Posts Tagged ‘Concerts’

Went Caspian

March 30, 2010 Leave a comment

I was a hesitant Phish fan for many years.  I think it just took me a long time to ‘get it’.  But it takes me a long time to ‘get’ most trends.  I guess I’m just slow like that.

Then again, Phish are hardly a trend. They’re something very special and timeless.  A successful experience with Phish is one that appeals to the very essence of what it means to be a human being – the realization that we can revel in melody, in rhythms, and in the communal experience of a concert. And to those who don’t ‘get it’, I can only say that I’m sorry.

Look, you need’nt be a wanderlusting vagabond to appreciate this band. Do not let the reputation that’s perpetuated about a small sect of their fandom keep you away.  In a time where the market is absolutely saturated with bands – most of whom are bereft of staying power or individuality – Phish are one of the great forces in rock and roll that still care to share their abilities with audiences.

Sorry, what’s the cause for this screed? Most Phish fans get pulled into the band via one specific song, or jam.  For me, the performance that really hooked me was their ‘Prince Caspian’ from the Great Went.  It’s not necessarily a ‘jam’ per-se, but instead an exposition for the guitar.  But in being so, it also demonstrates what Phish do best.  Here you have essentially one long solo, but in that solo are several different melodies, all completely spontaneous, and all resolutely furnished by the other three members.  It’s a real triumph.

So if you hate my self-important soliloquies, then I’m truly sorry I wasted your time.  But if you’re curious about what it takes to turn a normal dude/casual fan into a normal dude/serious fan, then look no further…

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February 27, 2010 Leave a comment

This is so right in so many ways.

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Face in the Crowd…

January 8, 2010 Leave a comment

A lot happened in 2009.  I went to Korea, I returned from Korea, I took the LSAT, I travelled to and from VT several times, and still somehow – even after only seeing two shows in the orient – I was able to cram in a heap of solid live music.  So, if you were out on the scene, you may have seen me at these shows…

Yo La Tengo – Olympic Park – Seoul, Korea

PARA/Tenniscoats and Secai – Club O-West – Tokyo, Japan

Yo La Tengo – Higher Ground – Burlington, VT

Allman Brothers/Widespread Panic – Merriweather Post – Columbia, MD

Art Brut – The Black Cat – DC

Girls/Real Estate – The Black Cat – DC

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones – Strathmore Auditorium – Bethesda, MD

Mastodon/Converge/High on Fire – Patriot Center – Fairfax, VA

Monsters of Folk – Kimmell Center – Philadelphia, PA

Phish – John Paul Jones Arena – Charlottesville, VA

The Low Anthem – The Black Cat – DC

Pains of Being Pure at Heart/Cymbals Eat Guitars – The Black Cat – DC

The Levon Helm Band – Levon’s Barn – Woodstock, NY

Dawes/Langhorne Slim – Rock and Roll Hotel – DC

Project Object – The 8×10 – Baltimore, MD

… and of course, the Book ‘Em Blues Band – Nectar’s – Burlington, VT

…p.s. – Any of those artists would be worth checking out if you’re curious.

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Carolina Hardcore Ecstasy

December 25, 2009 Leave a comment

5 years ago a friend dragged me into downtown Burlington, VT to see a Frank Zappa cover band.  What I saw that night single-handedly reinvigorated my fascination with FZ and his music, and therefore music in general.  See you in Baltimore… Project/Object… 12/28…

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Americon Idols

November 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert. HBO.

For the first time in a very long time, millions of Americans are talking about something on TV that’s really, really good.

Bruce Springsteen, Tom Morello, Jeff Beck, Aretha Franklin, John Fogerty, Stevie Wonder, Sting, U2, Mick Jagger, Lou Reed, Metallica, Ray Davies, John Legend, Ozzie Osborne, Art Garfunkel, CSNY, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Paul Simon.  Jann Wenner, Cameron Crowe.

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The Low Anthem @the Black Cat 11/12

November 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Last night I saw a band called the Low Anthem.  I am still floored.  They are a trio, and yet, over the course of their 60 minute set, they found a way to incorporate 10 different instruments – including cellphones, a harmonium, and a pump organ.  Throughout the set I kept thinking, “this is the perfect time to be seeing this band.”  They’re still hungry.  You can still see the passion on their faces.  As a music nerd, I just can’t tell you how much that can do to a concert.  The artist’s passion can make the difference between a solid performance and a revelatory one, which last night’s most certainly was.  Make no mistake, this is much more than bedroom music.  The Low Anthem have tapped into an ages-old American musical tradition.  They are a power trio, only one whose power has nothing to do with the volume or wattage of their instruments.  There is no electronic sheen between what you’re hearing and what they’re doing on stage.  For example, I didn’t see a single effects pedal on stage.  That this is the case, and that they sound even better live than on record, is a true testament to their intensity as musicians.  I know it’s hyperbolical to say this, but I closed my eyes at some points last night, and in doing so, I felt as if I was no longer in that cramped, dark room.  I wasn’t just a dude, in a room, with his eyes closed.  I was somewhere very far away.  Somewhere bucolic.

