Friday, December 29, 2006

My Year in Review

Over the course of this year I have had the opportunity to see some outstanding concerts, meet new people who share the same passion as I do about music, and shed some light on my opinions and thoughts about the world of music in the creation of this blog. I'm disappointed that I've not been able to update this site as often as someone like Heather's, but satisfied that I've had the ability to reach out to so many viewers.

Instead of doing a top ten albums or top ten artists of the year I have decided to create a list of the best song heard live from each of the concerts I attended this year. Some of these artists appear twice (311 and Pete Yorn.... an odd pair), and I will include a short recap of each show. It's been a great year, I've seen an outstanding lineup of bands, and now it's time to share what I feel is the highlight of each show.


Black Rebel Motorcycle Club played at Mississippi Nights in St. Louis back in February. Their studio work is outstanding, but they've got major issues with the sound engineers while touring. At first I thought the venue just didn't provide a good live sound, but I've attended two other shows since then that had wonderful acoustics. The sound was so bad that the only recognizable song I could tell was played that night was Ain't No Easy Way, so this is all I've got.

March 11, 3/11, 311

Five guys, one Elvis impersonator, twenty-man drumline, SIXTY-FIVE songs......... all in a day's work. Known as 311 Day, the city of New Orleans has adopted March 11 as 311 Day for the last few years. But since Hurricane Katrina took its toll on the city, the band took a short drive up I-55 to the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis. After being inside this venue I am convinced it is older than the Colosseum in Greece. My friend Steve and I have seen 311 a few times before but had never been to a 311 Day show. The show was a whopping five hours long. Steve's favorite song is Gap. It's a rarely played, relatively unknown, short, simple, song with a decent blend of pop and punk. Five songs into the show Steve decides to brave using the facilities. First song played after his departure? Gap. I sang away with an empty seat next to me while others around me wondered how I knew the song so well. It takes me back a few years whenever I hear it, and that's why it's my choice of this show.

Pearl Jam/My Morning Jacket

I was at work in the middle of running cameras for the 10 o'clock newscast when I got the phone call. Brennan and Tyler were at Pearl Jam, Night #1, Chicago. I couldn't tell what song was being played in the background but I did hear "Ha ha ha, we're rocking out to Pearl Jam tonight and you're stuck at work! Sucker!" Now, I had no intentions on making it to either show because I couldn't afford it, didn't ask off from work, and didn't ask anyone else if they were interested in going. But when I got that phone call everything changed. Less than twelve hours later I was on the road. I bought tickets that morning, so of course I didn't get priority seating from my Ten Club membership. Instead I got one hell of a view..... from behind the stage. My Morning Jacket opened and rocked. Flat-out rocked. Of course they played One Big Holiday, but the best of the bunch was Off the Record. I got to see Hammond B-3'er Boom hanging out with the guitar techs during songs he wasn't involved with, drummer Matt Cameron has two "personal assistants" sitting behind him throughout the show, fetching water or drumsticks, and I got a great view of guitarist Mike McCready's guitar closet. It's huge. The most vivid highlight of the show seeing a girl behind me who seemed uninterested in the majority of the show instantly explode; screaming every syllable to every word of Crown of Thorns. I posted the video clips from my digicam on Youtube. Here is Elderly Woman, Insignificance, and the end of the show. (Yes, I cheated and layered the audio from the bootleg with the video from my camera. Or do you think you would like to hear distorted garbage instead?)


Just a few days later I was in St. Louis to see HIM. HIM is a heavy metal band that play ballads, smoke lots of cigarettes, and drink heavily. If you've ever seen Viva La Bam or anything Jackass related there is a good chance you've heard something from these guys. The opening act, Aiden, will be remembered for having the lead singer with the ability to swing his microphone cord all over and not hit anyone onstage, including himself. Unfortunately, HIM's lead singer, Ville Valo, smokes too much and had to end the show early because he had an asthma attack. Only nine songs were played, but I did manage to hear what I wanted. Right Here in My Arms isn't too harsh on the ears.

