Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday's Earful: The Secret Machines; The National; Peter Gabriel; Earl Greyhound

By: David Schultz

While far from a diligent or scientific survey of the multitude of Best of the Decade lists, The Secret Machines’ Now Here Is Nowhere seemed criminally underrepresented in the culling of the oughts’ finest. A mixture of strident unrelenting modern rock, wispy pastorals and droning ambience, the freshness and excitement of The Secret Machines’ 2004 debut more than made up for its somewhat uneven pacing. Drummer Josh Garza’s monstrous drumbeats are barely contained by the studio and the Morse code bass lines of Brandon Curtis propel songs like “Nowhere Again” and “The Road Leads Where Its Led” forward with an unparalleled intensity. The propulsive infectiousness of “First Wave Intact,” the nine minute explosion of a mission statement that opens the album, is such a perfect song it can send shivers down your spine. You had the feeling that you were listening to the next great band, the droll affectless counterpoint to Arcade Fire.

Unfortunately, the departure of Ben Curtis from the band in 2007 to concentrate on School Of Seven Bells with Alejandra and Claudia Deheza seemed to sap the rush out of the Machines. Their last studio effort with Phil Karnats rounding out the trio flashed glimpses of past wonder but too often Secret Machines plodded forth with a joyless mechanical march. They remain compelling, even if they’ve yet to get back in step with where they were at the middle of the last decade. Around Christmas time, Curtis and Garza played a Secret Machines show as duo when a snow storm stranded Karnats outside the City limits. Village Voice profilee nyctaper caught the show and wherever he goes, high-quality recordings follow.

LOOKING AHEAD, INSTEAD OF BACKWARDS: When the weather gets warmer, The National will be releasing their follow-up to Boxer and take to the road. They’ll play the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, TN, where guitarist Bryce Dessner will co-curate, hit up parts of Europe and both American coasts, including a hometown June 16 show at Radio City Music Hall. On the west coast, Menomena’s Brent Knopf’s side project, Ramona Falls, will open.

In support of Scratch My Back, his album of cover songs that will be released in the US on March 2, Peter Gabriel will embark on The New Blood Tour. Leaving guitars and drums at home, Gabriel will be accompanied solely by an orchestra he’s named the Scratch My Back Experience. The tour will bring Gabriel back to America for the first time in close to seven years with shows announced for Radio City Music Hall in New York City (May 2, May 3) and the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.

Earl Greyhound will release their sophomore album Suspicious Package on April 13, marking their return after an abnormally long absence. Has anything changed during that time? From the promo photo, Ricc Sheridan may have toned down his penchant for awesomely colorful shirts (doubtful), Kamara Thomas looks to have shortened one of the greatest hairstyles in rock and roll (self evident) and Matt Whyte seems to gone stone cold hippie or developed a serious William Hurt fetish(Whoa!).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thursday's Earful: Drive-By Truckers; White Stripes; The Allman Brothers Band

By: David Schultz

When you've gone through the whole record-release-tour- develop side project cycle enough times that you can do it on auto-pilot, how do you go about keeping things fresh? It seems that the answer is: star in your own documentary. The White Stripes will accompany the March 16 release of Under Great White Northern Lights with an Emmett Malloy directed documentary of the same name. The songs and the footage come from The Stripes' 2007 jaunt across Canada with Under Nova Scotian Lights, their 10th Anniversary concert, getting a separate DVD release treatment.

The Drive-By Truckers will also be multi-tasking this year, bundling the March 16 release of The Big To-Do, their eighth studio album, with a documentary of their own, The Secret To A Happy Ending. They describe the film as one "about the redemptive power of rock & roll; it's about the American South, where rock was born; it's about a band straddling the borders of rock, punk and country; it's about making art, making love and making a living; it's about the Drive-By Truckers." They surely haven't mellowed: the first single from the new album is entitled "This Fucking Job," which the Truckers are offering up as a sample taste.

AS THEY HAVE IN THE PAST, The Allman Brothers Band have added another five shows to their March residency, which will move from the Beacon Theater to new and larger digs at the United Palace. If you weren't able to get tickets for the first eight shows, try to free up March 22, 23, 25, 26 or 27. Unless you are a member of the Peach Corps or an American Express cardholder, tickets will be available February 6. The Allmans residency is one of the few remaining uncorrupted events still left in rock and roll and shouldn't be missed by anyone who considers themselves a true music lover.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wednesday's Earful: Rinjo Cloudcast

By: Rinjo Njori

The cover photos are definitely getting better, although in our household we are partial to "Uncle" Dwight Schultz, even if he did go slightly Limbaugh a couple years back. At the risk of giving away some of the plot, Rinjo includes Silversun Pickups, Japandroids, Animal Collective, the Almighty Defenders and the Reatards.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday's Earful: moe. @ Roseland Ballroom

