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Archive for November, 2017

SOUNDTRACKPHISH-Live Phish Downloads 12.7.97 Nutter Center, Dayton, OH (2007).

This concert included five covers out of a total of nineteen songs.

The show opens with a fairly slow “AC/DC Bag,” but there’s a seamless segue into an excellent cover of Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer” (only the second time they’d played it).  There’s some spacey sounds in the jam which then segues nicely into ZZ Top’s “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” a groovy blues.  The whole thing ends in a jaunty bluegrass “My Minds Got a Mind of Its Own.”

I have to admit at this point I’m pretty bummed by the setlist.  The songs are all good and the jams are fun, but if I were at this show I’d want to some actual Phish songs, you know?  I know a lot of people love the covers, but that’s not what I’m here for.

They rectify this with a fun “It’s Ice.”  There’s a lengthy piano solo and then the song segues into two deep cuts from Billy Breathes–a one minute “Swept Away” and then a one minute “Steep”–before closing “It’s Ice.”

Up next is a 10 minute “Theme from the Bottom” with a long solo and great harmonies at the end.  Then the band plays a great funky “Tube,” a non-album track with some great 70s sounding keyboards from Page.  After a pause (apparently the lights went out).  You can hear them chatting a bit and then they pick up a 6 minute instrumental called “Dayton Jam” that plays with the themes from “Tube.”

The set closes with a 12 minute “Slave to the Traffic Light.” There’s a great solo from Trey followed by a mellow section before coming to a good solid end.

Usually there’s a few really lengthy jams in the second set, but this upcoming set is full of mid-length songs.

It opens with a jam-filled 9 minute “Timber” and then a 7 minute “Wolfman’s Brother.”  This segues into yet another cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie on Reggae Woman” before settling into a fast-paced 14 minute “Reba,” the longest song of the night.  The solos in the song remind me a bit of Frank Zappa.  It’s really amazing how tight they are during these jams.

Before they begin the next song, you can hear Trey ask, “Guyute?” and they play a 10 minute jam with a really fun middle section.  The show ends with a 12 minute “Possum.”  So while there are no really super long jams, there are a number of pretty long jams.

The Encore is a great loose version of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.”  I love how they handle the end.  The classic chord progression that ends the song is done sort of like that but more just fun noisy chaos.

[READ: March 6, 2017] The Forbidden Stone

I really like Tony Abbott books. He has tackled many different stories and I’ve found that I haven’t been disappointed by anything he’s written.  This series, The Copernicus Legacy is in the vein of The 39 Clues, although there are plenty of differences.  But as an outline, the premise is the same–some kids (and an adult) are trying to save the world from bad guys by collecting a bunch of things that cannot fall into the wrong hands.

Whereas The 39 Clues divides the family into 4 warring clans, this series seems to be basically good guys and bad guys.  The good guys are inspired by Copernicus.  This works out well because the main family loves astronomy.

So the main family is Wade Kaplan and his father Roald Kaplan.  Wade follows in his father’s footsteps and loves the stars and science. Roald is re-married to Sara (who is on a business trip as the book opens).  Sara has a son named Darrell.  Darrell is hip and cool and plays guitar.  He is also always hungry (a trait that Abbott loves to have in at least one character, although I haven’t seen it as being very important yet–and it seems to fade as the book goes on). I assume that Roald is not Darrell’s father as well, but I got a little lost in the family tree.  The crux is that Wade and Darrell are stepbrothers–and they get along really well.  The rest of the crew includes Wade’s cousin Lily and her friend Becca.  Lily is a techie girl who is able to wield a smart phone like a librarian.  And then there’s Becca  who is, interesting. Wade has had a crush on Becca (who is super smart and can speak several languages because her parents traveled so much) for a long time.

Okay, so there’s five people.  How does the excitement start? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKPHISH-Live Phish Downloads 8.13.93 UNH Fieldhouse, Durham, NH (2007).

Despite the Phish tour ending in May, the picked up again just three months later.

“Lengthwise” starts of a capella.  Guitars slowly come in as washes and then “Llama” rocks out with some great blasts and a lengthy keyboard solo from Page.

“Makisupa Policeman” is fun with a few screams from Fish.  This version really highlights the reggae aspects.  There’s a trippy middle section with twinkling pianos that segues into a terrific version of “Foam.”

When it’s over you hear someone shout “Stash?” before they launch into a 12 minute “Stash.”  There’s some unusual soloing in the middle which Trey calls the “Friday the 13th” jam.  And then he introduces the “butt with protruding arms” (Fish) to play the washboard. It’s “Ginseng Sullivan” which was performed acoustic with Trey on acoustic guitar and Fish on “Madonna” washboard

Then comes a 15 minute “Fluffhead.”  It opens with some lovely acoustic guitars. Later during part of the jam they chant “just a bundle of joy” several times.

