22 September 2008
It took six years, missing the group on six different occasions, and ultimately a trip to Philadelphia, but I can now count myself among the groups legions of fans who can all claim one thing: I have seen Built to Spill perform live. Yeah, I understand there are better bands out there to see live. And, yeah, I know that, in the long run, it might not have been worth it to drop approximately $225 on a ticket (with airfare included). And I most likely would have been better off seeing them on some other tour besides this one; the one where they are playing Perfect From Now On in it's entirety. But I feel good about it all. I feel like I've nailed that deep-seated feeling in my gut of crossing off one of the bands you want to see before you die. (And for anyone who's keeping track, they were #2--#1 is a different story altogether. one I may share later on this here blog thing.)
Veteran alt.country.hardcore rock stars The Meat Puppets opened for BTS, which was an extra little treat given that they still seem to be having a great time at well over 40 years old. The crowd in the all-ages show was mostly stoked to hear their earlier numbers off of II (e.g., "Lake of Fire," "Plateau") but I enjoyed their more country-twinged numbers like "Tennessee Stud." It was a short, but enjoyable 50 minute set ending at damn-close to 9PM. After all, they had to make way for the headliners who apparently were dead-set on starting at 9:30.
My friend in attendance with me suggested the next morning after the show, that Doug Martsch never truly enjoys playing live. He just does it to make a paycheck. I'm not so sure; if that's the case, then why does the band tour constantly? Well, Martsch is certainly winning people over with his stage presence, because there isn't any. A barely audible, "thanks" is all that we got after thunderous applause. And he seemed genuinely exasperated after folks started yelling requests during the songs.
But presence does not a concert make, it's all about the music. And the music...well the music was fucking awesome. Even though I only dig about half of Perfect From Now On ("Randy Described Eternity," "Made Up Dreams," "Kicked It In the Sun," and "Untrustable" are showstoppers with the rest just good listens) the songs took on a harder, fiercer edge live and the cello definitely filled out the sound. While I anticipated the songs to last considerably longer than the record, they generally hovered around their length on the album. Except for "Untrustable" and the final encore piece "Car"--we'll get there in a moment.
"Goin' Against Your Mind" was the lone song that made the Perfect From Now On set before the encore. The encore was three songs, all chosen for their cello-heavy notation, and all three from the fantastic There's Nothing Wrong With Love--"Stab," "Big Dipper," and "Car." "Car" brought the jam that I had been expecting all night. After a good 7-8 minutes in, members of The Meat Puppets took over the bass and auxillary guitar duties mid-jam while Martsch squealed away on his Stratocaster, unaware of the changing of the guard(s). When he looked over to see them playing, he cracked his first smile of the evening--before surrendering his guitar to another individual onstage. That man was none other than Dean Ween of Ween fame. An epic jam with BTS members all playing random drums, Meat Puppets playing guitar and bass, and Dean Ween taking over duties on lead, ensued for another ten or so minutes. Then Martsch reappeared onstage to say goodnight and "hope it sounded good."
I'm a fan at heart, so I'll admit that my unusually high expectations for this show could never have been met. Was it the best show I've ever seen? No, far from it. Was it great for being my first (and probably last) time seeing Built to Spill? Hell yes, it was.
Hell yes, it was.
28 August 2008
- The L.A. Times has a live review of the band's show at the Hollywood Bowl.
- Apparently, Johnny and Thom love some Neil Young. Who can blame them? Here's a video of them performing "Tell Me Why" off of Young's classic, After the Gold Rush.
- And here's an mp3 of the song!
- And finally, the fine gentleman, Alan Williamson, over at Sixeyes has reposted mp3s of Radiohead: Live at BBC Radio Theatre, London, April 1, 2008. Follow the link and download away! (Be sure to thank, Alan. He's a gentleman and a scholar.)
25 August 2008
20 August 2008
19 August 2008
The E Street Band jumped onstage at around 8:10PM in the dark and, after all the players had taken their places, a spotlight came down on Springsteen with his larger-than-life companion, Clarence Thomas. (Springsteen announced him as, "the biggest man you've ever seen" during encore introductions.) "We thought we'd start tonight with some beach music," he said at the mic, Telecaster firmly in place. And they proceeded to tear through a version of "Double Shot of My Baby's Love" by The (original) Swingin' Medallions. After that, they rarely came up for air. They played for three hours and fifteen minutes, but we could have easily stayed for three hours more. "You can't take no more!" Springsteen taunted the crowd after a second encore. But we could. And we did. The band came back to play a ten minute version of "Twist and Shout" before leaving for good a 11:20.