By: David Schultz

Bands that vary up their setlists on a nightly basis pose tremendous difficulties for anyone wanting to write an all-encompassing review of the group from a single show. The personnel won’t change but the band you see one night could be subtly to drastically different from the one that played just 24 hours earlier. What you typically get is someone’s personal recollection of their individual experience at the show that holds your interest to the extent that you know or care about the writer. In most cases, that personal connection is non-existent, which explains why many show reviews of jambands fail to provide much in the way of interesting insight. Seeing as my mother isn’t even interested in hearing my thoughts on a specific show, you aren’t really going to get a ton of astute perceptions about moe.’s Saturday night show at the Roseland Ballroom.

moe. followed up their guest laden benefit for World Hunger Year and Haiti with a formal celebration of their 20th anniversary. Dressed nattily in matching suits, moe.’s Saturday night set consisted almost exclusively of longtime live staples including the twangy “Yodelittle,” the zany “Dr. Graffenberg” and a lengthy revved up version of “Meat.” By packing the set with a treasure trove of moe. classics, the venerable upstate rockers reminded many fans of what made them appealing in the first place; a fine way to commemorate a momentous anniversary. Legions of bands hardly make it past their second album or go their separate ways at the first sign of adversity only to find a rekindled love of the music once the possibility of a lucrative reunion tour rears its head. In jamband circles, Phish and the Grateful Dead will always dominate the conversation but perhaps it's time for moe. to be invited on to the panel.

Since Terminal 5 opened its doors a couple years back, the Roseland Ballroom, once a mighty and vital stop for any jamband or rising indie act, has lost much of its luster with T5 coopting nearly all the shows that would once take place at the roomy midtown haunt. Revisiting Roseland for the first time in more than 3 years, all of the Ballroom’s perceived warts seemed trivial, especially in light of Terminal 5’s horrific sightlines, overcrowded floors and impersonal warehouse feel. To the contrary, Roseland felt like a venue with its own character: from the side stage that doubles as a VIP section to the hidden bar (I’m not telling) and the balconies from which you can actually see the stage, it’s a concert space that does not deserve to be forsaken. moe. reawakened a few of Roseland’s ghosts this past weekend, hopefully they don’t once again go dormant.

moe. moe. moe. Tonight at the Brooklyn Bowl, moe. will play a not-so secret show at Pete Shapiro's wonderful new venture in Williamsburg. No tickets will be sold in advance, so be there on line when the doors open at 6:00 and you'll get to see moe. at the largest mini-arena in Brooklyn.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday's Earful: The Swell Season

By: David Schultz

Context is everything. No matter how good a band may be, how they make their first impression – how you come to hear about them – predisposes how you’re going to feel about them. If the backstory of The Swell Season consisted of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova coming together as the result of their shared experiences on failing to become American Idol, they would likely be ridiculously popular but would have as much credibility as Justin Guarini or Taylor Hicks. Well, on second thought, maybe they wouldn’t even be popular. Instead, Hansard and Irglova garnered raves for their starring turn in Once, a charming little movie for which they won the Best Song Oscar for “Falling Slowly.” There may be other paths to instant credibility but becoming the darling of the independent cinema isn’t a bad one to take. If you came across The Swell Season’s old school, blue-eyed soul dotted with twinges of modern Irish folk, which they build to Springsteen-quality crescendos, on Top 40 radio, they might be easy to dismiss as a manufactured label project. Take into account Hansard’s busking background, his role as Outspan in Alan Parker’s The Commitments and the manner in which his romantic roller coaster with Irglova intertwined with his involvement with The Frames, and it would be spiteful to begrudge them their sold-out return to New York City’s Radio City Music Hall.

After Hansard and Irglova opened the show on their own with “Fallen From The Sky” and “Lies,” Hansard welcomed The Frames, who many worry he’s forsaken for The Swell Season project. Along with an occasional assist from a horn section made up Clark Gayton and Steven Bernstein of Levon Helm’s Ramble band and Jake Clemons, E Street Band’s Clarence’s nephew, the full band fleshed out The Swell Season’s soaring melodies and delicate harmonies. The briskly paced two and a half hour set focused on material from the recently released Strict Joy, a couple newer songs and of course touched upon the songs from Once, including a lovely offering of “Falling Slowly.” Like most Swell Season shows, there were intricately laid out sing-alongs and some choice covers. Admittedly wanting to ingratiate themselves with the Tri-State audience, they played a powerfully soulful rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “Drive All Night,” with Jake Clemons playing the role of his uncle. Hansard's throwaway reference to “and the colored girls sing” in the midst of the number prompted the audience to echo back the familiar bridge from “Walk On The Wild Side.”

