adding an intriguing take on the power-ballad guitar solo, livening up an otherwise slow though melodious version of “Apologies.”

With the 40th anniversary of Woodstock approaching, Potter helped foster comparisons to another amazing Grace, covering the Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” the acid rock warhorse’s urgent directive of “feed your head” giving Potter one final chance to stun the crowd with the power of her voice. The 10:30 curfew forced The Nocturnals to keep thing concise and to the point. With the exception of the now-traditional drum confab that took place during a set closing version of “Sweet Hands,” there wasn’t much time to stretch any of the songs out. Only on “Stop The Bus” and “Medicine,” a new song written with the same type of swaggering blues hyperbole as “Sugar,” did Tournet and Yurco have room to extend themselves. This was easily tempered by the fact that the subsequent Blues & Lasers show at the newly opened Brooklyn Bowl (see tomorrow’s Earful) provided an awesome opportunity to see the remarkable guitar tandem at work.

PRIOR TO POTTER & THE NOCTURNALS, Deer Tick offered up a marvelous set of Americana-drenched tunes, heavy with all the pathos that can be dredged up by lead singer John J. McCauley. Although they hail from Rhode Island, McCauley looks like he came from the Arkansas back country and moved into Big Pink. This was the second time I've seen Deer Tick -the first opening for Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit - and they seem to transcend the freak-folk banner that typically flies above their head. McCauley also produced the night's most sentimental moment, having his girlfriend remove her shoe so he could propose with a toe ring.

Benevento Russo Duo Kick Off The Highline Piano Series

Starting August 17, The Highline Ballroom will play host to its first Highline Piano Series, a weeklong slate of shows that, not so uncoincidentally, will feature some amazing pianists and keyboard players. On Monday night, the series will open will an acoustic performance from The Benevento Russo Duo. While Marco Benevento and Joe Russo haven't been hard to find with their various other projects, Duo shows, once prevalent, have been. The last time I can recall the Duo playing sans electricity was at the now-defunct Knitting Factory during the 2007 Green Apple Festival. Figuring that an acoustic show should be played before a seated crowd, the Duo generated an unheard amount of excitement, a feat they will no doubt duplicate at the Highline Ballroom.

At Hidden Track, they are running a free ticket giveaway for the event with five pairs available for the return of The Duo. Simply write a 50 word or less comment describing your favorite Duo song in order to be eligible.

The Highline Piano Series will run from August 17 through August 26 and feature jazz great McCoy Tyner (August 23) and Radiohead interpreter and Sunday New York Times Art & Leisure subject Christopher O'Riley (August 24). The other dates are as follows:

August 19 - Peter Cincotti
August 20 - Vienna Teng Trio
August 21 - The Bad Plus
August 22 - Iris Dement
August 25 - Cecil Taylor
August 26 - Phil Vassar

Willy DeVille (1950-2009)

Come my love I'll tell you a tale,
Of a boy and girl
And their love story.

And how he loved her oh so much,
and all the charms she did posses
Now this did happen once upon a time,
When things were not so complex.
And how he worshiped the ground she walked,
And when he looked he became obsessed.

My love is like a storybook story,
But its as real as the feelings I feel.
My love is like a storybook story,
But its as real as the feelings I feel.

His love was stronger than the power so dark,
A prince could have within his keeping.
His spells to weave and steal her heart,
Within her heart but only sleeping.

My love is like a storybook story,
But its as real as the feelings I feel
My love is like a storybook story,
But its as real as the feelings I feel.

And he said: "Don't you know i love you oh, so much,
and lay my heart at the foot of your dress."
And she said:"Don't you know that storybook loves,
Always have a happy ending.
"Then he swooped her up just like in the books
And on his stallion the rode away.

My love is like a storybook story,
But its as real as the feelings I feel.
My love is like a storybook story,
But its as real as the feelings I feel.

Philly Live Music Shows This Week

This week's Philadelphia live shows kick right off on Monday night at Kung Fu Necktie with a triple header bill of Serpent Cult, Gates of Slumber and Zoroaster. KFN follows up the next night with The Warlocks and Morning After Girls. Tuesday night also sees both Parachute and the Script at World Cafe Live.