It’s followed by the short “My Mind’s Got a Mind of It’s Own” in a very honkey-tonk style.

It’s followed by a very pretty “Horn” that segues into a 20 minute “David Bowie.”  Fish starts the hi-hats while Trey plays a whole bunch of riffs first—like “My Favorite Things” and “Beat It.”  Trey also teases “The Mango Song” and “Magilla.”   The song starts properly about 4 minutes in.  The jam goes in all different direction, a slow section, then a fast and rocking jamming.  There’s some whistling and then a very jazzy hi-hat section.  The end is super fast with a wicked guitar solo.  It’s a great set-ender.

Set two opens with”Buried Alive,” a fast short song that segues into a lovely “Rift” and a relatively slow “Bathtub Gin.”  The bass is particularly chunky during “Gin” and then the song slows completely to give Mike a little funky slap bass action.  “Bathtub Gin” which runs to 15 minutes, includes, among other things, a “Weekapaug Groove” jam.  There’s a groovy keyboard solo with shouts of “Ole!”

There’s a bit of an awkward transition into “Ya Mar” but once they get going its smooth sailing especially when Trey shouts, “just Leo and the drums” and they break it down to just keys and drums. This segues into “Mike’s Song,” but Mike has fun by still singing “Ya Mar” and it seems to mess everyone up until they catch on and go with it.  The 12 minute “Mike’s Song” includes teases of Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold”

“Lifebuoy” is very pretty and there’s a brief “Oh Key Pah” before they launch in to a show ending “Suzy Greenberg.”  For an encore they do a very quiet (unmic’d) a capella “Amazing Grace.”  The notes say that the song was performed “without microphones and is inaudible on the DAT and cassette soundboards. To present the entire performance, an additional audience source provided by Kevin Shapiro and Judd Nudelman was used.”  Mostly you hear a lot of people SHHHHing (why do people whoop during quiet moments like this?). But they follow it with a rocking “Highway to Hell” (which sounds a lot like AC/DC’s version.)

The rest of the disc includes some soundcheck stuff.  A goofy version of “Love Me Two Times” with them trying to sound like Jim Morrison.  The 1 minute Indiana Sound check jam is fun.  And then the final track is nearly 9 minutes of them setting up the washboard for “Ginseng Sullivan.”  It’s interesting if you care about their recording process, but it’s tech more talk than music.

So this set list is pretty similar to the show in May.  There’s a lot if duplication.  And yet, according to the essay by Kevin Shapiro,

 Summer 1993 was a time when each show somehow surpassed the last.  This show is legendary among Phishheads based almost entirely on the second set!  Instantly famous for its mind-melting (or is it mind-melding?) Bathtub Gin > Ya Mar and Mike’s Song > Lifebuoy … The entire show is risky and magical in so many ways.   [It had] already been accepted as legendary and literally begs for release…. Without them, the catalog – some would even say the fan experience – is simply incomplete.

So that’s a pretty rave review.

[READ: June 5, 2017] Ich bin ein Anderer

This book (translated as I am an Other) was created by Walter Ego (great name) and is written in English (not Ego’s native langauge).

This is a collection of drawings and short essays all in praise of failure, inadequacy and unprofessionalism.

Ego draws simple stick figure line drawings and aphorisms to celebrate insecurity. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 28, 2017] St. Vincent

Two summers ago St. Vincent co-headlined XPNFest.  Our seats weren’t great but her show was spectacular.  I was bummed that it was a co-headline, because she played five fewer songs than for her other shows, but it was still incredible.  I knew I wanted to see her again.

And then she went into a kind of hiatus–she appeared doing a few things, but no tour.  And  then she came back with a whole new campaign–fear the future.  Gone was the curly white hair and in was a whole new look.  It was very day-glo and very sexy.  Right down to the album cover of a woman’s ass bent over with her front end shoved through a wall.

It was a stunning visual campaign, with Annie doing filmed “interviews” while the “crew” of women walked around with their breasts and asses cut out of their body suits.  There was clearly a message, although I’m not exactly sure what the message was.  Or is.

And then I learned that her new tour was going to be just her on her (newly designed) guitar with backing tracks.  While I didn’t doubt her ability to play to a backing track (I’ve seen her play amazingly with no backing at all), I was afraid it would lose some of the looseness that I’ve loved about her shows.   (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Live Phish Downloads 5.8.93 UNH Fieldhouse, Durham, NH (2007).