Black Crowes/Robert Randolph/Drive-by Truckers

The only show I attended in the month of June was all I needed. It was the trifecta of great American rock and roll. The Black Crowes were in town, with The Drive-by Truckers and Robert Randolph and the Family Band as supporting acts. DBT played a short set of only eight or nine songs, with The Day John Henry Died being the highlight. Even though it wasn't as powerful as their Bonnaroo performance from a year earlier it still drew a caring response from the crowd. Robert Randolph soon followed, playing long extended versions of Going in the Right Direction, Nobody, and several others. The biggest jam of the night was Squeeze. The Black Crowes came out with a roaring Virtue and Vice. Soul Singing, A Conspiracy, Jealous Again, and even The Seeker were stretched from their normal durations into nine to ten minute long jam sessions. Their setlists are short because the songs are rarely less than six to seven minutes, so the chances of getting to hear one particular song that isn't a radio hit are pretty rare. During a long transition from Ballad in Urgency into something new, I realized I was about to hear Wiser Time. Make fun of me, call me a weirdo, whatever... but I often think of the phrase "fourteen seconds to sunrise". No one ever tracks it down to the second. They do, and I love every second of this song. (pun intended)

Pete Yorn

During my day in University City (St. Louis) to see Pete Yorn, I met some of the greatest people I've ever met on the day of a concert. Blueberry Hill was the venue, and I spent much of the afternoon soaking up the A/C, watching the Cards game, and drinking beers with regulars and newbies like myself. We complained about the game and the heat, but were anxious to see some Yorn. Earlier in the day Pete finished up an in-store performance at a record shop down the street and was signing autographs afterwards. As he signed my cd liner I asked him to play Undercover. Before he handed my new piece of rockabilia back to me he looked at what he had just written, as if he was studying the name he just signed. Later on that night he explained his actions in the middle of the show. "I had a friend ask me to play a song earlier today, and after looking through my setlists from all the other shows I realized I haven't played it yet. So here's a rare one... this song is called Undercover." He didn't say my name out loud (that would have been really cheesy, a guy dedicating a song to another guy), but he spotted me in the crowd and gave me a nod. I gave an approving reply. I want to thank the person who took a picture at the same time as I did. Their flash provided excellent lighting for a great shot.

311/The Wailers/Pepper

This show was my least favorite 311 show. It was chock-full of their radio friendly songs and offered little variety. Perhaps seeing them play over 60 songs last time creates high expectations from that point on. Keeping the ball rolling, I have to pick a favorite song from their setlist.... so.... You Wouldn't Believe will do. I got to see Pepper, a Hawaiian band with a rough So-Cal sound reminiscent of the Sublime days. They garnered a loud ovation and cleared off the stage to make way for The Wailers. Great rasta-reggae music from a legendary band. It was pretty hard to avoid the contact-high after they hit the stage! (another pun intended)

V.A.S.T./Mardo/Murder Happens

I've done this review already. It's right here. I will tell you the best song Jon played that night was Three Doors. Download it NOW. Don't ever give Mardo a dime of your hard-earned money because they are arrogant assholes who don't deserve the attention, let alone the royalties. Supporting Murder Happens would be like supporting the goth-kids hanging out at the mall so they can go to Spencer's and buy the newest Slipknot poster.

Pete Yorn/Minibar

I'd rather focus more on Minibar than Pete this time around. I did a little bit of a review last month and was much more intrigued by his supporting band. Minibar consists of Simon Petty on vocals, Tim Walker on guitar. Sid Jordan plays bass while Malcolm Cross smashes away at the drums. I didn't realize until this night that Minibar is more than just a band that plays around Pete, but they've got two of their own albums. Trouble is, these albums are scarce and difficult to get a hold of. From what I heard them play this night, they have a crafty way of blending a soft country ballad with an upbeat rock song that has every muscle in your body pulsing to the beat. I can't tell you the name of a single song they played that night. But I can tell you that when they came back out to backup Pete, they gave every ounce of energy to Alive. This show was partially blurred by lots of draft beer so this review won't be much clearer than the one I attempted the morning after.

Old Crow Medicine Show

The review I attempted for this show has proven to me that I just need to keep it simple and provide the high points of the show.

What did I love the most about this show?

The bands' opening song, Tear it Down. Pure acoustic energy. It gets the crowd fired up fast. I loved the age gap in the audience. Beside me was a man in his mid 60s, another well into his 70s standing in front of me with a tall draft beer in hand. I loved seeing the couple that brought their six-year-old, wearing headphones to protect his ears so he can enjoy fine live music like this for a long time coming. I love the fact that I could have taken my grandparents to a concert and we all would have come home satisfied and thirsting for more. I love the fact that Kevin Hayes' played his guitjo with such intensity he had to step away from the mic two or three times per song to silence the howling feedback. I loved seeing the guy wearing a Dimebag Darrell shirt because it says hey, anyone can like these guys. I loved the song on their new album, Let it Alone. I love the chorus line:

let it alone

let it alone

if it don't concern you let alone

if you don't know say so

mind your own business and let it alone

And finally I love that they ended the show with a cover of Dire Straits' Walk of Life, with the cheesy electronic keyboard replaced with an accordion.