After the show’s opening,” Irglova remained primarily out of the spotlight; she took lead vocals for a couple songs, added some surprisingly powerful piano counterpart to the thunderous finale of “High Horses” and, of course, featured prominently in “Falling Slowly.” The night though belonged to Hansard, an incredibly charismatic frontman. With the stage to himself, Hansard tapped into his days as a street performer, engaging the audience with nothing more than a guitar and his charm. He quieted the audience long enough to sing without the microphone and tore through Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks,” energizing the relatively serene classic into an impassioned acoustic rockers.

Possessed with the Irish gift of telling a compelling and entertaining story, Hansard eloquently prefaced each song with a brief introduction as to its origin. Instead of becoming some sort of egocentric Storytellers session, the context of the lyrics gave the night a couple unifying themes. In light of Hansard and Irglova’s romantic entanglements, Hansard’s constant references to being comfortable enough to wish someone happiness even as you are saying goodbye had an added poignancy. The sentiment didn’t quite match up with the turgid march of “Go With Happiness” but it made their finale of the Irish standard, “Parting Glass” come alive with Hansard channeling the ghosts of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem in wishing everyone “good night and joy be with you all.”

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday's Earful: Genesis w/ Peter Gabriel; The Hold Steady; Rinjo Cloudcast

By: David Schultz

With Genesis being inducted into the Hall of Fame this year, the dormant reunion rumors with Peter Gabriel have once again sprung to life. Before they could gather steam, Genesis' original lead singer has doused all of the anticipatory excitement, definitively stating that no reunion will occur. Rather than just cast the normal aspersions on the reunion, Gabriel categorically listed the reasons why it won't take place: there will be no time to rehearse and Phil Collins isn't physically able to play the drums for an extended period of time. Gabriel may not even be able to attend the induction ceremony as he will be on tour supporting Scratch My Back, his album of covers that will be released on February 3.

PERHAPS THIRTY YEARS FROM NOW we will be all atwitter over a Hold Steady reunion. Keyboardist Franz Nicolay announced today that he will be amicably leaving the greatest bar band in the world to pursue his solo career. Questionable move for the curiously mustachioed one; hopefully we won't end up bringing up Nicolay's name in a conversation that includes David Caruso and Shelley Long.

HERE'S PART II OF RINJO'S CLOUDCAST with the Best Title Tracks of 2009.



Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thursday's Earful: moe.; Concerts For Haiti; Rinjo Cloudcast

By: David Schultz

Tomorrow night, jamband stalwarts moe. will celebrate their 20th anniversary with two shows at New York City's Roseland Ballroom. In addition to marking the milestone, Friday night's show will serve a more civic minded purpose: not only will the show benefit World Hunger Year, the organization co-founded by singer-songwriter Harry Chapin, it will benefit those in need in Haiti. If you have any questions as why the latter is necessary, stop reading this site immediately and get thyself a newspaper, you are in desperate need of a clue. The benefit will feature guest appearances from The Allman Brothers Band's Butch Trucks, David Sanborn, Yonder Mountain String Band's Jeff Austin, banjo great Danny Barnes and Marco Benevento. This won't be moe.'s first benefit at Roseland. In February of 2005, moe. enlisted Trey Anastasio, Sam Bush and John Medeski to put on a monster show to raise money to assist victims of the Tsunami that struck India at the end of 2004.

moe. ISN'T THE ONLY BAND lending their voices to the Haitian cause. By the time you read this, Robert Randolph & The Family Band will have played the Brooklyn Bowl to benefit the Red Cross Haiti Fund and Yele Haiti but tonight the hippest bowling alley in Williamsburg will feature DJ sets from Q-Tip and ?uestlove. City Winery will have four benefit shows for Partners In Health, Doctors Without Borders and the Jewish Renaissance Medical Center: Last night's benefit featured Patti Smith, The Swell Season, The Antlers, John Wesley Harding, Carolina Chocolate Drops and Yo La Tengo. Tonight's will have Vernon Reid and Corey Glover of Living Colour, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Marshall Crenshaw and Lewis Black. The Support Haiti shows continue on Sunday with Roseanne Cash, Madeleine Peyroux and Nada Surf and conclude on Monday with 20 Indie Artists, including Earvolution faves Amber Rubarth and Wes Hutchinson.

THE BIGGEST TELETHON WILL TAKE place on Friday night. The George Clooney hosted Hope For Haiti event will be simulcast on all the major television networks, MTV, VH1 and CNN. U2, Bruce Springsteen, Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band, Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake, Sting, Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder are among the participating artists.

YOUR GUESS IS AS GOOD AS mine as to why we're looking at a pair of knobby knees. Hit play though and you get Part I of Rinjo Njori's Cloudcast with the Best Title Tracks of 2009. Come back tomorrow for Part II.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wednesday's Earful: The xx

By: David Schultz

Rolling Stone and Pitchfork often seem to work in worlds that seem almost mutually exclusive of each other. Jann Wenner’s publication gives ceaseless coverage to classic rock’s upper echelon and hops on the bandwagon of the pop tart du jour while Pitchfork invests the same effort into discovering and giving press to bands 90% of the world has yet to hear. Scanning over their Top Ten of 2009 lists, it seemed appropriate that they both thought quite highly of underrated though long appreciated bands like Phoenix and The Dirty Projectors but their common love for a young British group called The xx presented far more intrigue.