Wednesday night presents a few different options. Aushua Blockley is at the Pourhouse, Franz Nicolay of Hold Steady fame is playing First Unitarian Church, NOMO is at the M Room and the Tin Angel welcomes Julian Velard.

Thursday night is ladies night (or tough chicks pretending on your perspective) at the Electric Factory as Akron's own Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders along with Juliette Lewis will be in town.

Friday night sees Pitbull takeover the waterfront at Penn's Landing, while Brookville and Trashcan Sinatras hole up in the Tin Angel. For those looking for some indie folk head on over to the North Star for Baltimore's Wye Oak.

Saturday night is filled with concerts all around town. Allison Weiss and Bess Rogers are at Tin Angel and Bill Harley is across town at World Cafe Live. Camp Kill Yourself invades South Street at the Fillmore and six time Grammy winner John Legend is at the Mann Center for Performing Arts. Looking back downtown, you can check out Lelia Broussard at Tin Angel or Spencer Day over at Chris' Jazz Cafe.

For the energetic who want to squeeze one more show in before the work week starts again you can catch Band of Skulls at the North Star.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Friday's Earful: Licorice; Rebecca Hart

By: David Schultz

Mixing New York’s wealth of fine music with the spectacular sights of the Manhattan skyline and Statue of Liberty, the shows that make up the Rocks Off Concert Cruises series give New Yorkers a great excuse to act like tourists while gawking at the local attractions. That you get to listen to great music being played within arms reach make the whole experience something special, if not a little surreal. This past Wednesday, Licorice, the headliners of Earvolution’s second New York showcase, teamed up with Rebecca Hart, one of the stars of the Earvolution’s first, to make up a less Neil Diamondish version of a Hot August Night.

Despite threats of rain in Biblical proportion, the weather held, making it a beautiful night to be on the water. Licorice made the most of the watery expanses. From the prime-for-selling-out to Facebook “What’s Your Status In London” through the Jerry Garcia Band inspired coda to “A Million Grains Of Sand,” the headlining slot affording them ample time to extend many of the songs, showing off their exceptional musicianship. On a cover of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” keyboardist Chad Dinzes turned the typically confrontational vocals into a sly, subtle threat before the crushing beat segued into Miles Davis’ “Black Satin.” With Hart joining in, they offered a thematically appropriate and funky cover of “Take Me To The River" and closed the night by managing to toss one of Josh Bloom's drum sticks around the stage, a not inconsiderable feat given the waves rocking the boat.

The pixyish Hart is equal parts brash frontwoman and vulnerable deadpan comedian, her stage training giving her a comfort level in relating to the audience and being the center of attention. Acoustic guitar in hand, she adds the sexy to her band, The Sexy Children, comprised of Licorice’s Dave Lott and Matt Epstein and drummer Dan Barman. Adding a couple new songs to those on her recently released Live At Joe’s Pub, Hart played a marvelous opening set, guaranteeing good press by dedicating a cover of “Whipping Post” to your humble narrator. Distracting everyone from the fact that most people immediately considered me the most abusive bastard on the boat, Hart belted out the final stanza with a staggering power that left the uninitiated stunned.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Thursday's Earful: Brendan Benson

By: Rinjo Njori

With the last three or so years devoted to some well deserved mainstream success (i.e. The Raconteurs), Brendan Benson rewards the patient with probably the best (power) pop album of the year. "Exciting," "Worth the wait," "What took him so long" etc. could simply describe My Old Familiar Friend, but the album title speaks for itself and most of Benson's fans will welcome back some of his pop magic. Some might have been content with the success Benson found with The Raconteurs, but at the end of the day a guy with this much talent and songwriting skill shouldn't have to stand on the shoulders of a media giant like Jack White. Now that "dress up" and "shit eating grin" photo ops are behind him it's time to show the world what Jack White already knows-- Brendan Benson is a great songwriter.

With eleven tracks to reintroduce himself to the music consuming public, Benson leaves no doubt that he hasn't forgotten the roots of power pop. The triumvirate of Wings, ELO, and the Raspberries looms heavily over My Old Familiar Friend. To his credit Benson keeps the Beatle in the corner, even though these songs are among the best. "Gonowhere" feels and sound like Paul McCartney, borrowing from the late era Beatle's ballad's that McCartney loved. Not to be outdone or forgotten there is enough room for the long maligned Wings and "Borrow" liberally uses the stadium ready sound of McCartney's "other woman." There might be some updates in the sound but at moments it feels like 1973. The fact that Benson closes the album with this track speaks to how strong the songs are from the first to the last.