While standing in line for this show my friend Tyler spotted Andrew, the lead singer, standing in front of his bus and talking on his cell phone. Having had a few drinks in his system already, Tyler urged me to join him in going over to say hi to Andrew. I reluctantly agreed and we made our way over to greet him. I "pounded knuckles" with him as Tyler told him they were going to be awesome. He seemed annoyed. Anyway, there was an opening band that nearly put me to sleep and I can't tell you their name. The Silversun Pickups, intended to be the second act, bailed out for some reason. That meant the first band got to play an extended set, which was really unfortunate. Wolfmother came out and the crowd exploded. They open with Dimension, scream through their entire album, and even play Communication Breakdown. Colossal was the highlight for me though. It was full of keyboard solos, long electric guitar breaks, and a moment with Chris Ross playing bass and keyboards at the same time. Wow.


That does it everybody. I've met some great people on this blogspot community that I feel like I've known much longer than the six months I've been doing this. To Heather, Kraig, all of my friends in South America, thanks for keeping me motivated to make something out of this blog. It keeps my writing skills fresh. I'll sign off the year with one song from a show I dearly wish I COULD have seen. Ryan Adams, August 2. It is the inspiration behind the little quote below this blog's title. This is it, everybody, this is it. Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

"There goes my hero"
In a rather dangerous attempt to gain popularity and become a legend at his high school this kid has exemplified everything I think about Christmas. He is my hero.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Visit to Hollywood.
I just spent a week in California, covering literally every city with a population of 300,000 or more. Monday night is the focus of this blog entry though. My mom and I got tickets to see the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

Boy was I excited to see the list of who would be on. Not only my TV crush Jenna Fischer from The Office, but the one and only "I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane"..... Samuel L. Jackson. Oh, and some cook named Ming Tsai too. Don't berate me if I don't know who this guy is because I still don't know who the hell Rachael Ray is either.

Anyway... something very odd happened throughout the taping of this show. All you've got to do is look at the episode list on Ferguson's CBS site. When the show starts up I see the "tonight's show" graphic showing Edward Norton, Jenna Fischer, and some comedian. I'm confused already. Is it Ed or Sam? Whatever... I'll find out eventually. Here's something you may not be aware of.. the Ferguson show you watch on TV doesn't have the same guests that are taped that day. But if you want to see all three of these segments you'll have to watch three different nights.
Jenna: Monday
Ming: Tuesday
Sam J: Thursday
Now Craig's wardrobe was indeed changed for each guest, talk about knowing what you're going to wear for the rest of the week! Monday's show on TV consisted of Edward Norton, and Jenna Fischer. I suppose Ed's was taped last week, or earlier in the day?
So, the thesis of this random post is when you watch late night TV and the previous guest is not sitting next to the current guest on the set.... it's probably split up the way I've just explained. Weird, huh?
A new addition to the blog.

My friend Michael likes the way that the blogspot sites are set up. They are clean and organized most of the time, and he has offered to contribute various reviews of films and music. It will be a hearty addition of what my blog has become. So this is the first film review....

I have rented and just finished watching two documentaries on DVD, both of which were highly entertaining. They have nothing in common, aside from speaking with or referring to more popular or current musicians who make an appearance to reveal how these two men influenced them in their work.

Leonard Cohen first crossed my radar when "Pump Up The Volume" was released. He had his second round of "15 minutes of fame" around that time; articles in Rolling Stone, mentions by comedians on TV, featured in Entertainment Weekly. My roommate Dave, Jewish like Cohen, played "Everybody Knows" on Columbia's public radio when he next had a chance. We actually made up a chart on our chalkboard in the apartment and kept track of how many times we heard about him in popular culture for about a month.

On the soundtrack, Concrete Blonde does "Everybody Knows", but in the film, it's Cohen's cigarettes-and-gravel vocals that take the film to its pinnacle. Watching U2 reduce themselves to Cohen's band, even singing "oohs" and "doo wah wahs" for him is magical; all four members are totally enthralled by Cohen's presence, even though he admits he "can't carry a tune."

