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The Hiatus

After 12 plus years of posting nearly every day, my work life has caught up to me.

So I’m taking a little hiatus until September.  It is my plan to backfill all of these days, as I do have things to post about.

I just don’t have time to post them.  Let’s hope my memory will allow for the scintillating posts I’ve come to expect from myself.

Enjoy the summer.  I know I will.

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[ATTENDED: June 26, 2019] Infinity Shred

I had not heard of Infinity Shred before this show although it seemed like many people were very excited they were opening.

If you look up Infinity Shred you will find a few genres associated with them: electronic, dance, post-rock.  I saw synthwave and chiptune as describers as well.

I don’t know the last two, but I think they all do a good job of describing this band (although synthwave is pretty amorphous, honestly).

Basically the band is a trio from New York.  Clara Warnaar plays drums.  I was standing in front of guitarist Nathan Ritholz and on the other side of the stage was keyboardist Damon Hardjowirogo.

In addition to their instruments, they also had three bright LED panels.  These panels were synchronized to flash red white or blue.  They each lit up a member of the band (with the drummer’s inside her bass drum.  I assumed they were programmed along with some of the sounds?

Damon introduced the band but his mic wasn’t working so he just shouted.  The band began, the lights started flashing and off they went. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: June 26, 2019] Frost Giant

Can you be epic in a tiny space?

If you are Philadelphia’s Frost Giant, the answer is hell yes!

I was supposed to see Frost Giant play with Arkona and Korpiklaani at the TLA, but the promoters put Frost Giant on before the start time of 8PM (!) and I missed their set entirely.

I have wanted to check them out, so when they were listed as playing the Foundry with Astronoid, I figured I’d go.  Even though I didn’t yet know Astronoid.

So I arrived early (just in case) and took my place in front of the stage when the band came out.

I was delighted by Armen Koroghlian’s intense drum kit and Matti Frost’s look.  And then I was impressed by their power.

The band played four songs, starting with the almost lead off track from their new album The Harlot Star. Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-“Here Come the Wolves” (2019).

This is the first new officially released Rheostatics song in 15 years.  And it’s a doozy. A six and a half minute epic with a few different parts and styles within.

I’ve heard this song on a few of the the recent RheostatcisLive recordings, but this studio version explores depth and detail in a way that the live version could not.  And it’s really fantastic.

The video is also cool because it shows guitarist/singer Martin Tielli in a timelapse video finishing the cover art.

Starting with a menacing riff including Hugh Marsh on violin (and some interesting whoos! in the distance), the chorus opens the song.  Then comes a stomping series of catchy verses.

After 2 and a half minutes, the song slows down and Martin picks up a quietly sung middle section.  He sings over some eerie violins and keys before the guitars slowly build.  Quietly picked acoustic guitar flesh out the song as Martin continues.

After two minutes of this quieter section, it picks up again with a piano-based version of the melody.  This takes on a more uplifting feel as Martin sings in his whispered vocals.

The song has a nice climax and then a short denouement.

It’s nowhere near as weird as some of my favorite songs by them, although it is far from a guaranteed radio hit.  Nevertheless it is pure Rheostatics, and I love it.

I’m delighted to have them back making new music and holy cow, if I have to go to Toronto to see them play live, so be it.

[READ: June 24, 2019] “Back Then”

This is a story of a woman looking back on her burgeoning adulthood.

In the summers she and her family would go to a lake (in Ohio).  The story begins with them watching the Perseids.  She and her sister wanted to go down to the lake to see them fall into the water, but her mom always said no.

The story is full of sweet details–her sister peeing behind the furnace in her grandmother’s room, walking in flip-flops to buy the paper for their dad, the goat in the neighbor’s yard, even the trailer park.  They had enforced lunch and “quiet time.”  Quiet time was supposedly to prevent them from getting cramps, but it was really just for their mom to have some peace.  And how the last day always brought a double feeling of wanting to stay forever and wanting to go home. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: June 21, 2019] Dido

I bought these tickets back in November thinking “Dido is playing Union Transfer?” and then, “What happened to Dido?”  I didn’t realize that she had released some albums in the intervening years. I was vaguely aware of her 2008 release but missed the 2013 release entirely.   I also see that she hasn’t toured the states in FIFTEEN years.  In 2004 she played the Tower Theatre but in 2001 she headlined the Tweeter Center.  Remember Tweeter?