Romy Madley Croft takes the philosophy that if one guitar note would be fine, then repeating it three or four times will no doubt create a hypnotically entrancing groove. She proves throughout The xx’s self-titled debut that its marvelously workable theory, even in the absence of a proper bass and drums. An addictive listen, xx matches its musical bravado with lyrics that are nothing more than emotionally unguarded, post coital repartee, flecked with slight twinges of latent insecurity. A bit of a modern update on Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” “Infinity” smolders with a relentless intensity that builds towards a climactic instrumental coda which sadly ends just as it seems ready to soar. Likewise, the slinky smooth beat of “Crystalized” keeps pace with the undercurrent of titillation of the banter between Croft and Oliver Sim. Even the seemingly banal songs are fraught with sexual tension: on “Shelter,” Croft breathily coos assurances that she’ll make amends for any shortcomings in the light of day and on “VCR” and “Basic Space,” the lazy familiar tone belies the boundary lines being drawn. The xx aren’t oozing sexuality or getting all come-hither with their dialogue, they remain compelling; the aptly named opener, “Intro,” bristling with cinematic possibilities.

With keyboardist Baria Qureshi leaving the band, The xx will soldier on as a trio. They’ll be spending the next few weeks in Europe before retuning to the U.S. for some headlining gigs. Having opened for Hot Chip and The Fiery Furnaces on their prior visits to New York, they’ll be headlining Webster Hall on March 31.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesday's Earful: Vampire Weekend

By: David Schultz

The deadest period for new music comes in the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. In that regard, the whole industry just shuts down, leaving the entertainment world to focus on Oscar contending movies. While the cinema world treats January as their dumping ground for movies with dim prospects, major and independent labels offer up a glut of new releases. Unquestionably, the biggest to hit stores in the first couple weeks of 2010 has been Vampire Weekend’s sophomore release, Contra. In this accelerated age where band hype and backlash takes place within weeks, it seems like eons ago the Ivy Leaguers debut caused such a stir, gleefully appropriating African rhythms into their appealing mélange of frisky, highbrow three chord pop.

Vampire Weekend hasn’t deviated significantly from the formula that simultaneously delighted and irked so many back in 2008. Ezra Koenig’s still showing off his multisyllabic and now multicultural vocabulary, most pronouncedly on the lilting opening track “Horchata,” and “Holiday” and “Cousins” have the same brash Afropop punk feel as anything from their debut. They aren’t remaining complacent either: “White Sky” makes it sound like they’ve added Animal Collective to their steady Paul Simon rotation and “Run” and “Giving Up The Gun” find Chris Thomson and Chris Baio adding a booming electronica backbeat. “Diplomat’s Son,” cloaks itself in the pomposity of progressive rock; it’s mainly six minutes of bad reggae but its easily the Vampire Weekend’s most daring effort to date.

The album’s closing track, “I Think Ur A Contra,” abandons everything you’ve come to expect from a Vampire Weekend song. Setting aside bouncy rhythms, Koenig’s high-pitched voice trembles and warbles over ethereal ambience as he eruditely chastises a lover he no longer trusts. The hurt and indignation infused into the lyrics meshes incongruously with the pleasant atmospheric vibe with the result being one of the finer uses of the band’s subtle ingenuity. All the Ivy League jokes and cultural colonialism discussions can’t obscure the fact that Contra stakes out Vampire Weekend’s claim to be treated as more than a fleeting reference to the dialogue they’ve started.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday's Earful: The Rinjo Njori Podcast - He Blogs Econo

By David Schultz

Long before I started writing about bands nobody had ever heard of in an attempt to illumate souls to good music, the man you know as Rinjo Njori was well ahead of me on that path. In a Podcast that takes it cue from the philosophy of The Minutemen, Njori now blogs econo. If he'd recorded this one sooner he would have surely paid tribute to the recently departed Jay Reatard, but for now he's mixing The La's and New Bomb Turks with Cheap Trick and The Small Faces. Ignore the mug shot which doesn't do Rinjo any justice whatsoever and enjoy the music, cause he knows damn well what he's doing in that area.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thursday's Earful: Jackie Greene

By: David Schultz

Anyone whose seen Phil Lesh & Friends over the past few years has been blown away by Jackie Greene's version of "Sugaree." When the band plays it, Greene usually steals the show. The California based singer and guitarist may have the look of a young Dylan but he often embodies the soul of Jerry Garcia, the Grateful Dead's lovably shaggy leader. For those tired of searching the Live Music Archives for Greene's take on Dead classics, Greene is offering The Grateful EP for free on his Web site with studio versions of "Sugaree," "New Speedway Boogie" and "Brokedown Palace."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wednesday's Earful: Levon Helm’s Ramble featuring Grace Potter & The Nocturnals

