Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Jam Band Giants

October was a whirlwind. I have been remiss in reporting the wondrous glory of Allman Bros. and Widespread Panic in Charlotte. I am pretty fuzzy on the details, but I know I had a stupendous time. Two of the best bands of all time (in my humble opinion), two sets, two nights = heaven.

I was a bit panicked on the first night because Warren Haynes didn't show up. Widespread's guitarist Jimmy Herring sat in for the Allman Bros. set and the Widespread set. In other words, Jimmy Herring was the hero of the night. The chemistry between him and Derek Trucks added some spice to the group, but Warren's harmonies with Gregg were certainly missed. Gregg brought his A+ game, though - standing with his guitar most of the set and letting Gov't Mule's keyboardist Danny Louis take over on the B3.

When Widespread came out that first night, it was magical. I was completely lost in musical bliss. Jimmy blew my mind. When he played with the Brothers, there was a completely different dynamic than with Widespread. His virtuosity was unparalleled that weekend. No one impressed me as much as he did. The first notes of "Surprise Valley" kicked in and when JB belted out, "goodbye it's time to fly"....that was it for me. The setlist that night was insanity - one barn-burner after another. I can remember details when I really concentrate, but the feeling - that's all that really matters.

Night two, the bands swapped set times - Panic opened and ABB closed. Throughout the entire Widespread portion, I kept hoping that Warren would be there but I didn't want to be disappointed again. Then my fears were assuaged when the crowd roared and he appeared for a rollicking "Henry Parsons" > "Mr. Soul" to close out the set.

The Allman Brothers broke into some deep,bluesy jams for their part of the evening. I think we all needed something to help us unwind. There were moments of their set when I felt like I could cry it was so fantastic. It had been way too long since I saw them; and as much as Jimmy rocked it the first night, it's not the same without Warren. My prayers were answered when they ripped into "Rocking Horse," - my all-time favorite Warren song. Then the unexpected surprise of the evening - the lovely Ms. Susan Tedeschi appeared to share the stage with hubby Derek Trucks for a wonderful rendition of "Little by Little." They closed it out with "You Don't Love Me," another favorite of mine. I was in seventh heaven.

I don't have any concerts lined up for November, a major bummer of being a responsible adult and having a "career." The soundboards from those two nights will just have to hold me over 'til Phish in Charlottesville on December 5!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Whole Lotta Love

So...since my last installment, I've seen some fantastic live music. On August 9, I went to the Charlottesville Pavilion and caught The Big Surprise Tour featuring Old Crow Medicine Show, Dave Rawlings, Gillian Welch, The Felice Brothers, and Justin Townes Earle. It was mostly a collaborative affair, with a few songs here and there from the individual groups. It was wonderful. I was already a fan of most of the artists, but I was introduced to The Felice Brothers and now I want more of them.

Just this past weekend, I journeyed to Columbia, Maryland to have a night with Phish. As always, I enjoyed myself thoroughly. I was not elated by the setlist; however, I got to hear a lot of the new material and also was blown away by a mostly ridiculous second set. 46 Days> Oh! Sweet Nuthin'>effing amazing Harry Hood, then a Good Times Bad Times>Tweezer Reprise encore. Twas good, mighty good.

Tonight, I am finally just relaxing at home. 3 weekends, 3 mind-blowing shows - that's about as much as I can take these days. Still listening to music though. Stumbled upon this hot and funky Tina Turner cover of "Whole Lotta Love" the other day. I adore it. Hope you enjoy!

Whole Lotta Love - Ike & Tina Turner

Monday, August 3, 2009

Tori Amos - Live 8.1.09 - Washington, D.C.

Pure sex. That is how I describe the magnificent Ms. Amos. Tori's performance this past Saturday at D.C.'s Constitution Hall was cathartic through and through. Touring to support her tenth studio album, Abnormally Attracted to Sin, it seems that the songstress is still reinventing and pushing her own boundaries. As to be expected, there was quite a bit of the new material on the setlist, but there were plenty of the classics as well.

First off, Tori is one lady who knows how to dress and how to make an appearance. Her metallicy-gold leggings and flowing dress were stunning, perfect compliments to her waist-length red hair. I swear age has done nothing but improve her.