So that explains the small venue.  It also explains why it sold out.

Almost all of my familiarity with Dido comes from S.  When we first started dating she played No Angel a lot and I found I rather enjoyed it–a relaxing soundtrack on a summer day.  When I received the tickets for this show, it came wit a copy of her new CD.  We listened to it and I found it pleasant but somewhat unremarkable.  I assumed the show would be the same–an enjoyable, chill evening.

Boy howdy was I wrong.  It’s as if everything on the CD was made for chilling out, but the show was made for dancing.  She had a five piece band behind her and they were fantastic.  With much appreciation to the percussionist Jody Linscott who was freaking amazing and Adam Falkner on drums who played really loud and hard and kept the songs really moving.

The other amazing thing was Dido’s herself.  She has a lovely voice–always has.  On record it’s quite subdued.  But live, she belted out notes, sang passionately and was totally engaging as a performer.  She walked around the stage.  She sat down right in front of us for a song (shame we were behind the two tallest people there), she smiled all the time–a genuine smile that showed how much she appreciated us coming out to see her.  And she was quite funny, too.

One other thing about the show was that it felt stadium-ready.  It felt and sounded like a huge arena show (the sound was amazing, unlike a typical arena sound), and yet it was clearly presented for a smallish club.  She could easily have taken this setup and spread it out to fill a much larger space.  And the music would have filled in the gaps.  But thankfully, she aimed small, and we were only six or seven people from the stage.

I found myself really enjoying the newer songs that I didn’t know very well.  She sang so powerfully that each song sounded urgent and demanded attention.  I assumed I’d only record clips from the older songs that I knew already, but many of these songs I found that by the second chorus I wanted to save them.

The band opened the show with an instrumental jam.  Almost like an orchestra tuning up, except that it was a just a rocking introduction.  I have no idea if it was a song or what, but it was pretty rousing.  Jamie Norton was on keys way in the back of the stage,  He was making some terrific sounds (when Jody Linscott wasn’t doing them, of course).  On bass was Jimmy Sims.  I assume that she brought him along specifically because he is about 8 feet tall and when he claps his hands above his head, everyone can see him so they clap along.   Jimmy was the only one I could get a half way decent picture of.

After they jammed for a minute or two, Dido came out.  She was sweet and gracious and began with “Hurricanes,” the opening song from her new album.  “Hurricanes” opens quietly.  Dido sounded great.  S. and I both marveled at how good her voice sounded.  I assumed that the whole show would stay in this kind of pretty, lovely vein.  And then, mid way through the song, it just took off, with Dido belting out lyrics.

I was really impressed and looked forward to what was coming next.

She played acoustic guitar for a number of songs, but not all of them.

Well, next up she made good use of the screens behind her, showing videos of fire for the song “Hell After This.”      I did mentally compare this to the Slayer show as they also had fire with a song about Hell.  But it was quite different.

After the two new songs she moved through her older albums.  She played “Life for Rent,“a song I didn’t know.  But I was so impressed at her delivery, that I had to record a few seconds of it.

I had assumed that all of the songs off of No Angel would be set enders, but she scattered the four tracks throughout the set.  First up was “Hunter” (I had no idea that’s what the name was).  I was so impressed that it sounded so much like the record and yet also sounded so much better than the record.  Her voice was so powerful on this track and the live band was excellent–filling the club with music–but I never had to put in earplugs (and I’ll put them in at the first sign of things being too loud).

Back to Jody Linscott.  She was a whirlwind behind the percussion.  And her instruments fleshed out the songs in wonderful ways.  Whether it was constant bongos or congas, the giant elevated bass drums that she pounded out.  Or the delicate tumbling gravel sound that she somehow made with a drum.  She also had this fascinating thing that looked like a fan or a mag tire from a bike. She spun it and hit the tines for sounds and then drummed on it as well.  She had shakers and maracas and chimes and ever so much.  She even had a brief drum off with Falkner during one of the instrumental sections.  She was awesome.

I also liked the imagery she used for the song “Grafton Street” (left).