An equal presence in the overall sound of the album is prime Electric Light Orchestra. "A Whole Lot Better" updates the epic sounds of Jeff Lynne while "Garbage Day" in some ways acknowledges the minimalist excess of the sounds of the 70s. "A Whole Lot Better" updates the ELO sound with some Rentals-esque keyboards and in the process keeps the sound relevant. While a little more challenging, the heavy piano, light melodic rock of "Garbage Day" would fit with the most stripped down ELO songbook. To his credit, Benson layers the song and gives it some depth. With some well placed guitar and lyrics that will have the women shrieking during the chorus.

Benson doesn't stick exclusively to his 70s powerpop songbook. "Poised and Ready" should be an alternative classic of the the new decade. The piano and drums give the song and anthemic feel. More surprising and experimental are the disco punk overtones of "Feel Like Taking You Home Tonight." The backing drum beat recalls Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" and the backing vocals Animotion's "Obsession." Benson has been sitting on both of these tracks for well over two years and that is a shame, but then again it seems like he has been having fun. Still nothing sparks as much feeling as the Raspberries-esque "Misery." The "Doo-Doo's", harmonies, and "feels so bad it feels good" melody makes one wonder if this wasn't an audition for an Eric Carmen duets album. The only misstep might be "You Make a Fool Out of Me". For those whole love those stripped down acoustic rock songs, it might hit the right note, but overall the song is flat and pales in comparison to the first minute of the McCartney-esque "Gonowhere" or soft moments of "Eyes on the Horizon."

One should hope that My Old Familiar Friend paves the way for Benson's career renaissance, but the all too familiar friend that is Jack White will undoubtedly drag him back into good times and opportunities to play dress up. Hopefully, a little more of Benson's brilliance makes it past the blues rock riffs and clever word play. We all still need a great pop song and that is Benson's strength.

Up until the release My Old Familiar Friend is streaming at NPR, here.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Kings of Leon Tour Dates

The Kings of Leon have officially gone from indie rock favorites to full blown mainstream rock stars - not that there's anything wrong with that! Having now sold over a million copies of Only By the Night and played the Today show, the young band of brothers (and a cousin) have more than hit the big time.

The band is taking the show back on the road, kicking things off at Lollapalooza and doing 30 or so US dates this fall including the Austin City Limits festival. Beyond the concerts, Kings of Leon will also play on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien on August 24th.

North American Tour Dates Below:

AUGUST 2009

07 - Chicago, IL - Lollapalooza
09 - Morrison, CO - Red Rocks Amphitheatre
12 - Edmonton, AB - Rexall Place
13 - Calgary, AB - Pengrowth Saddledome
15 - Vancouver, BC - General Motors Place
16 - Vancouver, BC - General Motors Place
19 - Las Vegas, NV - The Joint
21 - San Diego, CA - Cox Arena
22 - Los Angeles, CA - The Forum


SEPTEMBER 2009

08 - Columbia, MD - Merriweather Post Pavillion
09 - Uncasville, CT - Mohegan Sun Arena
11 - Mansfield, MA - Comcast Center
12 - East Rutherford, NJ - Izod Center
14 - Uniondale, NY - Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum
16 - Montreal, QC - Bell Centre
17 - Ottawa, ON - Scotiabank Place
19 - Hamilton, ON - Copps Coliseum
20 - London, ON - John Labatt Centre
22 - Auburn Hills, MI - The Palace of Auburn Hills
23 - Columbus, OH - Schottenstein Center
25 - Noblesville, IN - Verizon Wireless Music Center
26 - Milwaukee, WI - Bradley Center
28 - Minneapolis, MN - Target Center
30 - St. Louis, MO - Scottrade Center

The tour continues well into October. You can get those remaining Kings of Leon show dates on their website.

