Monday, November 18, 2013

Iron & Wine / Holopaw at Great American Music Hall - 4/9/2004

Iron & Wine
with Holopaw
Great American Music Hall

Oh man, what an exciting line-up…two bands I’d be willing to go see about anywhere playing together?  Count me in!  I got there just as Holopaw was taking the stage, and weaseled my way up to the front between all of the scarf kids and old folks.  As expected, they sounded brilliant.  They performed some new songs as well as pretty much their entire self-titled album; I wouldn’t be surprised if they won over some new fans from a crowd that was obviously mostly there for the headliners.  Some may know singer John Orth’s voice from his work on Isaac Brock’s side project Ugly Cassanova, but it is in Holopaw that his vocals really shine.  The new songs, which they played a number of, were just great – I really cannot wait until the album gets released so I can fully immerse myself in the southern gothic sounds they so finely craft.

The headliner of the evening, Iron & Wine, has really seen a giant surge in popularity over the last year.  It wasn’t that long ago that I saw him at Bottom of the Hill, playing solo shows in front of a half-filled house.  I’m really unsure what set off this popularity, but I’m happy for him that it has happened – a talent as enormous as his is not meant to be bottled up in tiny clubs.  This go around he was touring with a full band, but unlike the last “full band” outing he embarked on, this was by no means a rock show.  That stuck pretty true to the originals, and considering there’s quite a bit more percussion on the new album it was really nice to hear the songs performed that way live.  Sam brought along his sister for backing vocal duties, and it should be noted that she did an excellent job – where you’re used to hearing his vocals doubled on the album, she stepped in and provided that effect pretty efficiently.  He played for quite a while, and pretty much covered all of the material on both of his albums, along with a few new tracks and a cover here and there (whose titles escape me at the moment, dammit).  The crowd was very reverent for the duration of the show, barely a peep out of any of the lot of them, which made me happy.  Yet another masterful Iron & Wine outing, further cementing in my mind that along with Damien Jurado, Sam Beam is one of the best singer/songwriters out there today.

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Iron & Wine at Bottom of the Hill - 3/24/2003

Iron & Wine
Bottom of the Hill

I saw Sam Beam, front man for Iron & Wine, only a month or two ago opening for the Shins' James Mercer – it was an all acoustic, singer-songwriter type of night, and a damn good one. At the end of his set, Sam said he’d be back with a full band at the end of March, and he wasn’t lying. This time the solo artist split off like a salamander’s tail into five pieces: two drummers – one which also played bass and xylophone, the other also played guitar; a guitar-slide guitar-banjo dude; a female back-up singer; and finally, Sam himself on guitar and vocals. I was a little apprehensive about hearing rocked-out versions of all my favorite Iron & Wine songs, but luckily they didn’t tow that line for the entire show. Some songs were a little rocked out, others just slightly accented by Sam’s fellow musicians, and some were pretty much just like the originals from the record. I especially enjoyed the xylophone playing by the drummer and the occasional plinkity-plinks of the banjo strings, but then again, I’m a sucker for both of these instruments. They pretty much played all of Iron & Wine’s debut album "The Creek Drank the Cradle" in addition to a lot of stuff that I had never heard – all of which I enjoyed. Hopefully Sub Pop or someone else will make all of the unreleased material that he accumulated for his first album available in some form (apparently he had two albums worth of material finished, and the label pared it down to one)... MP3s, another CD, a series of EPs - I don’t really care how they do it, just do it! This was a fantastic show by one of my new favorites, and hopefully he’ll keep coming back and playing for us as long as he continues selling out shows.

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Big Boi / Killer Mike at Memorial Auditorium - 9/21/2013

Big Boi
with Killer Mike
Memorial Auditorium
Big Boi was supposed to be one of the headliners at this past Hopscotch Music Festival, but after hurting his leg he had to postpone his show.  It was a real bummer at the time, but in hindsight having another great show to go to a couple of weeks later only increased the entertainment value of Hopscotch.  As an added bonus, they gave away a lot of the tickets for free for this show, to make up for him missing the festival.  I would have gladly paid a king's ransom for the show, assuming a king's ransom is somewhere no more than fifty bucks or so. 

Opening the show was Killer Mike.  He played Hopscotch last year and wasn't even scheduled at this year's festival, so a free show out of him was extra super awesome icing on the already tasty cake.  He was one of my highlights that year and this was a very similar performance - just him and his man DJ Trackstar, lots of songs from his album "R.A.P. Music," and a crowd eating it up.  He performed his hit song "Reagan" accapella, and climbed into the crowd continually to spread his gospel.  I use the word gospel intentionally, because seeing Killer Mike feels like attending the service of an excitable preacher.  But if church were more like his shows I might actually go. 