She chatted between songs in a very self-deprecating way.  She was also very funny asking if anyone had had a vacation romance.  A few people raised their hands and she chatted with a fellow who talked about his–five days long.  She said that was perfect.  She also said that many other countries (Germany in particular) don’t like to admit it.  But in England, that’s what vacations are for!  The delightful “Sand in My Shoes” was a song about a vacation romance.  She then said that it should be followed by the inevitable breakup song, “Give You Up.”

And then she surprised me even more by playing what I was sure would be the encore, “Thank You.”   As with the other songs, it sounded better than the record–bigger, more impassioned and really full.  It was terrific.  And of course, everyone sang along.  Guitarist Pete Rinaldi was on stage for most of the songs, including playing the beautiful acoustic guitar on “Thank You.”

When she played the lovely, quiet, “Sitting on the Roof of the World,” she came over to our side of the stage and sat down.  It’s then that we realized just how close we were (about four or five people back).  It was hard to see her clearly behind the two mountain men, but I did get this cool picture and could certainly hear her perfectly.  I later saw that Rinaldi sat sown in front of the other side of the stage (which was probably less exciting–no offense).

After the quiet “Quiet Times,” she returned to No Angel for a terrific version of “Here With Me” (the theme from Roswell).

Before the song “See You When You’re Forty” she joked that that seemed like the ultimate kiss-off when she wrote it.  Now (she’s 47) she’d like to change it to “See You When You’re 90.”  Although she did sing it as 40.

“Mad Love” was a new song which flashed some words on the screen for us to sing along.  She also joked that “Take You Home” was the easiest song to sing along to since the looping vocals is a simple “la la la.”

She ended the set with a rousing version of “Take My Hand,” from No Angel.  I listened to the song again on  the record and once again I was struck by how pleasant it is.  But live, it really rocked.  She and the Jimmy and Pete even did some pogoing to it at the end (mid 40’s pogoing, but still).  It just sounded so much bigger and more fun that the record.  And I think that’s what a live show should do.

She left for the encore and S. said she really didn’t know what else Dido could play.  And no, she didn’t play “Stan,” thankfully.

She came back and played a quiet song with just the keys called “Have to Stay.”  She introduced it by saying that she took time off because she had a kid.  And she swore she’d never write a song about how great it is to be a mum.  But then she did.  It was really sweet.

A number of people behind me were shouting for “Closer” a hidden track from her 2003 record.  Since I don’t know many of her songs I assumed she’d play it.  But when she said it was the last song a guy up front said “White Flag.”  She looked at him and said, “we were going to play something entirely different, but for you we’ll play this” to much laughter from everyone.

S. had turned round to talk to me and while she was doing so a guy sneaked in front of her.  He was so excited to sing along to “White Flag” to raise his fist up and be close to Dido that we didn’t mind the sneaky move.   That’s the kind of person you want to see up front.

We both came away from the show thrilled and exhilarated.   I certainly never expected the show to be that much fun or that impressive and S. said it was probably the best show she;s seen this year.

Great job Dido and thanks for coming back on tour.

SETLIST

  1. Hurricanes §
  2. Hell After This §
  3. Life for Rent £
  4. Hunter
  5. No Freedom
  6. Grafton Street ♥
  7. Sand in My Shoes £
  8. Give You Up §
  9. Thank You
  10. Friends §
  11. Sitting on the Roof of the World
  12. Quiet Times ♥
  13. Here With Me
  14. See You When You’re 40 £
  15. Mad Love §
  16. End of Night
  17. Take You Home §
  18. Take My Hand
    encore
  19. Have to Stay §
  20. White Flag £

⊗ No Angel (1999)
£ Life for Rent (2003)
Safe Trip Home (2008)
⇒ Girl Who Got Away (2013)
§ Still on My Mind (2019)

[ATTENDED:  June 21, 2019] Jack Savoretti

I bought these tickets for Dido back in November!  There was no mention of an opening act until recently.

I had not heard of Jack Savoretti.  I looked him up and saw that he was English solo acoustic singer of Italian descent.  His song “Candlelight” peaked at #70 in the UK Charts in 2019.

I assumed he’d be a solo folk singer.  But he had a full band with him.

Jack has a gruff voice–but not too gruff, S. informed me.  I rather liked him.  His songs were catchy and thoughtful.  Although honestly it was all kind of forgettable.