Wednesday's Earful: Blues & Lasers

By: David Schultz

This Friday, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals will headline a show that also features Deer Tick and Jones Street Station at the Prospect Park Bandshell as part of BRIC's Celebrate Brooklyn series of free concerts. Those familiar with Potter & The Nocturnals are likely acquainted with Blues & Lasers, the Scott Tournet project that includes fellow Nocturnals Benny Yurco and Matt Burr, The Leaves drummer Steve Sharon and bassist John Ragone. After the GP&TN set at the Bandshell concludes, Blues & Lasers will keep the celebration going with a free after-hours show at the newly opened Brooklyn Bowl, a combination bowling alley/concert venue at 61 Wythe Avenue in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

Blues & Lasers resurrects the 70s-era style of Delta-blues, double drum, guitar fueled rock and roll that supplied AOR radio with ample fodder. It's swampy, it's loud and it's awesome. This past February, I wrote a feature on them for jambands.com. Rather than rehash here, check out the article and get excited about a great double venue, double bill.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Tuesday's Earful: Lotus Passes The Hat; Dead Weather Chomps Wonka; Newport Turns 50; Kiss Awesomely Sells Out (Again)

By: David Schultz

THE RADIOHEAD EXPERIMENT CONTINUES. Electro-jam rockers Lotus will be taking In Rainbow's pay-what-you-want concept one step further, bringing it onto the concert tour. On a week-plus' worth of dates on the West coast, Lotus will experiment with letting fans pay whatever price they want to enter the club. It's unclear whether a contribution of zero will get you into the show but as an incentive to pay at least $15, the band will let you download their 2 new EPs Feather On Wood and Oil On Glass for free. The creatively priced Pay-What-You-Want tour will visit:

October 6 - The Roxy Hollywood, CA
October 7 - The Independent San Francisco, CA
October 8 - McDonald Theatre Eugene, OR
October 9 - The Showbox Seattle, WA
October 10 - Crystal Ballroom Portland, OR
October 11 - The Nightlight Bellingham, WA
October 13 - Knitting Factory Boise, ID
October 14 - Murray Theater Salt Lake City, UT

IN THE MILLIONS OF TIMES that Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory has been shown on TV and you watched Charlie Bucket run home, wild with glee, clutching his Golden Ticket tightly, didn't you always imagine that his would be a wildly successful marketing scheme? And didn't it always seem like it would end up involving Michael Jackson and the Neverland Ranch? In 2006, Prince experimented with the concept with his Purple Ticket Promotion, planting seven tickets inside copies of the then-newly released 3121 granting fans access to his house for a private concert. Now, Jack White and his new group, The Dead Weather, have placed six photo strips inside copies of the recently released Horehound. Instead of a tour of a recluse's chocolate factory, those lucky enough to find them will be flown to Nashville and receive a tour of White's Third Man Records studio. Two tickets have already been found so four remain. Hopefully, there is no real life equivalent to Veruca Salt making illegal aliens (er, non-documented workers) open hundreds of copies in order to find a "Golden Ticket."

THE NEWPORT FOLK FESTIVAL TURNED 50 this past weekend. Rolling Stone's coverage is quite good as is The Decemberist's reenactment of Bob Dylan going electric. Thanks to Colin Meloy we now know the PA was powered by burning wood. Who knew?

THIS REALLY DOESN'T NEED AN an explanation - it's just too cool. Way cooler than offering people a free Dr Pepper should Guns N Roses release a tepid album.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Manhattan Music This Week

New York City is always full of great concert options. This week is no different and the week gets off to a fast start with the Arctic Monkeys at the Highline Ballroom. Bela Fleck is playing Central Park Summerstage with Toumani Diabate, while Madison Square Garden hosts Depeche Mode with Peter, Bjorn & John.

The Arctic Monkeys stay on the island Tuesday night to play Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, which of course, also has house band the Roots. Incubus supplants the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall while Los Campesinos takeover Webster Hall. Tuesday night also has a replay of Depeche Mode with Peter, Bjorn & John at MSG.

Wednesday night sees Chris Isaak at the Beacon Theatre and Incubus does its second show at Radio City. John Scofield is at Madison Square Park while Joe's Pub hosts Julian Velard. Licorice and Rebecca Hart will play the Rocks Off Concert Cruise Series.

Thursday you can take to the water with Donna The Buffalo for a Rockin' the River Cruise. Alternatively, the Eagles of Death Metal will rock the younger set at Webster Hall while the old school crowd can catch legendary crooner Johnny Mathis at the Beacon.

