Sunday, October 23, 2011

So That's What All The Fuss Is About

Rock the Garden
(Rain and Shine at the Walker)
June 18, 2011

Got to the show a little late; we could hear tapes n tapes rocking out whilst we were going through security. And the effing pat down Nazis insisted on confiscating the twizzlers (bastards!) but hello! My first Rock the Garden!!! (thanks shawn for picking up the tix—way to go with the MPR membership) Sloggy fun. Raining and dreary (and humid as heck) for the start but be damned if I’m going to wear a rain slicker.

Tapes n Tapes:
what I heard was great and I really liked the outside songs. Guess i should have been checking these guys out live earlier. Sure hope they don’t give up.

Booker T:
Only sorta listened because we went to grab a bite to eat. Not really my thing, but the crowd loved them little green onions. I preferred sweet onions. That Vincent burger was soooooo good. And the eye candy was fantastic.

oh man. this was a huge disappointment. I loved her (and praised her to the skies) at the state show. at RTG though….her song selection left much to be desired, her heart didn’t really seem in it, and the between song patter (way too much and I actually had a hard time hearing it and understanding it) was severely disjointed (or maybe just overly jointed) show never really had any momentum and it sure seemed to go on forever. But it did look like neko was enjoying herself.

And with that, we promptly retired to the top of the hill for the headliner (and as the sun went down, the sky cleared up and we were treated to a glorious evening.

My Morning Jacket:
Ah, so this is what a spectacle rock show is all about. I stand corrected. And can I just say that (even in abbreviated festival form-and gotta shut down by 10) MMJ is incredible! I am of the opinion that Circuital and Evil Urges were disappointments (not that i didn't mind them experimenting with their sound, Z is my second fav MMJ. But whatever, cos everything sounded fantastic live. They started out with the one two punch from Circuital, "Victory Dance" and "Circuital" and they didn't let up, running through tons of the new disc (and a lot of Z, with just a little bit else thrown in, sorry on that lack of Evil Urges dude). Thought it was interesting that in addition to the album/show opening pairing, they also played "Wonderful" and "Outta My System" back to back.
And the playing? Wow. They really are a festival band. we were up on the hill and i felt like they were playing right in front of me (I can't imagine being right in front). Intense, Epic, Jammy (but the solos felt just right and never had me looking at my watch), Yim was awesomely in good voice, and just weirdly affected enough to be wildly entertaining.
Highlights for me: of course, "Golden" and the show closer "One Big Holiday", "Gideon" and "I'm Amazed" both gave me goosebumps and (SHOCK!) i even dug "Touch Me" (first time probably for that song...and it was totally the live treatment on top of an excellent show, i'm sure) Little quibble that i would have loved to hear "The Bear" but whatevs. Definitely gonna have to see these guys again. And i might have to rock the garden again.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

This NEVER Happens

Okkervil River
First Avenue
June 12, 2011

ok. i can count the number of shows i had tickets for, but did not attend, on one hand. on one finger. it was the infamous Ryan Adams meltdown show at first ave. (for reasons of which we need not go into, but at least Al and his brother used the tickets, so they got to be witness, and i'm completely glad i didn't have to be)

now you can add one more finger. i had a bug. i was throwing up about 10 minutes before Paul showed up. i just couldn't make it. he came all the way from Amsterdam and i left him high and dry (not that he came all the way to see Okkervil River---or me for that matter). Apologies and i'll make it up (both to Paul and Okkervil River)

I suppose i can't put the ticket on my ticket collage, can i?

Half of the Time We're Gone But We Don't Know Where

Paul Simon
First Avenue
May 3, 2011

Paul Simon at first avenue. Paul FREAKING Simon at first ave. Delighted was I. Ok, so i'd seen simon and garfunkel at the excel center (yes, i know this is kind of against my law, but exceptions can be made for legacies) but there's a huge difference between simon and garfunkel and paul simon. (case not to be made here, but perhaps at a later date, suffice it to say, one can rip garfunkel's breathy choir vocals all one wants, but he added an unmistakable identity to the duo). and then you throw in first avenue (and cheap tickets for that matter) and you can pretty much guarantee i'll be arm banding up. Even shawn was (relatively) interested in this one.