This concert was recorded on my birthday.  Although I wasn’t there (and wasn’t even really a fan at the time).  This is the last show of the tour, so they thank the crew and have a lot of fun with that.  This is a great 3 CD set because there’s a lot of strong bonus material at the end of disc 3.

The set opens with a rocking “Chalk Dust Torture” and segues into a really tight “GuelahPapyrus”—I love how they can start and stop in total synch.  There’s great harmonies on “Rift” and a perfect tempo-change into “Mound.”

Then comes a jamming 12 minute “Stash” with a lot of bass sections.  It segues into the delightfully bizarre “Kung” and then returns to “Stash” for another minute before switching to “Glide.”  “Glide” has more great harmonies with a very long pause (over a minute of silence, which gets the crowd excited) before ending the song. It’s followed by a great version of “My Friend, My Friend” that segues into a 13 minute Reba.”  Trey thanks the crew and everyone for the tour after which they play a very jazzy “Satin Doll.”

The first set ends with a blistering “Cavern.”

Set Two opens with a minute of “David Bowie” before Page turns it into a cover of The Allman Brothers’ “Jessica” (including a Simpsons’ “D’oh”).  “David Bowie” returns with a 10 minute jam–no solos, just the band rocking–before mellowing out into a reggae version of “Have Mercy” by The Mighty Diamonds.   That two-minute slow down is followed by a scorching soloing conclusion to “David Bowie.”

They take a kind of break with “The Horse,” an acoustic guitar piece for Trey (It’s very pretty and one of the few times I’ve heard him play acoustic).  It turns into a great “Silent in the Morning.”  There’s a nearly 10 minute “It’s Ice” in which each player really stands out—Mike’s bass, Fish’s drums, Page’s keys—everyone is highlighted in this quirky staccato version which segues perfectly into a 16 minute “Squirming Coil.”

There’s a great jam in this song with a lengthy piano solo.  The ending is wildly erratic and weird (and I suppose is technically a “Big Ball Jam”) as they continue to jam for a few extra minutes before launching into “Mike’s Song.”  Like “Bowie,” “Mike’s Song” is broken up to include a bluesy cover of “Crossroads” with lots of piano soloing.  It segues back into the end of “Mike’s Song” which doesn’t really sound like an end to the song.  But it’s followed by a pretty “I am Hydrogen” which launches into a great, funky bass roaring “Weekapaug Groove.”

Towards the end of “Groove,” Page stars playing “Amazing Grace and as it softens up, the band sings a quiet a capaella version of the song.  And then the launches into a jamming version to end the set.

The encore is a loose “AC/DC Bag” for a nice end to the tour.

The Bonus songs include “Shaggy Dog” from the 5/8/93 soundcheck. It’s just guitar and voices with good harmonies.

“Tweezer” and “Tela” come from 5/6/93 Palace Theatre – Albany, NY.  “Tweezer” is totally rocking and 19 minutes long.  There’s a bass-filled jam in the start and it gets dark and a little crazy in the middle.  It slows way down to just one drum and one bass note and then segues nicely into a very pretty “Tela.”

The final bonus track is a crazy 32 minute “You Enjoy Myself” from 5/5/93 Palace Theatre – Albany, NY.   It features special guests Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit as well as the Dude of Life.  There’s a funky middle section of 3 to 5 note motifs repeated.  There’s a lengthy bass solo—just Mike.  It segues into a series of descending riffs until more percussion comes in and someone (Dude?) is talking (incomprehensibly) into the microphone.  Then comes bongos and horns.  I believe there’s even a vacuum solo.  The end of the song has a jazzy scat sing along with the guitar and some rally heavy drums at the end.

On many of the discs, the bonus material is sort of interesting to have but on this one, the “Twezer,” “Tela” and YEM” are outstanding in and of themselves.

Here’s a longer essay about this show by Kevin Shapiro.

[READ: May 8, 2017] The Witch’s Vacuum Cleaner and Other Stories

It’s always weird to read posthumous stories, especially if you’ve been a fan of the author for years.  But like the previous collection Dragons at Crumbling Castle, this book collects stories from when Terry was a young lad (between 1966 and 1973) in the Children’s Circle of the Bucks Free Press. He says that they are as they were except that he tinkered here and there with a few details and added a few lines or notes, “just because I can.”

There are 13 stories in the book, and they explore variations on Pratchett’s themes like that the unfamiliar is not the enemy (necessarily) and that people can and often will be surprised by how others react to things.  He also has  a story idea that would blossom into the Carpet People stories later on.