After seeing Big Boi at Moogfest a couple years back on accident because Devo cancelled, I vowed to never miss him live again.  It was the single best hip hop performance I had ever witnessed, with a full band and back-up singers and a dance troupe and he played every Outkast and Big Boi song you'd ever possibly want to hear.  This appearance wasn't quite on that level, but it was really damn close.  He still had a live band but not as many members; he still had dancers, but only a couple; but he still played every Outkast and Big Boi song you'd ever want to hear, including plenty of songs from his most recent (fantastic) record "Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumours."  One addition this time was a giant gold throne in the middle of the stage for him to sit in occasionally because of his hurt leg, but he didn't use it nearly as much as I was expecting.  He also had his kids on stage the entire time, standing on either side of the throne, just bobbing their heads and shuffling their feet in time with the music.  What a trip it must be to be standing on stage with your father as he performs.  Anyways, it was a damn good time and hopefully I don't have to wait a few more years to see him again.  And while we're hoping, let's get Outkast back together for god's sake. 

Pontiak / Golden Void / Nate Hall with the Poison Snake at Blackout Effectors - 9/1/2013

with Golden Void & Nate Hall with the Poison Snake
Blackout Effectors

It's rare but sometimes there is a good show happening when I'm up in the mountains visiting the family.  Blackout Effectors is a guitar pedal manufacturer in Asheville, but sometimes they have shows in their back room.  The admission was cheap and they had free beer!  I don't even drink but I can admire a good value. 

Nate Hall opened the show.  Or more specifically, Nate Hall with the Poison Snake, his new live band (drums and bass) for his solo endeavors from US Christmas.  It appears his next generation of solo material will be more than him and an acoustic guitar, based on this show.  Honestly it just seemed like a slightly stripped down US Christmas, and since Nate writes the songs for both acts I don't know how he now decides what songs belong to which group, maybe there's a spreadsheet or something.  I do know the bassist of this group is Richard Kirby, former pro skateboarder for Santa Cruz, which is pretty cool.  Does this qualify the band as skate rock?  Either way, it sounded good and he's been promising a new solo record for a while so hopefully that gets released soon.  Supposedly all the new songs played on this evening are to be on that record. 

Golden Void were the middle band.  I knew absolutely nothing about them other than they were from the Bay Area, my former stomping grounds.  For lack of better terms, they played "boogie metal," a term I've coined for music that is equal parts stoner rock, seventies metal, and butt rock the likes of BTO or Deep Purple or Steppenwolf.  I guess some of the members are or were in other acts like Earthless, Assembled Head in Sunburst Sound, and Roots of Orchis, or so the internet tells me.  They were pretty damn good, though they played a little long in my opinion.  The lead guitarist absolutely destroyed, solos for days.  If I could play like that I don't think I would ever set the guitar down. 

The final band of the night was Pontiak, and I would finally see them live (and the subsequently see them again at Hopscotch just a few days later).  It somehow seems fitting that my first viewing of this band of brothers and their southern gothic kraut metal would be in a dark room in the back of a store on a rainy night instead of a proper rock club.   I often refer to bands being tight aka playing really well together, very in-sync and at a high skill level, but I'm not sure another band exists that sound as together as these guys.  Is it because they're brothers?  I gotta think that plays a part in it.  I was already a big fan of these guys, but seeing them live bumped my fanhood up ten fold.  They went from "good music" to "never to be missed live again."

Superchunk / Parting Gifts at The Cat's Cradle - 8/24/2013

with Parting Gifts
The Cat's Cradle

I saw that the Parting Gifts were opening for this Superchunk show, and decided I didn't need to get to the Cradle in time to see their set.  But then I walked in and saw who was on stage, and my stupid brain all of the sudden remembered who the Parting Gifts are - one of Greg Cartwright's side projects!  Man I felt stupid for forgetting this, and bummed I'd already missed at least half of their set.  I've seen Greg solo, with the Reigning Sound and (as of Hopscotch 2013) with the Oblivians, but this was my first time in this configuration, paired up with the Ette's Coco Hames.  It still mostly sounds like a Greg Cartwright project, his voice and guitar work being so distinctive, but occasionally Hames would take the lead on vocals.  She's both nice to listen to and nice to look at, so it was a nice addition.  They played mostly songs off of their one full-length record, but also threw in a cover of the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby."  If you're a fan of Cartwright's other projects you'd be a fool not to check the Parting gifts out, and hopefully if you go see them live you make it to the gig on time. 