Where to begin?
Well, for starters, we snagged the wall, right at the bottom of the ramp. So we avoided getting our shins scrapped by all the walkers (and i aint talking AMC here) and didn't have to peer over any humps. No opening act either (dunno what it is, but this year has had some of the dreadest opening acts that i can remember...whatever happened to the black angels opening for waterboys? nowadays it seems everyone with a couple songs on bandcamp think they have to be a headliner and we are stuck with opening acts that formed 3 weeks ago and have their debut ep coming out in a month)

The band was rocking. (although rocking chair might be appropriate too) They came out of the gate fired up and ready to play. That paul simon must be one hell of a pre game coach cos if his band can play their ten thousandth version of "Boy in the Bubble" with that much fire and enthusiasm (hell, i'd almost pay $15 just to see the guitarist/multi instrumentalist Mark Stewart mug his way through the show) he must be doing something right.

The new songs are great live. I've been a little (Hah!) underwhelmed with the last two simon discs, but So Beautiful or So What sure is good and those songs sounded amazing live. Paul's singing was the most assured and flawless on these songs (maybe no surprise here as he's writing for his current voice and tone) but "rewrite," "so beautiful or so what," and (especially) "getting ready for christmas day" sounded great and not for a second was i preferring some missed classic in their place. when you consider his canon, that is high praise.

The setlist was superb. A sprinkling of new songs and some choice cuts from his entire career (with a couple S&G diamonds for the souls thrown in). "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover", "Slip Sliding Away" (with an interesting arrangement), "Kodachrome" and "Hearts and Bones" were just a few of the gems.
He even pulled out a number of covers; George Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun" was particularly lovely, but i appreciated the nods to Jimmy Cliff and Elvis too.

His voice held up pretty well considering he was almost 70. There were a few wobbles ("Only Living Boy in New York" unfortunately) and he was nowhere near in as fine a voice as he was during that X show) but i didn't mind. Clearly, he was a little more challenged on the older songs written with for his 30 year old voice than he was on the newer songs. And considering that, it was pretty remarkable that he had as much energy as he did for the length of the two hour show (with two encores). (although he did seem pretty damn tired by the end!)

Single best highlight of the show was when he came out solo for the first encore. We were treated to an amazing rendition of "The Sounds of Silence". I got goosebumps (watch here, thanks Rhi) I got goosebumps just watching it again. What a wonderful, wonderful, songferful show.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Long Hair Don't Care

Triple Rock Social Club
October 6, 2011

Ok. They are better on disc than live. And the sound mix was really bad for the first couple of songs (what do bands think sound checks are for?) And if they played for 45 minutes from start to finish, i'll be surprised (would a cover have killed them?). And the guys in the band are kinda sorry looking (but i'm biased against long haired guys, so that could just be me).

But whatever, because as soon as the lights went down and the band came on stage, I only had eyes for Madeline (well, other than the drunk chick in front of us, but only because i didn't want to be a wall pancake). I can't really quantify what she did (Madeline, not the drunk chick) that so enamored me of her. In fact, you could easily make the argument that the performance was maybe only serviceable with the band sorta bored, Madeline's vocals all over the place (and the guitarists barely above hearing threshold) and although she has a lot of presence packed into her tiny frame, the band as a whole kinda didn't.... But in Madeline...i was rapt.

In retrospect, i kinda think it was the crowd. They had the religion and they just poured it out. Every song (and pretty much every song on their debut EP is great), it was Love, Love, Love. The band felt it, Madeline sent it back out (the rest of the long hairs really didn't care) and the crowd amplified the love and hit transmit. In retrospect, i can't say whether it was justified or not, but it was sure there when i was there. Something perhaps indefinable, but something special and a shared experience greater than the sum of its individual parts. I guess that's the appeal of cults and that Cults performance certainly qualified.

Reconsidering Adele

So sue me.