By: David Schultz

Since the dawn of time when the first band traveled to the neighboring city to play for the locals, the touring paradigm has remained relatively unchanged: artist releases album, gets on the tour bus and brings the music to theaters and arenas all across the country. Levon Helm’s Midnight Rambles puts a completely different spin on the entire experience, taking the philosophy that if the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad will go to the mountain with the beloved drummer from Arkansas appropriately playing the role of the mountain. At the turn of the century, Helm began hosting the Rambles at his home in Woodstock, New York. What started as a fun form of therapy for Helm as he recovered from his treatment for throat cancer has turned into one of the most gratifying and transcendent experiences in the history of rock and roll, a veritable pilgrimage for true music lovers.

Even though neither the 1969 festival nor its infamous children took place in the upstate New York township, Woodstock is still intimately associated with the best that classic rock has to offer. With the Rambles, Woodstock finally makes good on the implicit promise of the birthright that’s been thrust upon it. Everyone who has been to a Ramble describes the experience as special, magical, a beauteous wonder that exceeds all possible expectations. After going to my first Ramble this past Saturday night, I can honestly say that all of those people are right.

The logistics of attending a Ramble have been pretty well documented: the travel through the woods, the innocuous entrance to Helm’s property, the welcoming and gracious nature of the volunteer staff, the intimacy of the room and even the popcorn machine (which I regret not taking sampling). The show itself plays out like an old time rock and roll revue. Helm may be the main attraction but everyone gets their moment. Larry Campbell transforms Garth Hudson’s organ intro to “Chest Fever” into an amazing virtuosic guitar solo, Amy Helm wrings every bit of emotion out of Linda Ronstadt’s “Everybody Loves A Winner,” Teresa Williams empathically channels the hopelessness of the narrator of “Long Black Veil” and brings an inspired gospel fervor to “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning,” Brian Mitchell does his best Dr. John on “Such A Night,” Byron Isaacs offers up a poignant reading of his own “Calvary,” a song sung by Helm on The Dirt Farmer, Jim Weider steps back into his old shoes with the post-Robertson version of The Band and the horn section of Clark Gayton, Steve Bernstein and Erik Lawrence took a Mardi Gras stroll around the room while Howard Johnson rocked the tuba.

The magical nature of the Rambles isn’t lost on those involved. On Saturday night, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals made their debut at Levon’s studio. If there’s any group that gets what’s going on in the middle of the woods, it’s GPN. Their presence at last Saturday’s Ramble generated an unprecedented response, resulting in the sale of more standing room tickets than ever before. Once The Nocturnals launched into the opening notes of “Joey,” every available spot had someone standing in it. GPN’s one hour set included a mix of live staples like “Ah Mary,” “Big White Gate” and “If I Was From Paris” as well as “Goodbye Kiss,” “Long Low Road” and “Money” which may be earmarked for the band’s upcoming album, and a cover of Bad Company’s “Feel Like Making Love” which had a great guitar solo from Benny Yurco. Always charming, Potter outdid herself at the Ramble, describing how drummer Matt Burr pitched the idea of a band to her by showing her The Last Waltz. She even co-opted a moment during Helm’s set, inadvertently causing a small ruckus by popping open a bottle of champagne during a song break, much to Helm’s delight. It may have been their first appearance at a Ramble but from the reaction of the Ramble regulars, they played like old pros.

Due to the hefty ticket prices and the effort involved in making the trip to Levon’s Woodstock home, everyone inside the barn is there because they have the same love for the music as those on stage playing it. In the absence of a bar dispensing drinks, college kids getting loaded, chatty folks ignoring the show and hipsters trying to act cooler than the band, all that’s left is crowd full of fans who have a unified reverence for the music and respect for the performers. When Potter sang the a capella intro to “Nothing But The Water,” the room turned deathly quiet, totally engaged by the performance. The same deference was paid for Campbell, Williams and Helm’s take on the Grateful Dead’s “Attics Of My Life.”

In recent months, the Rambles have been without Helm’s distinctive voice. This Saturday, Helm chimed in on the background vocals of “Deep Elem Blues” and received a helping hand from Campbell on a romp through “Tennessee Jed,” saving enough strength to take a verse on the show-closing version of “The Weight.” The heart and soul of the band, even after all these years Helm still has some surprises to offer. While the horn section blasted away during one of the acoustic selections, Helm left his stool, set his mandolin down and dance a marvelously goofy jig.