I've seen Superchunk dozens of times over the last twenty years (probably somewhere between the two dozen and three dozen mark if I were to wager a guess), but this was my first time not seeing them with Laura Ballance.  I've had a crush on her for over half my life, and not seeing her on stage with the band pogoing up and down while playing bass leaves a hole in my heart.  Filling in for her was Jason Narducy, who amongst other acts is currently working with Bob Mould (as is Chunk drummer Jon Wurster).  He did a fine job, clearly a professional, but I was really missing Laura - I was standing right in front of where she should be!  The band still sounded fantastic, despite this change.  I'm not going to go into great detail on what they played as the set list is surely online somewhere, but they played for nearly two hours with two encores, and played a lot of their great new album "I Hate Music."  Some other highlights included "Punch Me Harder," "Water Wings," "Detroit Has a Skyline,"Precision Auto," "On the Mouth"...basically, everything they play I love.  Most importantly they played their cover of the Magnetic Fields' "100,000 Fireflies," a song they don't play live all that often but at this point I consider it more theirs than Magnetic Fields.

One odd thing that did stand out that I personally had never seen before - the band came back out and played their second encore after the house music had already come back on.  Usually that music (plus the lights coming on) is the universal sign that it's time to leave, so I'm not sure if the sound man messed up turning it back on too early or if the band surprised him by coming back out.  Either way, it was a truly surprising encore, and if my brain serves they played the classic "Throwing Things."  And now when bands finish their sets and the house music comes on, I'll be second guessing whether or not it is time to leave...

Birds of Avalon / Tonk / The Lollipops at Kings - 8/23/2013

Birds of Avalon
with Tonk and The Lollipops

It was Kings 3rd anniversary this weekend - I was there for the opening weekend (Bandway!!!) and have probably been to this club more times in the last three years than everywhere else in the triangle added together.  I'm a big fan of the venue, the owners, and most of the bands they have play on their stage, and that was no less true for this anniversary gig. 

When I got in the club Tonk was already into their set.  Not sure how much I missed, but everything I did get to hear was damn good.  When I first saw this band most of their set was covers, but now they're playing mostly originals (I actually didn't recognize any covers, but that doesn't mean there wasn't any).  Apparently they even have a record coming out soon that I look forward to hearing.  No matter who is writing the songs though, they all fit that Tonk seventies-style country mold.  We're talking "tear in your beer" country, and they're damn good at it.   

To be perfectly honest I wasn't really feeling the Lollipops the first time I saw them, but this second viewing has me rethinking that opinion.  They've definitely got some catchy pop songs, and I've always been a sucker for bands that set up their own dramatic lighting.  They have a sorta ramshackle Guided by Voices sound crossed with more upbeat radio-friendly fare like MGMT.  The bass was way too loud though, and this from someone who usually complains there isn't enough bass.  I'm not sure if this was intentional or just the night's mix, but it was slightly annoying.  I'd definitely be up for seeing them again though, not something I said after the first show I saw by them.  I should probably listen to their record on bandcamp too, the thing is free after all. 

I don't even know what to say about Birds of Avalon at this point.  They were always good but now they are SO GODDAMN GOOD.  I swear they're five times better every time I see them.  It's a psych-kraut wonderland, with stellar guitar shreddery and a pretty much perfect rhythm section.  As an added bonus Missy Thangs, best known for her work with Love Language but who also seems to be a member of at least eighteen other bands, was adding some keyboard to the action.  I'm not sure if her addition is just a temporary thing or in the band's long-term plans, but it worked pretty well.  These kids make some swell records and I'm really looking forward to what they put out next, but seeing them live is where it's really at.  More Bird of Avalon shows!  I demand it!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Slayer / Mastodon at the Warfield - 12/14/2004

with Mastodon
The Warfield

Heavy Metal!!!  I hadn’t been to a rock show of this caliber in…well, ever.  But I have been listening to Mastodon so much these last few months that I wasn’t about to miss them, so off to the event I went.  And I do mean it was an event – The Lizard Man, one of those freak show guys, was the host, the whole thing was sponsored by Jägermeister with tons of posters and promo items everywhere, and there was even a barely clad stripper on the stage at one point.  It was a family event, after all – I saw one family there, two parents and two kids, all with matching Sammy Hagar was pretty cute actually.  The family that rocks together something somethings together.  The whole thing had been sold out for ages, and the fans were pumped – most of them expressed this by having their shirts off and displaying their prison-style tattoos at any chance.  The number of females attending was extremely low, but these dudes were there to rock out, not necessarily with their cocks out.