Its not like i had anything personal against her. Just avoided Adele's music more than anything else. Granted, the woe is me, i got done wrong isn't exactly my wheelhouse. i'm more a yank on the bootstraps (or something), get over it (with plenty of deep seated avoidance) so spewing it all over the place.....distasteful. But, I'd heard 19 a few times, heard "Chasing Pavements" a few more times than that and with 21, gave it a listen or two and just didn't need to hear it again. Plus she has become ubiquitous, which is reason enough (Don't believe the hype) to blank somebody (although of course, she immediately went into the MHD, just in case). Also if you can seriously believe this, "Rolling in the Deep" didn't do anything for me. Good for her but end of story.

Except, Shawn kinda liked her (obviously KS95 played the heck out of her) and thought she had a great voice. So I made him a copy and we listened to it a few times and debating going to her concert (although that didn't happen for whatever reason). So either listening through his ears (oddly enough he's over her now), hearing to the rest of the album tracks as opposed to "Rolling" for the 300th time, or maybe just listening to 21 out of sequence and in small car bites from August to now (i listened to the full album in the car yesterday driving up to the cabin) i've grown to appreciate it. In fact i really like it. And it could be a contender.

She does have a great voice and knows how to use it. There are some great songs on the album (if you assume side one has 5 tracks and side 2 six songs, it's the first 3 songs on each side that are the best tracks on the disc. I'm pretty sure I like the 3 songs on side two (He Won't Go, Take It All and I'll Be Waiting) better than the singles (the first three tracks: Rolling, Deep, Tables) In fact, i think "I'll Be Waiting" is my favorite song on the album. It was random play that shed all the production and angst fatigue that had pushed this track deep into the background during those first coast to coast listens. Funny, how you pull some of the songs out of context (5, 6, and 7 especially) and they shine all the more (maybe she needs to reconsider the producer and her songwriting themes for album 3).

Even on scrub songs, where the songwriting is a bit rote and production gets a couple extra layers of frosting to make up for the flat cake (this is pretty much everything but songs 1-3, and 6-8), her presentation transcends the pedestrian effort. Her voice is an amazing instrument, power and finesse, swoops and sobs, a whisper just as powerful and a full throated roar. And on the last few songs on side 2, she has a Bonnie Raitt quality to her timbre and phrasing that i really like (even if I'll pretty much skip the songs after I'll Be Waiting.)

So yes, i was wrong. I should have given it a chance back in January. But still, isn't it fashionable to be late to the party?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Rocket List

The bad thing with most of these bucket list shows is that i'd have to go to big venues to see them. and therein lies the rub. ya go. comment away with blindspots and smirks.

Barry Manilow (whatever. It’s not like you don’t have a few rubber rings in there too)
Van Morrison
Rickie Lee Jones (although I’m deathly afraid to go to one of her shows)
Donnie Iris (might have to roadtrip to Ohio sometime to see him)
Wilco (although it's not like i tried for Orpheum tickets)
Gary Numan (i don't care what mitch says, i'd see him if he came around)
Stevie Wonder
Marshall Crenshaw
Fleetwood Mac/Lindsey Buckingham (only reason i didn't hit pantages is cos it was a school weekend and we were going to see Gordy the following night)
John Cale/Lou Reed
Al Stewart (I think I missed him at the Dakota this summer. Stupid)
Eurythmics/Annie Lennox
Prefab Sprout (unlikely, but still)
B.B. King (I should see, right?)
Morrissey (this is not the same as the smith’s reunion Coachella show next year, or the next year)
David Bowie (really? I know…what’s the point, but he’s always been on the list)
James Taylor
Prince (how can I never have seen prince?)
Paul Westerberg (how can I never have seen the replacements?)
Bob Dylan (I’d hate it, but I should go)
U2 (and yet, did I get tickets to TCF? No)
Pet Shop Boys
Joni Mitchell
Ray Davies/Kinks
Bryan Ferry
Loretta Lynn (does she even do shows anymore?)
Elton John (do i? Don’t i? I feel this is like Dylan where I should see him at least once)
XTC (ha, broken up and even before that Andy Partridge had such stage fright that he refused to tour)

Former bucket listers:
R.E.M. (it only took me 20 years)
Simon and Garfunkel/Paul Simon
Go-Betweens (well at least Grant and Robert which was precious as perfect summer)
Gang of Four (much less in retrospect)
Gordon Lightfoot (yay!)