I was fortunate enough to get to linger around the studio after it had been returned to its normal condition. Wandering around the room, it seemed astounding that GPN and Levon Helm’s 11 piece band had just played a show within its cozy confines that could have easily attracted a couple thousand people before only 300. For a music studio, the space is quite roomy; as a concert venue, it’s extraordinarily intimate. If you consider yourself a proper fan of The Band or American folk music, you are doing yourself a disservice by depriving yourself of this experience.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday's Earful: The States; Plastic Ono Band

By: David Schultz

Here's a lesson why you should never take bands for granted and go see them whenever you can. Earvolution has always had a soft spot in its heart for The States. They were one of the headliners of Earvolution’s 2006 Summer Jam and an integral part of Earvolution’s 2007 SXSW. They’ve released two great albums, Multiply Not Divide and The Path Of Least Resistance, and an equally solid EP, We Are The Erasers. On January 21 at 11:00 p.m., the band will play their final show at Southpaw in Brooklyn, New York. Having heard the news today - oh boy - I regret all the times that I’ve foregone catching The States when they had a local gigs over the past couple years, realizing that the belief that there will always be a next show isn’t always a certainty. Guitarist Chris Snyder, drummer Joe Stroll, bassist Pete Connors and founding member and current law student Previn Warren are not only great musicians, they are great people. The sadness inherent with the conclusion of any worthy endeavor comes with the optimism of the wonderful things that lie ahead. We wish you all the best and looking forward to what comes next.

NOT SURE HOW THIS BECAME Yoko Ono week here at Earvolution but after years of being as classy off stage as she’s annoying on stage, she’s once again newsworthy. Before playing the Noise Pop Festival in San Francisco, the new Plastic Ono Band, which includes Sean Lennon and a variety of Japanese musicians, will play their first show in 40 years on February 16 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Much like the original version, there’s star power to burn. Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, his son Harper Simon, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, bassist Klaus Voorman and the Scissor Sisters will all be joining up with the avant-garde icon, who as you may have heard was once married to John Lennon.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday's Earful: Noise Pop Festival; Jim James

By: David Schultz

The 18th Annual Noise Pop Festival will take place throughout San Francisco from February 23 through March 1. The Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band, which includes Sean Lennon, will play the event's opening night. In breaking out the Plastic Ono Band name, Ms. Ono is unearthing some hallowed ghosts. One of John Lennon's all-inclusive conceptual ideas, the Plastic Ono Band is credited with "Give Peace A Chance" as well as "Cold Turkey" and boasts alumni like Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Billy Preston and Keith moon. In 1970 Lennon and Ono released a pair of albums under the Plastic Ono Band: the one bearing Lennon's name became one of most revered albums in rock and roll history; the one bearing Ono's became yet another oddity of interest amongst her sizable avant-garde catalog.

I saw Ono perform many years ago at the Amnesty International Conspiracy of Hope benefit at Giants Stadium. After letting loose with the howls and screams on what may have been "Walking On Thin Ice," Ono regained the crowd's interest with a version of Lennon's "Imagine." It would be fleeting. After unleashing a howl in the middle of the song in place of Lennon's calming bridge, the crowd once again turned. I would imagine her show with the Plastic Ono Band, ostensibly in support of a new album, Between My Head And The Sky, will be much the same.

The Noise Pop will also include a collaborative performance between The Dodos and Magik Magik Orchestra, The Magnetic Fields, !!!, Harlem, Deerhoof, The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, Rogue Wave and Atlas Sound.

MY MORNING JACKET'S JIM JAMES and former MMJ member Johnny Quaid have launched a new label: Removador Recordings and Solutions. The label has a bold pledge, which promises that there will be no hot music coming from the new label:
Anyone who comes to invest in or own a share of the Removador name will not only find some of the coldest music they ain’t never heard, they will be provided with a richness of living, and sharply increasing aural dividends for years to come. Removador Recordings and Solutions - some of the coldest music you ain’t never heard.
The first batch of frigid and icy releases will be Cortney Tidwell's Boys (January 19), The Ravenna Colt's Slight Spell (February 16) and Follow The Train's Mercury (March 16). My Morning Jacket is listed as one of the label's artists but they are also still on the ATO site.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Friday's Earful: The Allman Brothers Band

By: David Schultz

For the past twenty years, give or take a hiatus for Hepatitis C recovery, The Allman Brothers Band have been a harbinger of Spring in New York City. Each March, the Allmans take up residency at the Beacon Theater, reinvigorating the blues, reviving Southern rock and busting out guest stars that range from Bruce Willis and Kid Rock to Trey Anastasio, Buddy Guy and Eric Clapton. Each show is different and each show is an event. And this year, the residency won’t take place at the Beacon. As if they didn’t know their own history, the Beacon will be playing host to Cirque du Soleil this March and Gregg Allman, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks and company will move from their customary stage to the spacious and equally glamorous United Palace.