Let me just say that every band in America can take lessons from Springsteen and the E Street Band. And I mean every band. Radiohead have nothing to show against them, Coldplay are minuscule in comparison, and U2 can only manage to ape his style with bombastic stage lights. (By my guess those are the biggest bands currently working. The Rolling Stones are good, but I've never seen them live.) Bruce spent most of his time down in front communing with the audience, taking posters with songs requests, giving other folks a chance to sing, and making grown women swoon. For those in the front row, general admission, they may not be able to live August 16, 2008 down.
Highlights from the set included, "Because the Night," "The Rising," "Jungleland," "Streets of Fire," and (of course) "Born to Run." Hell, even "Dancing in the Dark" was fucking awesome to hear live. But really, the greatest moment of the show, for me, was the intense up full-band version of "Atlantic City." Nebraska is holy territory and it's minimalist structure and recording should not be toyed with lightly. But Springsteen knows what he's doing to his songs and the live, full-band version is even better than the recorded version. That's right, better.
And as for the disappointment I mentioned earlier...well, not everyone got to hear every song they wanted to. My brother wanted to hear some tunes of Darkness On the Edge of Town and The Seeger Sessions to no avail. But when you're one of the greatest legends in rock music and American history, and your back catalog of music stretches farther than most bands' eyeliner, you can do like the sign from an audience member in the front row says, "Play Whatever You Want."
17 August 2008
12 August 2008
11 August 2008
But before The Hold Steady ambled out, the crowd got their warm-up from Philadelphia's The Loved Ones. "Let's all pretend, just pretend, that we don't have to go to work tomorrow," Dave Hause pleaded with the crowd. They finally won everybody over by the time their set ended, but it took some effort. Opening for The Hold Steady is not easy feat, I'm sure. But the quintet (joined by Hause's sister Missy on keyboards) finally broke through with their Less Than Jake-meets-Against Me! brand of punk. (The group is currently signed to Fat Wreck Chords.) By the time they were joined onstage by Tad Kubler and Franz Nicolay (who wins a dual award for "Best Rock Mustache" and "Most Unlikely Member of a Rock Band") for their closer, it was too much for folks to handle: The Hold Steady were mere feet away.
Honest to God, I could have left after the first four songs: "Constructive Summer," "Chips Ahoy!," "Sequestered In Memphis," and "You Can Make Him Like You." I defy you to tell me that's not rock's biggest wet dream. But I stuck around for most of the new album (including my personal favorite, "Slapped Actress" the closer before the encore) and some back-catalog numbers (never heard "Milkcrate Mosh," and it seemed a little too literary for the party crowd).
Finn looks like a manic preacher who genuinely enjoys his job; converting all the non-believers to his own brand of positivity. And while there's only so many songs about hoodrats, drugs, hardcore sing-alongs, and bars, Finn sells it like this is the only life there is. And as I left the club last night, sweat-drenched and dizzy, I thought that The Hold Steady might just be the only rock band left on the scene worth talking about. And I'm glad that I'll go to my grave believing in what they have to offer.
06 August 2008
- Friday, August 8, you're on your own...though I suppose you could go to the Music Farm to see Mike Gordon, bassist for Phish. If that's what you're into.
- Saturday, August 9, Richard Lloyd and the SufiMonkey Trio will be playing at A Dough Re Mi. Lloyd and drummer Billy Ficca were 1/2 of Television. The City Paper has an interview and article on the band here.
31 July 2008
Additionally, they will be playing the Village Tavern, August 31. You should go. I'll be there. It'll be fun. I'll buy you a drink. And I promise not to hit on you...much.
Also, here's an mp3 from The Whale EP:
Wild Sweet Orange, "Wrestle With God" (Thanks, Spinner)
And let the pissing match begin. Who's got their money on Gretchen Wilson shutting them down? Yeah, that'd be me...as much as I dislike that no-talent redneck hack wannabe. Gretch Wilson, not Chris Robinson.
30 July 2008
29 July 2008
28 July 2008
Some other items that are worth the hype but only after many listens:
Incidentally, all three of these albums are available for download at eMusic. Get them now.
Maybe this is what I have in store for me at The Hold Steady show at the Pour House in two weeks. God I hope so.
21 July 2008
I caught up with Metavari outside of the Village Tavern on June 17 right before their opening gig for El Ten Eleven. The quintet, Ty Brinneman (bass), Tommy Cutter (guitar), Simon Lesser (guitar, keyboards, programming), Andrew McComas (drums), and Nate Utesch (guitar, keyboards) had arrived on the coast of
SIO: This may be a question you get asked a lot but, why no vocals?