She opened with a new one, "Give," and it was eerie and brilliant. Then she started some hot fire with "Body and Soul" and didn't let up, pulling out "Cornflake Girl" early in the set. "Space Dog" is a personal favorite, so I was quite pleased when I heard the opening line "way to go Mr. Microphone."

"Icicle" was just magnificent, a definite crowd favorite. The lyric "the good book is missing some pages" was met with thunderous applause and cheers from the audience. One of the multitude of goosebump moments that night.

One of my instant favorites from the new album is the incredibly fun, "Mary Jane." I was so surprised when Tori started telling the story about the young boy (presumably her nephew) who wanted to have Mary Jane over while his mom was away in Italy. This song was a little cherry on top for me, didn't expect it at all. Another high point was "Precious Things." I could hear this one every time I see her and it will always delight me. "Strong Black Vine" was an ideal follow-up, and the ending to that song was INTENSE. Finally, we got that possessed version of Tori where she was almost screaming, "Push out that evil boys like a motherfucker. My mom is not your cocksucker." Yes. I want a soundboard of this.

It was apparent throughout the show that Tori was having a great time and was thrilled to be there. Lots of energy, lots of shimmying and a bit of banter between songs. The lighting was a subtle enhancement to each song, simple yet obviously well thought-out. I was not at all disappointed by her last visit to D.C. in '07, but this one was more powerful for me. For some artists, a concert is just a series of songs; with Tori, it is art, an event, a production.

Body and Soul
Cornflake Girl
Space Dog
Jamaica Inn
Mary Jane
Gold Dust
Pretty Good Year
A Sorta Fairytale
Fast Horse
Precious Things
Strong Black Vine
Bouncing off Clouds
Raspberry Swirl
Big Wheel

Monday, June 8, 2009

Nine Inch Nails - Live 6.6.09 - Holmdel, NJ

It is quite possible that my seventh time seeing Trent and company could be my last NIN show. While my fingers are crossed for a reunion, I don't know if NIN could ever top the experience they created this past Saturday night. Having my brother with me for his first NIN show made a special night even better.

We were nestled under the pavilion hood, in seats just behind and to the left of the soundboards. Optimum position for maximum volume. Street Sweeper Social Club started it off, unremarkable except for Morello who has cemented his position in my mind as a guitar master. Boots Riley repeated between songs, "We're not a band, we're a social club." That was starting to become annoying by the end of their 45 minute set.

Immediately after SSSC left the stage, the enormous NIN crew began setting up. Seriously, there were like 30 people scrambling around on the stage. The sun started to go down and the opening notes of "Pinion" penetrated through the thick fog. The crowd roared and the band launched into "Wish." They've played this everytime I've seen them, but never started with it. The energy in the sold-out ampitheater was ridiculous. The breakneck pace continued when "Wish" morphed into "Last." They rarely play this song and I was not expecting it at all. Surprise!

The newer material was scattered throughout the setlist, but the real crowd-pleasers were the classics. I was exploding with excitement when "March of the Pigs" went into "Reptile." I had all of my fingers crossed for that one since I hadn't seen it performed since '05. Score!

This show was just a constant assault of greatness. Trent (sporting red leather pants by the way) confirmed that this was to be the last tour, that they weren't done, just not touring anymore. He also shared that he wanted this tour to be outside venues because he loved playing as the sun set. I usually prefer arenas for NIN, but I wouldn't change a thing about this show. Especially not after "Gave Up>La Mer>Non-Entity>The Way Out Is Through>fucking Mr. Self Destruct." Mindblowing.

The cooldown after that onslaught was when it really hit me that I may never see NIN again. When the whole crowd was singing along during "Head Like A Hole," I started getting a little verklempt. By the time they came out for the "Hurt" encore, tears were welling up. NIN's concerts are unparalleled, and I'm saddened by the thought of an indefinite amount of time without that spiritual cleansing. There are plenty of other bands to help fill the void, but there is nothing that can compare to Nine Inch Nails.