(The videos above have cuts from each of the band’s albums.  Notice the use of cellphones in the first clip.  Awesome.)

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Monsters of Folk @Philadelphia Academy of Music 11/9

November 11, 2009 Leave a comment


Monsters of Folk would like you to think that they exist as somewhat of a joke.  Here we have a band, comprised of four towering names on the indie marquee, whose mere presence is enough to have rock nerds – like myself – collectively salivating onto their copies of Paste.  Taking such a band seriously simply invites too much dork lust… and hope.  God forbid these titans – Jim James, M. Ward, Conor Oberst, Mike Moggis (Oberst’s musical partner-cum-producer) – create something vastly inferior to their individual output.

I think it has officially been agreed upon that the album which emerged was not a failure, but nor was it a triumph.  The vibe I’ve picked up on, is that a fan who hasn’t heard it should imagine a collection of the b-grade songs from each artist’s best albums.  So it could be worse, it could be better.  Quite frankly, I think that’s better for everyone involved.  The album will be a pleasant, semi-forgettable footnote in each of these guys already-storied careers.

I’m thrilled to announce, though, that the live experience is far from forgettable.  It was one of those ‘experience’ shows.  One that two fans will be able to have a great conversation about in 3 years.  “Oh, you saw THAT tour?!”  Look, the whole project is, as I noted, a dream for the fans.  But the live show is where that dream is fully realized.  It’s rare that you get a concert with such a variety of emotion.  There were tender moments, there were dark moments, there were explosive moments – almost all of the latter courtesy of Jim James, My Morning Jacket’s captain and one of the most exciting men in rock and roll.  I won’t lie, I was there for Jim James.  That there were a noticeable amount of MMJ fans really brought me back to the sweaty, glorious, baptisms of the Jacket shows.

However, just because I’m a MMJ fanboy, does not mean I was distracted from the very real talent on stage with James.  I had always been a casual follower of Oberst’s work, but had shied away from the live show for fear that he would be a bore on stage.  This, I found out, is not true.  Oberst is most likely one of these guys who’s painfully shy in person, but uses the live show to erupt into the big personality he secretly wants to be.  Either way, it’s clear that both he and his songs were born to be on stage.


(I’ve always desperately wanted this guitar.)

If James and Oberst were the personalities, then Ward and Moggis were the talent.  Each man played every instrument (except drums), but only Ward and Moggis seemed comfortable on anything other than a guitar.  Now, Moggis – whom I actually met before the show, and was incredibly gracious – has made his name by on musical versatility, and is no stranger to almost any instrument with strings.  However, while I always knew that Ward ripped on the guitar, I had no idea he was confident on bass, keys, and pedal steel.  The two men were very impressive, and I’m sure gained a slew of new fans by night’s end.

The MOF show was my first in which the cast on stage differs from song to song.  For instance, Oberst and Moggis performed an assured “We are Nowhere and it’s Now”, only to be followed by two solo M. Ward outings, only to be followed by the full cast performing James’ “Golden” in all of its luster.  If nothing else, the boys succeeded in their attempts to create a modern version of Dylan’s famed “Rolling Thunder Revue” tour, which popularized the rotating cast approach in the mid 70’s.  It was palpable that the boys were living their own version of a rock dream, and the Dylan allusion must have been the cherry on top.  Unfortunately, their sound is probably more akin to the Travelling Wilbury’s – another piece of the Dylan mythology – than the dusty war-cry of the “Revue”.

Lastly, I want to say a little something about the venue.  Too many young, broke, rock fans – myself included – get too comfortable seeing shows in gyms, basements, and other less-than-dapper establishments.  I have a message for all of them: take the hit, drop some bills, and see a show in a classy, upscale venue – much like the Philadelphia Academy of Music.  There’s just something about venues like this – with the their velvet, high ceilings, and chandeliers – that create a sense of intimacy you can’t find in a normal, standing room.  They make you feel entitled, which, whether you are or not, makes the show that much more enjoyable.  Plus, there’s something undeniably awesome about rocking out in the same seat as a half-dead octogenarian the following night.

gallery_enlarged-_mg_1737*photos courtesy of stereogum

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