Nate: Yeah, that usually is the first question we get asked…
SIO: Don’t get me wrong I’m usually drawn to more music now without vocals, because it’s very easy to ruin songs with vocals…
Simon: With instrumental music it’s always different. If you have vocals on a song it has lyrics, it has a title, it has a message and that’s what it is across the board. It can be interpreted different ways or it can be ambiguous but it generally has something that it is just across the board. With instrumental music it has the ability to communicate the same ideas, but it’s not the same from person to person. It doesn’t assign anything to the music but you can let loose with your own imagination without the artist dictating their view.
Andrew: With instrumental music and its influence, it can be more powerful than music with lyrics because it forces the listener to be engaged in a certain way than just pulling out a lyric sheet and reading through it. It forces more…I don’t know. It just hits you in a different way.
Ty: I think it’s more listener-participatory.
SIO: Do you guys like the idea of not having to force an image on your listeners?
Ty: Yeah, I feel like you’re forced to have to market yourself in other ways that you don’t want to as a musician so if you can remove that aspect from your music or your art then it’s very freeing.
Andrew: I feel like some people don’t know what to do with our music. We’ll have people who will either think ‘Sweet, you don’t have vocals’ or ‘…well, what do you do then if you don’t have vocals?’ Some people don’t know how to react. I think it definitely separates people into two categories: people who ‘get it’ and people who don’t.
But if you get it, it can move you in different way.
SIO: So, would you say you’re okay with some people not ‘getting it’?
Andrew: Oh yeah. Definitely.
Nate: I feel like stepping into this, we consciously said, ‘Okay, because of what we’re choosing to do, there will only ever be, like, three people who will like us’ (laughs). And we’re okay with that! Because of how much we enjoy it and saturate ourselves with it. Some people kind of want us to explain what they should have been thinking (during our songs) and we always feel like, ‘Well, it’s up to you what you chose to think!’ (laughs).
Simon: Along those lines, we’re surprised on a daily basis…our music is not really that far out there and I think we’re pretty accessible. I mean people’s moms like us. I don’t really think we’re doing something that crazy…we do what we like and hope others like it to.
SIO: Hearing you guys talk about it, it’s nice to hear a band admit, ‘We’re concerned about the audience, but we’re not that concerned about the audience…’ Is that correct?
Nate: Yeah, well there’s a balance. You can do something so self-absorbed that you’re just doing something to be different…
SIO: But then you become Yoko Ono…
Nate: Or you can just be full of formula and be a pop music band. There’s a balance.
SIO: You guys mentioned that you had instrumental bands that influence you growing up. So what are some of your influences?
Andrew: I think one of the bands that most of us can identify with is a band called Unwed Sailor. They’re probably my favorite band to date.
Ty: I’m gonna second the Unwed Sailor. When I broke both my knees and I listened to them and they helped me get around a campground…
SIO: You really broke your knees?
Ty: Yeah, both of them at a music festival...
Andrew: He is walking now, however. (laughs)
Ty: I know Mono is a big influence on me.
Tommy: The first instrumental band I started listening to was Aphex Twin. That had a huge influence on the way I hear music.
Nate: I feel like an album that had vocals on it, but freaked me out because of the way it was structured and layered…
Andrew: I know what you’re going to say…
Nate…was the Low Level Owl records by The Appleseed Cast. And then a split EP with Maserati and Mercury Program are some of my favorites.
SIO: Any older stuff like jazz? I hear a little bit of jazz every now and again in the EP.
Nate: I don’t know. Have we talked about this before? I definitely grew up playing piano and sax, but I’m not a connoisseur. I appreciate it and I’m sure somewhere it’s in there.
SIO: Any classical?
Andrew: Yeah, I was gonna say…I play drums for the band but my first instrument was guitar and I took classical guitar lessons for five years. So I think the idea of instrumental music has always moved me especially.
Ty: I actually grew up a hardcore kid and albums like “The Shape of Punk to Come” really changed everything for me. So other bands influence us just as much. When we first started talking about doing this band, I didn’t know we would start an instrumental band. I just want to have to have passion…aw, but I hate that word…insert some other word for passion. (laughs).
SIO: So is this your first tour?
Nate: Yep. First night of the first tour.
SDE: You guys picked a brave time to go on tour…
Ty: You mean with gas prices and all that?
SIO: Exactly. So was it just a conscious decision to ‘damn the torpedoes’ this is what we want to do?
Simon: You got to go on tour sometime and if it wasn’t now it would be later. And later is not now.