But my first thought was that he must certainly appeal to the hypothetical “woman of a certain age.”  He is in his 30s, handsome, rugged-sounding.  And he’s a family man.  I just imagined women throwing their knickers at him in Vegas someday.  Actually I suppose women don’t do that anymore, so whatever the 21st century equivalent is.  There were actually two drunk British women of a certain age behind us and when he came out they started yelling, “hey there, Jackie boy!”  They apparently also almost got into  fight with some one. Continue Reading »

  SOUNDTRACK: FOXING-Tiny Desk Concert #857 (June 12, 2019).

I saw Foxing live and they were quite different from their recorded output–louder, more intense, a very physical band.  I was curious if they would sound more like their records or more like their live selves.

They have chosen the album sound–quieter, more subtle with gorgeous orchestration.

But I wasn’t the only one to wonder this.

When we invited Foxing to NPR HQ, we wondered how the band’s big sound would translate to such a (forgive us) tiny space. Would Foxing bring a bagpiper to recreate the shrill accent it snuck onto its latest album, 2018’s Nearer My God, or try to replicate the cathartic energy of its live shows over the hum of computers and fluorescent lights?

I didn’t realize that Foxing was

at the forefront of what’s referred to as “emo revival,” a term for today’s crop of bands heavily influenced by late-’90s and early 2000s groups… But with each new LP, Foxing’s ambitions reach beyond the genre’s boundaries, incorporating broader inspiration.

When I saw them, the show was dominated by singer Conor Murphy and guitarist Eric Hudson.  Interestingly, Hudson is on keys for this set.  Caeleigh Featherstone was on keys for my show.  She is on keys here, but her backing vocals are far more prominent here.

For this performance, Foxing expanded its numbers, bringing a saxophonist (Jordan Pettay) and a couple of string players (Gabriel Valle: violin; Nathan Sander: viola) to accompany the band’s touring lineup — and somehow, we managed to fit everyone behind Bob Boilen’s desk.

The first song, “Slapstick” features Conor’s falsetto and Caeleigh’s backing vocals.  Hudson plays the single wobbly notes that float behind the vocals. The strings are quiet but fill in the silences really nicely.  I love the gentle repeating guitar solo that Ricky Sampson plays through the middle.  Sampson plays bass throughout the rest of the show and Brett Torrence plays it on this song.  That sax solo at the end adds a nice touch to the emotional ending.

For its Tiny Desk, Foxing spotlighted three standout tracks from Nearer My God. The quieter instrumentation pushed singer Conor Murphy’s starkly confessional lyrics and shattering delivery to the forefront, especially on the set’s opening song, “Slapstick.”

And even with minimal amplification, the swelling chorus of the title cut “Nearer My God” is just as impressive as performed during the band’s explosive concerts.

“Nearer My God” accentuates Murphy’s falsetto even further and the harmonies sound truly wonderful.  The opening is quiet but it builds really nicely to the middle section which features great drums from the almost never on camera Jon Hellwig.

The set ends with “Grand Paradise” the song that I think makes them sound most like TV on the Radio.  It’s terrific the way the music counterpoints the vocals. The end section of the song just overwhelms with impassioned vocals.  The ending sax solo is pretty cool too although there’ s a nice bass riff around 11 minutes and we don’t get to see Ricky do it.

This is a great set, although I have a little question over the filming–too much attention to the strings and not enough to the rest of the band.

[READ: June 5, 2019] “Conduction”

This is an incredibly powerful story of slavery and freedom.

The story opens with Hiram Walker departing Virginia.  He is a slave with fake papers and a route to freedom.  The writing is excellent.  You can feel the tension, the fear and the sense that anything could go wrong at any second.  Slave catchers, known as Ryland’s Hounds, were at every turn.

He saw the men who were supposed to help him but he couldn’t make eye contact.  The conductor looked at his false ticket which stated that he had recently purchased his freedom.  The conductor didn’t care and he was allowed on.

After two days, he met a contact whom he also did not know.  After one more silent ride, he was in a house in Philadelphia with members of the Underground.

He explains how he knew the white man who helped him as well as the black man named Raymond White who also helped him.  Raymond’s brother Otha was also there–he was more charming, more jovial than Raymond.

For the next few days he wandered the city of Philadelphia, a free man.  Unused to and somewhat unhappy with this new burden.  It was an unsettling feeling, one that carried great deal of responsibility. Continue Reading »