Jane's Addiction helped lighten my post-NIN mood, although I didn't have much energy left and the beers I pounded in the parking lot had definitely worn off. Their first song was "Three Days" and Dave Navarro unleashed some ridiculous guitar solos. I had forgotten how good he is at what he does (and also didn't remember what a sexy beast he is). Everytime he soloed, it was technically perfect. Very impressed by him.

I love Perry, always have, and it was amusing to watch him battle with Navarro for the spotlight. I later heard that he has a severe leg injury, but he didn't show it at all. He must be on some powerful pills. He was jumping and sliding around the stage like he didn't have a pain in the world. Hope he doesn't cause irreparable damage. He is a true showman in every sense of the word, fusing elements of Iggy Pop and Mick Jagger and a uniqueness of his own.

Highlights from JA's set were "Ain't No Right," "Mountain Song," and "Ocean Size." By the encore, I was ready to get a headstart on traffic. I'm sad to say I heard "Stop" while walking to my car (which was at least a frigging mile away ugh). I missed "Jane Says" entirely. While that sucked, I quickly forgot when I sunk my teeth into a Baconator and finally had dinner at midnight.

All in all, it was a tremendously unforgettable night. Best concert of '09 without a doubt. All subsequent shows (this year and beyond) will have big shoes to fill.

NIN Setlist
March of the Pigs
Meet Your Master
Gave Up
La Mer
The Way Out Is Through
Mr. Self Destruct
The Good Soldier
The Hand That Feeds
Head Like A Hole

JA Setlist
Three Days
Ain’t No Right
Pigs In Zen
Then She Did…
Up The Beach
Mountain Song
Been Caught Stealing
Ocean Size
Ted, Just Admit it…
Summertime Rolls
Jane Says

***Disclaimer: Not my pictures. Got 'em from MaebeFunke on Flickr.***

Monday, May 18, 2009

ZZ Top - Live 5.15.09 - Portsmouth, VA

Legendary. Masterful. ZZ Top is what every other power-trio should strive to be. It is tough to name the best bands of our time without mentioning these boogie-blues-rock veterans. Playing together for nearly 40 years, they are one of the rare groups still composed of the original recording members.

ZZ Top started off their rip-roaring set of tunes at Portsmouth's nTelos Pavilion with 1983 chart-topper "Got Me Under Pressure." From there they took a journey through all of their greatest hits, paying homage to Jimi Hendrix and Muddy Waters along the way with colossal covers of "Hey Joe" and "Catfish Blues."

"Waiting for the Bus>Jesus Just Left Chicago" got the all-ages crowd standing and dancing, with intoxicating guitar work from the Reverend Willie G and bottom-line domination from Dusty Hill and Frank Beard. "Just Got Paid" was a shoo-in for a Friday night show, and my personal highlight. Another winner, "Heard It On The X," was stuck in my head all day Saturday. The fuzzy white guitars made a brief appearance during "Legs," and were then carried offstage by guitar tech Elwood, who Billy Gibbons proclaimed as being "the best guitar guy in the world." Billy handled most of the crowd banter and singing throughout the night, with Dusty taking lead for a few tracks and manning backup vocals for the rest.

When introducing the band, Billy noted the irony of the drummer being "the man without the beard, Mr. Frank Beard." He also made sure to mention that they had gone out for Mexican earlier since he was "about a quart low on hot sauce." Not too long after that comment, the backdrop screens displayed a slideshow of tacos, enchiladas, burritos, etc. that had my mouth watering for queso.

Although the synchronized steps and struts have definitely become less frequent, the beards are still long and the jams are almighty. If you're so fortunate to have ZZ Top tour in your area, do not miss the chance to go. These founding fathers of hard rock are a must-see.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Dead - Live 4.15.09 - Charlottesville, VA

With our Thai chicken wraps from Zazus and a sixer of Red Stripe in tow, we waited in the long line of cars entering the John Paul Jones Arena parking lots. Once admitted, we were basically told by the parking attendant, "good luck." All of the real spots had been taken and people had begun parking on curbs, in front of fire hydrants, basically wherever a car could fit. So I backed the KIA up on a grassy knoll and let the people-watching/pre-gaming begin. The shakedown scene was exactly as it should've been - lots of dreads, tie-dye, balloons, glassware and kindness.