But all that is just peripheral compared to the music, most notably Mastodon – who fucking killed it.  Seriously, they were as tight as Montgomery Burns at a charity event.  They were so impressive I have no doubt they won over quite a few of the hashers who were there only to see Slayer.  They played a number of tracks from both of their full lengths, “Remission” and “Leviathan,” and every time they started a new song I would get as excited as a child on Christmas morning.  If you have any love of the rock at all, check these guys out either live or recorded, it’ll blow your mind.

There was a time in my life in high school when seeing Slayer would have been the single greatest thing to ever happen to me.  These days, although I don’t actively follow the band like I used to, I still knew they would put on a good, enjoyable show, and that’s exactly what they did.  The music was just pummeling, and the entire floor of the Warfield was one swirling mass of bodies.  They played a lot of newer tracks that I didn’t know that sounded good, but I definitely felt that fourteen year old in me stir when they launched into “War Ensemble” and a couple of other classic tracks of theirs.  Say what you want about most of the folks who might identify as “metal heads,” but they know how to have a damn good time.

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Sigur Rós at the Warfield - 11/23/2002

Sigur Rós
The Warfield

I now see what all the hype is about for Sigur Rós.  I really love their albums, but this live show was even more magical than anything they could lay down in the studio.

Aside from the main members that compromise Sigur Rós, the band also came packing with a four piece string section plus a girl who played the glockenspiel.  I love the glockenspiel, there should be more of it in everyone’s music.  The sound was amazing; I haven’t been to many Warfield shows, but this was by far the best sounding one I had personally heard and possibly my best aural experience of the year.

Jon, the singer, was in rare form.  He added to the sound with his trademark guitar playing with a bow, and his voice was immaculate.  Such range, and the way he holds those notes is amazing.  I’ve often talked shit on the merits of the falsetto voice, but never again - he has truly made me a believer in the power and glory of the falsetto.

Other than the band, the live show also comprised of a backdrop screen that would project different abstract images for each song, and an amazing light show.  Well, not really a light show in the Pink Floyd sense of the word, but they had back lit the band, and with a little smoke in the air, created these great columns of light that really added to the whole experience.  I’m sure there were some folks in the upper balcony who were stoned off their ass and really getting a kick out of it all.  This will most certainly make my short list for best show of the year.

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

The Postal Service / The Jealous Sound at Bottom of the Hill - 5/4/2003

The Postal Service
with The Jealous Sound
Bottom of the Hill

The Jealous Sound – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost seen them, but now it has finally happened.  The singer for the Jealous Sound, Blair, was in one of favorite bands from the mid-nineties called Knapsack. The Jealous Sound sounds just like Knapsack in my opinion, but that’s mostly due to Blair having such an unmistakable voice. Since I never got to see Knapsack, this was going to have to be the next best thing for me. The result: they were plenty enjoyable, and unsurprisingly sounded just like Knapsack live too.  My girlfriend thought all of their songs sounded the same, and I guess they probably do, but it’s a good same as far as I’m concerned.

The Postal Service record "Give Up" will no doubt be in my top ten list of favorite records of 2003 come December, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to those catchy songs and sung along. Given that the music is almost entirely electronic, the show somewhat resembled an elaborate karaoke party, but with much better singing and no one performing a butchered rendition of "Sister Christian" or "Night Moves."  Along with Jimmy Tamborello and Ben Gibbard (who make up The Postal Service), they brought along Jen Wood who contributed many of the female vocals on the album and played that role live as well. When they performed the duet "Nothing Better" and sang back and forth to each other in a very "American Idol" fashion, all I could think about was "Islands in the Stream" by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton and it made me laugh.  Still, it’s a great, catchy song that would be hard to dislike and I don’t plan on trying.  I guess their show as a whole had somewhat of a cheesy eighties vibe to it, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying myself. Everything doesn’t have to be serious and pointed – sometimes you just need some good pop music floating in the air to soothe your ears.  This show was exactly that, and a damn good time.

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Preston School of Industry / Panty Lions at Thee Parkside - 2/28/2003