If you’re looking at this solely from a musical perspective, the move uptown means nothing, there being no observable sound differences between the two venues. From a content standpoint, whether they play on a street corner or at Madison Square Garden, the Allman Brothers Band is the Allman Brothers Band. However, a large part of the allure of the Allmans residency was the experience: it took place in the heart of New York City at a stately theater with a storied history. The minor inconveniences of cramped hallways and daunting men’s room lines during intermission were just part of charm. The United Palace is bigger and arguably more ornate, even after the Beacon’s renovation, but for the most part it is the Reverend Ike’s Church. It may be a bit quicker on the beer service than the Beacon – an odd yet very true fact – but it’s still a vast and roomy church. More people plus a bigger venue seems to be an equation that results in a loss of the treasured intimacy of the Allmans’ Beacon residency. Then again, it’s better than nothing at all.

For now, eight shows have been announced - March 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 19 and 20 – but as usual, once those sell out, new ones will likely be added. The initial shows go on sale on January 15, although if you’re tied into the Hittin’ The Note network and the Peach Corps, you’ve snagged a couple pairs in advance.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Thursday's Earful: The Low Anthem

By: David Schultz

At year’s end, Fordham’s public radio station WFUV hosted their annual Christmas party featuring sets from Roseanne Cash, Soul Coughing’s Mike Doughty and The Low Anthem. Unsurprisingly, those three bands got a lot of airplay in the weeks leading up to the show. While Cash’s duet with Springsteen had its charms, it was The Low Anthem that made an impression. The Providence, Rhode Island based trio plays their cards close to the vest. Depending on the song, they are two different bands: one carefully tugs at the emotions with heart wrenching melodies and the other scoffs at such sentiment with raucous glee.

Their second album, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, found new life in 2009 after its re-release on Nonesuch Records. Really, all it needed was an audience. On “Charlie Darwin,” Ben Knox Miller’s achingly poignant falsetto drifts weightlessly over the sparse instrumentation of Jeff Prystowsky and Jocie Adams. The hopelessness of drowning is usually a topic only addressed by Colin Meloy, he now as company; the haunting desolateness of the song lasting well after the final note fades. Along with “To Ohio” and “Ticket Taker,” which reverberate with the echoes of Americana woodland Fleet Foxes folk, The Low Anthem seem like a band that’s as delicate as a meringue. From the first banjo licks of “The Horizon Is A Beltway,” the fragile façade falls away and the song’s rousing barnyard stomp as well as the Springsteen-like surge of “Champion Angel” couldn’t be farther from wintry prairie campfire melodies.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Wednesday's Earful: Eddie Vedder; Indio

By: David Schultz

Unless you were from Toronto, Ontario, a true music geek in the Eighties or a member of Gordon Peterson’s family, it’s unlikely you had ever heard of Indio. Even after the success of Eddie Vedder’s soundtrack for Into The Wild, which featured the memorable “Hard Sun,” you probably still hadn’t heard of Indio. If, like me, you wondered how the Oscars could fail to nominate “Hard Sun” for Best Song, that’s probably when you found out that Indio nee Gordon Peterson wrote and recorded the song in 1989 and that Vedder’s version was simply a topnotch cover.

In a gesture that could kindly be called unappreciative, Peterson has apparently used the songwriting royalties he’s earned to hire a lawyer and sue Vedder for eroding the integrity of his song by altering the lyrics. The two versions are hardly different; if anything, Vedder softened up some of Peterson’s clunky imagery to fit the tone of the movie that profiled the life and death of Christopher McCandless. Vedder’s cover of “Hard Sun” rescued Peterson from obscurity, giving him recognition that eluded him entirely upon the release of his only album, which due to the renewed level of interest, was re-released in 2009.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Tuesday's Earful: The Word @ Terminal 5

By: David Schultz

Almost ten years ago, John Medeski and the North Mississippi Allstars entered a Brooklyn studio to record a relatively free-form gospel-blues album that had long been within their collective unconscious. To make the project work, they included an unknown 22-year-old pedal steel guitarist named Robert Randolph, who at that point in time, had played one show outside the confines of a church. The resulting three day jam session yielded The Word. It not only introduced the world to the force of nature that is Robert Randolph, the all-star jam session resonated with a wide swath of listeners to become one of those enduring albums.

Nowadays, referring to The Word (amongst a non-devout crowd) signifies the 2001 album as much as it does the veritable all star jamband that recorded it, the two have pretty much merged together. When the logistics work out right, usually around the Christmas/New Year’s season, The Word will gather and usually play selected dates along the East coast, the last coming in 2007. With the tenth anniversary of the recording seasons approaching, The Word returned to Terminal 5 in New York City to lend their voices to the New Year’s Eve celebration occurring a few long blocks away at Times Square.

When Randolph’s star took off and Live At Wetlands became required listening in the early part of the last decade, the jovial pedal steel Wunderkind from New Jersey seemed poised to be the savior of rock and roll. Randolph consistently blew away Bonnaroo and shared the stage with the likes of Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy and Dave Matthews but he never grabbed the brass ring. Of late, he and the Family Band have sporadically popped up on NBA broadcasts, otherwise, Randolph’s recent appearances have been rare indeed. In addition to welcoming in 2010, the Terminal 5 show served to reassure everyone that Randolph hasn’t dropped off the face of the earth.