After we had sufficiently lubricated ourselves, we trekked into the arena. Bathroom was the first stop once inside, and that's the last time I saw my cell phone. Somewhere between the toilets and our seats, that little bugger slipped out of my pocket and he has now hopefully gone to hippie phone heaven. Hence, no pictures.

I was pretty preoccupied with the lost phone, but the sounds of "New Speedway Boogie" made me remember that the music is all that matters. From the first note of set one until the final choruses of the "G-L-O-R-I-A" encore, I was reminded of the magic of the Grateful Dead catalog. They went deep, pulling out lesser known songs from nearly four decades ago. Click Here for Dean Smith's spot-on review at Jambase. There's no way I could describe it better.

Everything about this concert and the overall experience was so perfect that losing my cell phone was a small price to pay. The Dead are ALIVE!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Curse Has Lifted!

I am feeling better about my three failed attempts to get Phish tickets through their ticket lottery-thing and the public onsales. When the band announced the additional late summer tour dates, I decided to give it one more chance and try for Merriweather Post tickets.

The miracle Hampton ticket must've changed my luck, because according to my checking account I have been charged. it looks like I won the lottery! See ya in the forest this August!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Natalie MacLean's Drinks Matcher

I know this isn't music-related, but wine, food & music are all things that bring me a lot of pleasure. This little widget thingy is just too cool. Let's face it, not everyone is a sommelier. I find myself particularly stumped when pairing wine with ethnic dishes. This tool will definitely come in handy. I was also impressed by the fact that she suggested beer when it was the proper choice (fried chicken, for example).

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

2008 In Music: My Morning Jacket

This album surprised the shit out of me. For awhile, I literally could not stop listening to it.

It all started when I heard "Evil Urges" on the radio - then promptly downloaded the album. The falsetto and the breakdown in the title track is what hooked me. Both parts of "Touch Me I'm Going to Scream" and all their psychedelic, trance-like terrain are what sealed the deal - especially Part 2, which reminds me of Pink Floyd at times.

Then there is that "Highly Suspicious" one. At first I didn't know what to think. The vocals evoke Prince, but the peanut butter reference makes me giggle and not take the song seriously....until the guitars grab me. That one has really grown on me. When I heard James say "interweb" in "Librarian," I was sufficiently intrigued and I was enraptured by the epic instrumentation. Another creeper is "Thank You Too."

Although Evil Urges has a couple moments that leave me just shrugging, my overall impression is that they hit this one out of the park. It's incredibly listenable and it holds up to repeats. And more than ever before, I am saddened that I have still not caught one of their concerts.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

2008 In Music: Eric Lindell

This album is the only one I properly reviewed in 2008, nearly a year ago. Low on Cash, Rich In Love was my introduction to Eric Lindell, and it definitely impressed me. If you're looking for a breezy, laid back listen, Eric is your man. Soulful, funky, modern blues - how can you go wrong?

Read my review HERE

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

2008 In Music: Widespread Panic

Like Nine Inch Nails, this is another no-brainer for me. This band is tattooed on my heart. Their album from 2008 is the only one that I rushed out to buy on the release date. They also ranked as one of the best live shows I saw last year (they always do :)

Free Somehow. The first release to feature guitarist extraordinaire Jimmy Herring since he joined the band. The first track literally starts with a "boom" and the sonic journey is fantastic from start to finish. JB's voice is like a fine wine or scotch, smooth and tantalizing.

Like many albums from '08, Free Somehow has its fair share of political, societal and cultural observations. Some are subtle, others are much more obvious - like "Walk On The Flood."
We elected our leaders, so we've been told. Got no right to complain, we've bought what they sold. The slogan of the day is put peace on hold.

"Three Candles" has classic Panic elements - heady imagery, blissful guitars and keys, and spot-on vocals by John Bell. "Tickle The Truth" embodies the essence of Widespread Panic too, and it never fails to bring a smile to my face. It's got that funny edge that they often break out during their concerts. ♪ You know, these cool shades make you look bitchin'. ♪ Heh.