Friday things start off early with Jason Mraz playing the Today Show Concert Series while Friday night, the Big Takeover Band will be snuggling into the much more intimate Rockwood Music Hall. Lila Downs and Me'Shell N'DegeOcello are at Lincoln Center while Sugar Ray visits Irving Plaza (Fillmore). Grace Potter & The Nocturnals and Deer Tick will play "Celebrate Brooklyn," a free show in Prospect Park.

With everyone likely heading to the Hamptons, Saturday night is fairly quiet in the Big Apple. Pilobolus is at the Joyce Theater, Sam Bradley is at Joe's Pub and Love will play B.B. King's. U-Melt livens things up with a gig at Sullivan Hall.

The weekend comes to a close with a Webster Hall triple header featuring Serpent Cult, The Gates of Slumber and Zoroaster.

Monday's Earful: 30... 25... 20 Years Later.... The Songs Literally Remain The Same (As The Album At Least)

By: Rinjo Njori

Judas Priest, Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3,Public Enemy, Aerosmith, Motley Crue, the Pixies, ASIA and the Boss all have or will trot out tours, mini-tours, or homecomings celebrating their musical legacy. This nostalgia trip has taken a new form in the last couple of years- performing one specific album from their catalogue (usually on the album's anniversary) from beginning to end. After 30 years Judas Priest are treating us to British Steel. Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate) took his Miracle 3 lineup to LA and NYC to treat us to the 25th Anniversary of Dream Syndicate's Medicine Show. To rationalize another Pixie's tour, Black Francis and the gang will play Doolittle. Once a gimmick of cover bands (see Judas Priestess, etc.), hardcore punk bands (e.g. Killing Time, Minor Threat) and Phish's annual Halloween concert (covering Talking Heads, The Beatles, etc) most fans were never treated to a live version of an entire album from start to finish.

Somehow over the last few years this gimmick is suddenly becoming the way to celebrate the band's legacy, a singular point in time, and is a "treat" to fans. Sure, everyone's going to get excited when The Pixies open their hearts and mouths to the bass line that opens "Debaser" and backbeat of "Wave of Mutilation." After 45 minutes, are they going to shiver with anticipation for "Gouge Away?" "Heat of the Moment" essentially made Asia, but "Cutting it Fine" might inspire more than a few people to zone out. Realistically, the fans come to hear the songs they love and after 20, 25, or 30 years, playing the more obscure tracks is for the hardcore fan. Though the iTunes generation have pegged us as a music fan of the David Spade variety. During the Kevin Nealon era of Weekend Update he summed it up best, "I'm going to see Laura Branigan tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden, and, uh.. I have some advice for her: open and close with "Gloria." Do it a couple times in between, alright? Thank you very much!"

Philly Music Shows This Week

Philadelphia, coming off the Billy Joel and Elton John concerts this past weekend, is set for another full slate of great live shows this week. Tuesday night sees a triple header at Johnny Brenda's with Love, Sky Saxon and the Seeds and the Electric Prunes. On Wednesday the focus shits back across town with Edwin McCain at the World Cafe Live.

Thursday night has an all age show from Chairlift at the First Unitarian Church. For the older kids, WXPN favorite Donavon Frankenreiter plays the Fillmore at the TLA. Also, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros hit the World Cafe Live.

Friday night kicks off an amazing weekend of live show selections. The Eagles of Death Metal come to the Fillmore at the TLA, while Old Crow Medicine Show should fill up the Electric Factory. Indie hipsters can catch Scott H. Biram at Johnny Brenda's while the cannabis crowd will light up the water front hitting Penn's Landing for Slightly Stoopid, Snoop Dogg and Stephen Marley. If you want to sweat it out in a basement instead of outside, you can check out Love Language at First Unitarian Church.

If you want to get outside for a big show on Saturday night, Incubus and the Duke Spirit are at Penn's Landing or if you're looking for something more chill you can catch the always great Bonnie Raitt with the legendary Taj Mahal at the Mann. But, if prefer something more intimate then check out The Pernice Brothers at the Tin Angel.

The weekend comes to end with an outdoor homecoming show for G. Love & Special Sauce with Jason Mraz at Penn's Landing.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!