Nate: The new songs we’re writing and the way the sets are developing, we just felt like we had to hit the road now or else we would go crazy.
Ty: Yeah, we’re already planning a second tour. This one’s been weird. It was supposed to be 12 dates and now it’s like four or five.
Nate: We’ve met a lot of cool people so far so I think the next tour will be even better.
SIO: How did Metavari get started?
Ty: Well, the beginnings are kind of twofold. It started out as an ambient band between Nate and Simon. And then after I got married and quit the metalcore band I was in, Nate and I just started doing what we wanted to do and Tommy got in on it pretty quickly. But at that point Simon was in
Nate: It was crazy because we’ve known Andrew as a guitar player.
Tommy: The first time his parents saw him play, I overheard them say, ‘We spent all that money and all that time on guitar lessons and you’re playing drums.’ (laughs).
Andrew: All the recitals and all the classical guitar lessons just over.
SIO: Have you ever thought about having a spotlight classical guitar solo in the middle of set?
Andrew: I’ve always said that as soon as someone learns how to play the drums… (laughs).
SIO: Nice. So where exactly is the “
Nate: Well, some guy at work told me that he thought that
SIO: It sounds like a music mecca is where you guys grew up in.
Simon: I think music just breed out of swamps. (laughs)
Ty: I actually read that
15 July 2008
14 July 2008
- Salon reviews The Hold Steady's "Stay Positive"
- Muzzle of Bees talks to Centro-matic's Will Johnson about "Dual Hawks"
- Charleston City Paper has a live review of Modest Mouse at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach
- You Ain't No Picasso interviews Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes
- The Onion asks the tough questions
12 July 2008
Go and support both of these hard-workin' bands, buy a CD, t-shirt, etc. Your mother would be happy if you did.
28 June 2008
My Old Kentucky Blog summed up my feelings exactly about Matthew Ryan. I've been a semi-fan of his since 1999 right after May Day came out and during the release of East Autumn Grin. I've seen him twice live, once opening for Badly Drawn Boy and then opening for Matt Pond PA with his band Strays Don't Sleep. I keep dipping in and out of his albums and...well, just read here.
Lemuria, a really cool band from Buffalo, NY, just got a pretty decent review for their new record at Pitchfork. Read it here. As always, I take issue with some of the ridiculousness in the review, but I digress. My friend works for the records label that they released some of their earlier records on, Art of the Underground. I recommend their split with Kind of Like Spitting
...if you can find a copy. Fire up your eBay profiles.
Just discovered mp3Tunes.com, thanks to Medialoper. So far, I'm happy. Read about it here and decide if it's right for you.
Finally, I've got another album review over at Horizon Records' blog. Read it here and support your local record store.
22 June 2008
Metavari come to us from the "The Former Black Swamp, Indiana" according to their MySpace page. But they may as well descended to us from the heavens or some other ether of celestial beauty because that's the only imaginable space I can conjure whenever I spin their gorgeous debut Ambling EP.
Metavari are a post-rock instrumental band with tinges of electronic and digital sounds, though I'd like to dispense with using ill-fitting tags to pin their music down because there's always a shining layer of natural textures behind the tracks that defies traditional post-rock sounds. On the sublime opening track, "Satellites Made It Possible" the song keeps to a quiet build, starting innocently enough with electric bleeps before chiming guitars pick and slide their way in amidst a ride cymbal that sounds like a church bell on a clear day. When track one ends, it's a sad moment. I'd like for it to go on for an additional 4 or 5 minutes. It's a short-lived sadness because there's the equally transcendent "Everything Is Fine" in line behind it.
The beats and synths are out in full force here; that's not to say they dominate the track (nor, I should add, is it necessarily bad that electronic instruments make such a good showing on the record). Metavari seem to have pinned the thin balance of interplay between natural and unnatural sounds; almost to suggest there should be no distinction between the two. Rather, they should align in unison, side-by-side. It's not a new concept to be sure, but it is one that is rarely executed so seamlessly. A listener might mistake one for the other if not paying attention.
The remainder of the album is just as soothing and structured. From the crystal chimes of "Road to Awe" to the controlled deconstruction of "There You Are," Metavari are on level with the giants of their genre (Mogwai, Explosions In the Sky, Panda Bear, etc). But, if their first EP is any indication, these five will probably be smart enough to subvert their work into something even greater than the sum of post-rock's collective parts. And I, for one, am looking forward to what they have to offer.