As you might expect, improvisational jamming ruled the evening, Dickinson, Randolph and Medeski using the songs from The Word as a blueprint from which they branched off repeatedly. Other than Randolph sneaking a snippet or two of his own “I Need More Love” into the final throes of a song, the only notable cover of the night was a light-jazz instrumental take on Stevie Wonder’s “You Haven’t Done Nothing.” Originally plotted out for two sets, they played through the set break, draping three hours of music on the framework of their sole album. Playing through the New Year, Cody Dickinson’s electric washboard solo, which seemed to be heading in the direction of “Psychedelic Sex Machine,” was short-circuited by the arrival of 2010. Making the bottle of champagne in his hand looking a bit like a baby bottle, the mammoth-sized Chris Chew gave a New Orleans flair to the fledgling year, offering the night's rare vocals on "Down By The Riverside" and "When The Saint's Go Marching In."

The Southern tinged gospel soul inspired some marvelous solos, the musical themes being close to the hearts of those involved. It also brought something out of Randolph, who busted out some of his most assertive pedal steel work in some time and offered up a nice reminder that he can be an incredibly engaging performer. It might be unfair to expect Randolph & The Family Band to return to twenty minute rambles like “Ted’s Jam” and “Squeeze” on a nightly basis. With shows like this though, Randolph may be inspired to recapture a bit of the excitement and fervor that captured folks’ imagination in the first place.

IN THE SUMMER OF 2008, we did a feature on the most resonant live performances of all time. JamBase has turned their collective eye towards the same subject, compiling the 10 most important shows of the decade. As you would imagine, it has a bit of a jamband slant to it. It doesn't change the fact that it's hard to argue with any of the choices on the list.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Monday's Earful: Gov't Mule @ The Beacon Theater

By: David Schultz

Along with Patti Smith’s annual December run at the Bowery Ballroom, Warren Haynes & Gov’t Mule’s traditional year-end shows have become one of New York City’s more bankable New Year traditions. It’s a testosterone fueled ritual - the gender ratio skews 90% masculine, much like it does when Haynes plants roots at the Beacon with The Allman Brothers Band - but it’s a fine one nonetheless. The night before their New Year’s Eve three set marathon at the Beacon Theater, during which they paid homage to the Woodstock festival, the Mule offered up a little warm-up show at the venerated hall.

Haynes’ status as the hardest working man in rock and roll has turned Gov’t Mule into an eminently reliable live attraction. Taking their cues from Cream and Led Zeppelin, Mule’s shows offer up large doses of electrified blues and ample helpings of improvisational classic rock. The allure is the band itself, mainly Haynes, who’s a mainstay on any listing of the modern era’s greatest guitarists. Without really reaching beyond the classic rock/jamband fan base, Gov’t Mule has come a long way since the mid-Nineties when the power trio of Haynes, drummer Matt Abts and founding bassist Allen Woody would pack people into Tramps. On the strength of their reputation alone, Haynes & Gov’t Mule can not only sell out the Beacon amidst stiff competition, they attract hordes of fans up to Hunter Mountain each year for an annual Mountain Jam.

Mule’s night before NYE show was a relatively straightforward affair, receiving its change of pace from guest spots as opposed to segues of their own devising. Steely Dan’s Jon Herrington and saxophonist Bill Evans spiced up the first set, moving Mule from heavy blues into jazzy terrain. After a brisk run through “Devil Likes It Slow,” Haynes, Evans and Herrington passed riffs right on down the line on a fantastic tear through “Sco-Mule.” During the second set, David Hidalgo, in town for Los Lobos’ own NYE gig at City Winery, joined in on a fine rendition of the blues standard “Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home” before pairing up with Haynes for a scorching take on Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy.”

If you needed to level criticisms, you could point out that the portions of the show centered on material from By A Thread plodded along, take note of the fact that the tone of Danny Louis’ organ never seemed to mesh with the rest of the band and question why Abts took such a long drum solo if he was going to need to pause so often. If these would be sticking points, then Mule probably wouldn’t be the band for you anyway.

IN SUNDAY"S NEW YORK TIMES, Ben Sisario wrote a great article on the trend of splintering music into an endless number of genres and sub-genres and whether it's helping or hindering the artists getting categorized.
The downside isn’t hard to see. What was once always on the brink of something bigger has become Balkanized, and the process of genre subdivision has hidden away bands in ever tinier and more obscure pigeonholes, affecting even the best and most widely known among them. Dirty Projectors, for example, has had about as much acclaim as any indie-rock band could hope for in 2009, even landing on the cover of New York magazine, and yet sales of their latest album, “Bitte Orca” (Domino), are only about 50,000 copies, less than Lady Gaga sells in a week.
Read the rest of the article here.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!