Preston School of Industry
with Panty Lions
Thee Parkside


Another free show at Thee Parkside as a part of Noise Pop, only this time it was an early afternoon "before the real Noise Pop starts" show as opposed to a late night "after the regular Noise Pop shows are over" one.  I’ve said it many times before, I love a free show; and if it’s actually a good show, all the better.  Panty Lions were up first.  I’d never seen them before but they have one of my favorite names of all local bands.  From what I was told, there is usually girl who plays with the dude (sorry I’m bad with names), but she was out of town.  So instead Ian from Jim Yoshii Pile-Up "sat in" with the band.  No, really, he just sat there for the first few songs with his legs crossed and drank whiskey.  For some reason, I found this very funny and worth noting.  At some point he did play a little guitar though, which wasn’t turned up loud enough, but was nice all the same.  They played a few songs which were fairly entertaining, singer-songwriter meets Jonathan Richman type numbers, and the singer was pretty personable and funny and chatted with the crowd quite a bit.  For their last song, Scott Kannberg (you know, the dude in Preston School of Industry and Pavement, also known as Spiral Stairs) came on stage and added backing vocals to a Pavement cover, and good times were had by all.  Or maybe they weren’t, but I enjoyed it.
Preston School of Industry, or rather Scott Kannberg, played next. I’ve seen PSoI in band form a few times, but this solo outing might be my favorite show of them I've ever seen. Just Scott and an acoustic guitar, playing some old PSoI songs, some new songs, and even a couple of pavement covers that got the crowd all riled up - especially "Western Homes" which was really great to hear. The place was super packed at this point, and it was as hot as a box of sweaters in there. Scott played for a while, had one guy come up and add beatbox on one of his songs, and joked around a lot about all of his new songs not really having lyrics, and he was just going to make some up as he went along. They seemed like regular lyrics to me; from what I could understand, no funny phrases like "egg salad lollipop" or "doo doo brown is a clown" or stuff like that, aka the sort of shit I would put in songs if I was ever responsible for creating lyrics. Sometimes these free shows are even better than the ones you pay for.

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Jay Farrar / Tim Easton at Great American Music Hall - 7/21/2003

Jay Farrar
with Tim Easton
Great American Music Hall

I got to the show just in time to catch the last few songs by Tim Easton. Think of a combination of non-cheesy white boy blues, M Ward, and Bob Dylan, and that’s the neighborhood that Easton’s sound is playing in. It is a good sound, and one that I enjoyed; his raspy voice paired with the bluesy guitar playing seemed to also be going over well with the crowd of Jay Farrar fans as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Easton didn’t make a few new fans at this show.

Jay Farrar – former co-leader of Uncle Tupelo, Front man for Son Volt, and now all on his own. Well not actually alone, as he had two guys accompanying him, but you get my drift. Both of these gentlemen played the steel guitar (one lap steel, the other pedal steel), sometimes consecutively, as well as helping out on regular guitar, bass, and occasional backing vocals. Anytime I see a pedal steel guitar being played on stage, I have a hard time not watching – all those different pedals and whatnot, I can’t even begin to imagine how one goes about mastering such an instrument. Both of these guys were truly masters at what they were doing, and it was damn fun to watch. But this review is about Jay Farrar right? Well, he was great as well, just as you would expect. His unmistakable voice sounded just as you would want, and he played a wide range of songs spanning from his back catalog as well as plenty of new songs. I’m yet to get the new album, but from what I heard on this night, it’s high on my list of future purchases. The only possible complaint I could levy against the performance is that it could have occasionally used a drummer, but then again, that might have just cluttered things up a little too much. The bottom line – a fine show, perfect to tide me over as I wait patiently on that Uncle Tupelo reunion...but I’m not holding my breath on that one.

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

The Intelligence at the Makeout Room - 6/24/2005

The Intelligence
The Makeout Room

Hot shit, the Makeout Room is going to (potentially) start having matinee shows on Friday evening!  Curmudgeonly old bastards like myself, rejoice! 

This was the first of what is hopefully a long running feature of the club, and it featured the Intelligence out of Seattle, Washington.  This band seems to get name-checked a lot because the drummer of the A-Frames plays guitar and sings for these guys, but after finally getting to witness them live I’d have to say that they are nearly as damn good as the A-Frames are (and I really, really like the A-Frames so that is saying something).  A little more straight forward rock ala Hot Snakes than the minimal punk of the A-Frames, but super good nonetheless.  And if that's not enough, I got home in time to screw around the house and still get in bed at a decent's like the show was custom-made for the crotchety like myself that’s just not feeling staying out late anymore.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Hopscotch Music Fest 2013 - Instagram Photos - 9/5/2013 to 9/7/2013

For absolutely no good reason other than boredom on my part, here are some instagram photos of various acts I saw at this past Hopscotch.  


Sylvan Esso


Xiu Xiu

The Rosebuds

The Oblivians




The Beets

Alpoko Don

 Big Daddy Kane

Mikal Cronin


The Breeders




Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hopscotch Music Fest 2013 - Day 3 Photos - 9/7/2013

The Breeders - City Plaza

Spiritualized - City Plaza

San Fermin - Fletcher Opera Theater

Low - Fletcher Opera Theater

Sleep - Lincoln Theatre