*Metavari will open for El Ten Eleven this Tuesday, June 24 at the Village Tavern in Mt Pleasant. Show starts @ 9PM for $6. Be there.*
MySpace (one of the best looking MySpace sites I've seen; listen to their cover of Panda Bear's "Comfy In Nautica")
Buy their CD
Download from iTunes
17 June 2008
Security was militant. No cameras allowed. When I tried to sneak a picture with my crappy camera phone I was immediately flagged down. I only got three not-so-good pics that I'll post when I can get them off my f*!@*ng camera. In the meantime, here's a fantastic Cure fansite.
Three hours worth of music. No keyboards. Just guitar. Lovely.
Underneath The Stars
Prayers For Rain
A Night Like This
The End of the World
A Letter To Elise
Pictures of You
From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea
The Perfect Boy
Hot Hot Hot
The Only One
Sleep When I'm Dead
How Beautiful You Are
Just Like Heaven
Shake Dog Shake
One Hundred Years
Baby Rag Dog Book
The Holy Hour
Close To Me
Why Can't I Be You?
Boys Don't Cry
10:15 Saturday Night
Killing An Arab
And, just found out that Pinback will be playing Charleston's own Music Farm September 24. Now if we could just get Built to Spill here?
13 June 2008
Burnt Toast Vinyl, 2003
This gem was leftover from last Sunday's house cleaning. It's one of the better literary-pop bands you've never heard of. At first listen "(I Know You Destroy)" offered me little in the way of enjoyment. The songs seemed too plodding to be considered pop and the poppier ones seemed too dense to be appreciated. But, ever the faithful listener, I kept spinning it. And eventually I decided I still didn't like it. So I shelved it.
But have you ever been drawn to an album simply because of the way it looks on your shelf? Or its album title? Yeah, me neither.
The Trouble With Sweeney will, however, grow on your skin like so many barnacles. Their lyrics are a plaintive mixture of novelty and sincerity and their melodies are whispers on a Philadelphia street (the band's hometown); akin to a Virginia Woolf novel with more structure and narrative. I believe I read that their lyricist completed his PhD in History after completing this album and was a music journalist for a while. If that's true, it shows in the subtlety of the song structures and in lyrics like ("If you're worried that I'll snitch/you really shouldn't bother/you can rest assured/I'm telling everyone I know).
After a quick check of their website, it looks like the band is on semi-permanent hiatus. In the meantime, check out two of their best tracks for download, both from "(I Know You Destroy)."
mp3: The Trouble With Sweeney: "The Break Up"
mp3: The Trouble With Sweeney: "The Snitch"
06 June 2008
We're sweating our nads off here in Charleston: 105 degrees, full humidity.
mp3: Sigur Ros--"Gobbledigook" (follow the link and enter your email address for a free download)
What? They're from Iceland...where I wouldn't mind being right now.
03 June 2008
Saturday I spent painting the garage at the in-laws house. Sunday I cleaned for four hours, but only got in one album b/c the vacuum is loud. Here's the playlist (CD images link to Amazon):
02 June 2008
I recommend this album if you don't know Bo.
29 May 2008
Also at the lovely Pour House on July 25th, an evening with Jason Isbell. Two sets, no opener. That's what I'm talking about.
Built to Spill are taking "Perfect From Now On" on the road for a Summer/Fall tour. I would much prefer a "Keep It Like a Secret" tour, but I'll take what I can get to see Built to Spill before I die. (They are nowhere near the Southeast--unless you count VA, and really who does--so roadtrip people.)
I'll be at the Village Tavern this tomorrow night for The Helio Sequence and The Explorer's Club. Apparently those boys from The Explorer's Club are blowing up. Nice job, boys. Represent Chucktown, ya hear?
The Hold Steady: "Sequestered in Memphis" (Thanks, I Guess I'm Floating)
mp3: The Helio Sequence: "Can't Say No" One of my favorite tracks of the past month. (Thanks, Sub Pop)
23 May 2008
20 May 2008
19 May 2008
I was fortunate enough to catch them at Charleston's latest (and so far divey-ist, in a good way) bar, The Tin Roof. For a Monday night, these guys and gal weren't phoning it in and I enjoyed every minute of it--from the $1.50 PBRs to the stage left exit at around midnight. I'll definitely be back...especially now that The Map Room has closed its doors. (Sniff.)
It would be easy to dismiss The Winter Sounds as just another pop band from Athens, GA but there is so much more to discover with this band. And you can almost rest assured they will come play a city near you.
Check out their MySpace page and listen to samples.
The Winter Sounds website.
More photos of the band at my Flickr site
Visit The Tin Roof's MySpace page to see upcoming shows.