Most of the film centers around a tribute concert performed in January 2005, which at first seems obnoxious -- I wanted to hear Cohen himself. But this tactic redeems itself in that his influence is properly magnified by today's artists who are more direct in explaining Cohen's appeal. Leaving the final act for Cohen to take the mic seems fitting, as he has the bulk of the film to explain his life and where his lyrics come from. This is necessary to flesh out the life of a man who is an ordained monk, lived in Chelsea Hotel with beatniks and Janis Joplin, had the reputation of a lady's man (and still does, even at age 72), but who "laughed bitterly during the 10,000 nights I spent alone", as he puts it.

It's obvious that the singers who pay tribute, and especially Bono, have taken Cohen's philosophy of music and art and life and beauty and tried to the best of their abilities to not stray from that path. Although this is at its core a concert film with a low budget (some of the musicians are interviewed on the day of the show, while Bono and The Edge are cornered in a hallway), it's worthy of the 105 minutes it takes up on DVD at your local Blockbuster.

My favorite moments in this tribute are from Teddy Thompson, who covers "Tonight Will Be Fine", all songs by Rufus Wainwright, although he initially gives the impression that Elton John is nearly as hetero and uptight as Billy Graham, and actually, Rufus' sister, Martha, who seems like she might just be the craziest fuck you could ever have if she could just wrap those legs around your neck and crack your head like a walnut. (Think Famke Janssen in 007's Goldeneye.)

On the other end of the spectrum, there is "The Devil and Daniel Johnston". Raised in West Virginia to strict Christians, this is the tale of a kid who was undisciplined in everything except his art. While Cohen sought out the "regimes, the regimens", the orderly, Daniel acquiesced to every artistic urge he ever had. In his youth, Daniel ignored all attempts to be "converted" to religion, and spent all his free time, and even his schooldays, doodling, playing music, writing songs, and basically just fucking off. Much to his parents' dismay, he seemed hellbent on being "an unprofitable servant of the Lord".

After escaping with the circus and landing in Austin, Texas, Daniel's life changed. While he scammed his way onto MTV, and into a career as a singer/songwriter (besting Stevie Ray Vaughan in a local poll for year's best), he also began to crack under the pressures his parents had for years laid upon him.

While officially diagnosed as bipolar, his behavior could easily be mistaken for schizoid. Talking of the Devil come for him, and prosletyzing to audiences, he became over the years a man-child -- and a legend. When I first saw him perform live in this documentary, I wanted to laugh, but I couldn't. Afterwards, researching his Pearl Jam connection, Eddie said of Johnston "he is not to be mistrusted." I think this sums up Johnston about as well as anything in the film. Daniel's sincerity, his laser-beam focus on creating and being artistic, even on becoming famous, is rare. While others may deal with the consequences this extreme behavior causes in their lives, Daniel is mostly oblivious. Drugs, mental institutions, and even his parents and friends take years to correct the imbalances in his chemistry. Even today, as an adult, he gives the impression of being slightly retarded, and completely eccentric.

What is most unnerving is his place in popular culture. His drawings are hung in art museums -- they're drawn on regular notebook paper. His songs are covered by Beck, the Flaming Lips, and even Pearl Jam -- who did Walking The Cow at Bridge School in 1994. Eddie played Daniel's version of this song early in the setlist for Self-Pollution Radio.

Now his parents take care of Daniel, and his dad takes him to China and South Africa for performances. In Austin, the mod kids forego the statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan and have their picture taken by the record store Daniel frequents, the one where he painted his "Eyeball Frog" mural in 1994. The same Eyeball Frog that Kurt Cobain made famous by wearing it on a t-shirt for several weeks, including at the MTV Music Awards.

Two men, opposites in nearly every aspect, with far-reaching effects upon the musicians we hear today. Both incredibly sincere, and focused. Yet you couldn't find two catalogs of songs more unlike each other.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Report: Recent Wednesday Felt Like Thursday
The Onion, December 6, 2006 Issue 42•49
NEW YORK—An informal study of U.S. citizens has revealed that a recent Wednesday, specifically November 30, was intuitively and subliminally perceived to be a Thursday by office workers, retail personnel, and any others who had occasion to give thought to the day of the week. "I don't know why, but it was a total Thursday kind of day," said Sue Seversen, an assistant program coordinator at Minnesota General Services who theorized that the change from daylight-saving time or the recent drop in temperature could be to blame. "All day I kept thinking that at least tomorrow would be Friday. But then I'd realize it wasn't. Too bad." Over 90 percent of those misperceiving the day also professed some degree of disbelief that Christmas was almost here.