The title track is gentle and beautiful, with one of my favorite guitar solos on the album. Then as an instant contrast, you get the heavy and gritty "Flicker." The peak of the album for me comes with "Her Dance Needs No Body." I get chills just thinking about the saxophone and orchestral layers of that song. The remaining two tracks, "Already Fried" and "Up All Night" are a delicious denouement.

Of course, I would always prefer to have my Panic served up to me on a stage somewhere, but this album proves that the band is still evolving and can hold it down in the studio. Keep it comin' boys.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

2008 In Music: Porter Batiste Stoltz

You can't go wrong when you combine George Porter's delectable bass, Russell Batiste's drumming power, and the blistering guitar work of Brian Stoltz. Then add in Phish's Page McConnell on keys here and there....this is the freshest funk album of 2008, without a doubt.

MOODOO. It's live and it SMOKES! Irresistible. "I Get High" is the first song with vocals, and it may be the highlight for me - but really MOODOO is just one continuous jam. The Curtis Mayfield cover is also over and beyond great. Then there's some Dylan thrown in (Stoltz once toured with him), and of course a nice spattering of the Meters from Porter's catalogue. Simply put - MOODOO is hotness.

Friday, January 16, 2009

2008 In Music: Drive-By Truckers

There is no denying that this album was one of 2008's best, even though there are a couple tracks I usually skip.

Nothing yet has topped the epic Southern Rock Opera, but at times Brighter Than Creation's Dark approaches that level. First off - "3 Dimes Down" has one of my favorite Truckers lyrics ever - ♪Totally screwed, while chicken wing puke eats the candy apple red off his Corvette.♪ The Truckers can go from lighthearted & funny to depressingly serious, and I love that their songs have real characters from all walks of life. When I listen to them, I really focus on the lyrics. From the alcoholic in "Daddy Needs A Drink" to "The Righteous Path" with a blue-collar family guy trying to keep it together - ♪got a grill in the backyard and a case of beers, I got a boat that ain’t seen the water in years, more bills than money, I can do the math, I’m trying to keep focused on the righteous path.

"That Man I Shot" is just effing awesome for lack of a better description. It didn't stand out to me on the first couple of plays, but when I saw it performed live, I then had to hear it everyday. If I wanted to introduce someone to the Drive-By Truckers, "That Man I Shot" would definitely be one of the songs I played for them. "Goode's Field Road" is another that didn't hit me until I saw it in concert. The emotion in Patterson's delivery made me really pay attention to the story. Once the light bulb came on, I realized just how big that song really is. My other most-listened tracks on the album are "Check Out Time In Vegas" and "A Ghost To Most" - which are both Cooley songs, and I think some of his best to date. "A Ghost To Most" brings another of my favorite lyrics - ♪skeletons ain’t got nowhere to stick their money, nobody makes britches that size.

Where the album falls short for me is with Shonna's songs. I'm sorry - I think they're well-written but her voice is just not for me. I don't mind her on back-up vocals, but I've tried and "I'm Sorry Houston" and "The Purgatory Line" usually get skipped. "Home Field Advantage" does the trick, though. I do enjoy that one. So out of 19 tracks, skipping 2 is a pretty good ratio.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

2008 In Music: Keller Williams with Moseley, Droll & Sipe

The first time I saw Keller Williams on stage, I was hooked. His solo performances are truly something to see. It is amazing to witness how adept he is at creating a layered sound as just one man (with a bunch of gadgets mind you). But I must say, when he hooked up with Moseley, Droll & Sipe - it was mind-blowing. I was thrilled that the quartet didn't waste any time putting out a live album.

Live is the next best thing to being there in person. If you're not a fan of sprawling, Dead-like jams, then this is probably not for you. If you are, I am willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that you will enjoy this album. Even those who are blasé about Keller Williams as a solo act would probably be surprised how well his songs translate from one-man to jam band. This format really breathes new life into Keller's staples. You still get all the lyrical silliness and energy that Keller is known for, but the music means business. Seriously, there were moments when I had to hold onto my face so it didn't get rocked off.

If nothing else, you will thank Keller for introducing you to Gibb Droll, who is relatively unknown for no apparent reason. Droll's guitar solos are scorching, and he really frees Keller up to concentrate on his vocals (and what not :-). When you add in Keith Moseley on bass and the legendary Jeff Sipe on sticks, it's a combination that can't be found anywhere else.

Also check out my November 07 review of Keller with Moseley, Droll & Sipe (then going by the moniker WMD's)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

2008 In Music: Lucinda Williams

This woman rocks!
She just oozes cool and wisdom in every word.
What a great album.

I have admittedly not been following Lucinda Williams as long as most of her fans. I have instead worked myself backwards through her catalog; West was the first release that I listened to in the same year that it was released. West is a fantastic collection of songs, but it is one of those that you really have to be in the mood for.

Little Honey, on the other hand, suits almost every occasion. I have probably listened to it most while driving down the highway, and it is a perfect match for the open road. Each time I hear it, "Tears of Joy" really pulls at me - that bluesy guitar and the lyrics really speak to where I am in my life right now. Then there's "Honey Bee" which is just loud and raunchy and delicious. "Well Well Well" is a perfect "had-a-bad-day/fell-off-the-wagon" number. I've definitely been there, and the line "if you hang around trash, you can't come out clean" is just fantastic. "If Wishes Were Horses" is beautiful. "Jailhouse Tears", the one with Elvis Costello, amuses me endlessly.

As I'm writing this, I am realizing more & more just how much I love each of these songs. I could go on and on, but you should listen for yourself if you haven't. Five Stars.

Friday, January 9, 2009

2008 In Music: Foxboro Hot Tubs

My "beach read" album of 2008.

It is technically "Green Day"; but at the same time, it isn't quite Green Day. They're not blazing any new trails here - Stop Drop And Roll is definitely a throw-back to the 60's garage rock sound. Some critics rated this album poorly, saying it is just blatantly ripping off bands like the Kinks and Donovan. I personally don't care if they use recycled sounds. Stop Drop And Roll is light, lively and fun to listen to. Sometimes, that's just what the doctor ordered. Plus I've always been a fan of Billie Joe's voice, and I hear him doing some different things on this album. I dig it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

2008 In Music: Kings of Leon

These songs embed themselves in my soul more each time I listen, and in my book that's a damn fine album.

My next installment - Kings of Leon's Only By The Night. What can I add that hasn't already been written by others? This is one band where I definitely agree with the majority, popular opinion - they are fantastic (even though they were nominated for a Grammy :) Only By The Night is a real creeper. The first time I listened, I thought, "Eh, it's alright but not as good as the last one." Then it snuck up on me - BAM - and I wanted to hear it everyday. Even the massive amount of radio play hasn't turned me off yet, so that's saying something.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

2008 In Music: North Mississippi Allstars

Even though I had a copy of this in '07, it wasn't officially released until 08 - so it still counts!

Hernando. Named after the trio's hometown, and without a doubt their best album for me. Of all the 2008 releases, I'm sure this one has gotten the most listens. Unfortunately, Luther took a break to play guitar with the Black Crowes, so I only caught one live performance after the album release. It was definitely one of the concert highlights of the year, though. Hard-hitting, bluesy, jazzy, funky - these guys can do it all. They're all vocalists. Very diverse group of gents. I love 'em.

Shake what yo mama gave you!

Monday, January 5, 2009

2008 In Music: The Procrastinator's Journey

For the past few weeks, I have been feeling the pressure to compile a "Best Albums of 2008" List. Let me just say that ranking music sucks - it's like comparing apples to eggplants.

So I'm not doing it. There are way too many albums that I liked in 2008 but have not heard enough. Instead of making a list, I'm just gonna take this thing one album at a time, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER. At this rate, I might have a Top 100 of 2008 by January of 2010 :O)

Let's kick this off with a rather obvious choice for me, and one that got many listens at home, on the road, and in concert:

Of course if you know me at all, you should've seen this coming. Nine Inch Nails. The Slip.

This one definitely doesn't have the Holy Shit factor that Year Zero did (or Ghosts for that matter); but considering that it was conceived in a relatively short time period and given away for free, it's pretty damn good. Seeing "Head Down" and "Echoplex" live certainly increased their impact on me. I also really dig "1,000,000." And "Discipline." The whole album is a solid listen. Then again, when's the last time you heard me say something negative about Trent.