“The Witch’s Vacuum Cleaner” (1970)
This begins with a great premise: “Uncle Ron Swimble, the magician, enjoyed performing at parties. He did lots of simple tricks and the kids enjoyed him.  But when he went to his most recent party, things went awry.  But in a way that the kids loved: when his hat fell off, three rabbits jumped out.  And when he bent over a flock of pigeons flew out from under his coat.  The kids were delighted.  But Ron was the most surprised because he had no rabbits or birds in his act.  Every time he moved his hands something vanished or appeared.  It was crazy.  Then they figured out that Uncle Ron had knocked over Mrs Riley’s vacuum cleaner.  And as all the kids knew (but the adults didn’t seem to ) Mrs Riley was a witch.  The resolution to this story was really delightful. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHOEBE BRIDGERS-Tiny Desk Concert #675 (November 27, 2017).

Phoebe Bridgers has an incredibly delicate voice.  And yet despite its delicacy it is also really powerful (as evidenced by the note she holds at the end of “Motion Sickness”).

I know the original of “Motion Sickness” which has a big raw guitar and a powerful chorus.  Her entire sound is stripped down here, with just pianist Ethan Gruska and violinist Rob Moose accompanying her on her quiet guitar.

Together, they celebrated the occasion with languid renditions of three of the album’s best songs: the sad and seductive “Demi Moore,” a drastically muted “Motion Sickness” and a piano-driven take on Bridgers’ first-ever single, “Killer.”

“Demi Moore” has some interesting synthy sounds accompanying Phoebe’s gentle guitar.  I really like the way the violin is playing somewhat unsettling notes rather than gentle accompaniment.  I cannot figure out what this has to do with Demi Moore, though.

As noted, “Motion Sickness” is very different.  It’s a little less catchy somehow (I really like the contrast of the guitars and her voice on the original).  But the song sounds really pretty this way (and I am charmed at the way she seems to be smiling throughout the song).

She describes “Killer” as being about murder.  It includes an unsettling conversations about Jeffrey Dahmer and Bridgers singing without her guitar.  It’s a stark piano song that really lets you hear how pretty her voice is.

I’m very curious to know what she typically sounds like live.

[READ: May 13, 2017] My Brilliant Friend

In what I thought was the final issue of The Believer (it went on hiatus for a couple of years), Nick Hornby says he really enjoyed My Brilliant Friend.  So I decided to check it out (since it’s part of a series and was compared tangentially to My Struggle, I decided to keep a running tally of pages just in case I decided to read all four of these books).

I haven’t read a ton of Italian writers, I gather.  And while that doesn’t really impact the quality of the story (or the translation by Ann Goldstein) the book does talk about locations that I’m pretty unfamiliar with.

Evidently there is intrigue about the identity of Elena Ferrante (the name is a pseudonym).  I didn’t know that until after I read the book and looked up to see how many more books there were.  Ferrante (I’ll go with she, because why not) has written four books in this series and three other books with out her identity being discovered.  I suppose the reason her identity is interesting is because this book seems to be autobiographical.  Of course what do you call an autobiography by a pseudonym? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAVID GREILSAMMER-Tiny Desk Concert #674 (November 24, 2017).

It has been quite a while since there has been a classical pianist on Tiny Desk.  I’m unfamiliar with the Israeli pianist David Greilsammer, but his playing is wonderful and his selections are quite fun and diverse.

For this Tiny Desk appearance, Greilsammer begins with his muse Domenico Scarlatti, the 18th-century Italian whose 500-some keyboard sonatas are compelling, colorful snapshots of his decades-long service to Spanish royalty. In the “Sonata in E, K. 380” you can hear a little street band processing along with trumpet fanfares.

Greilsammer describes the piece as sounding very contemporary.  Scarlatti lived 300 years ago and his music sounds ahead of its time.  He says it’s almost jazzy or pop-like harmonies.  He says it feels like he is playing a Beatles song.

Greilsammer follows by jumping ahead 175 years to the eccentric Frenchman Erik Satie, who not only owned seven identical gray velvet suits but, with a freewheeling spaciousness and humor in his music, is often thought of as the precursor to everything from minimalism to new age. His series of mysterious pieces called Gnossiennes strike a particularly sedate mood, capable of neutralizing any source of anxiety.

Greilsammer plays “Gnossienne No. 3” which he describes as full of pop and jazz and colors and harmonies.  He was writing these strange short pieces that at the time people in Paris didn’t understand.  Everybody loves Satie now but just over 100 years ago he was completely misunderstood.

I absolutely love the way the final notes ring out in this room–they are quite haunting

Lastly, Greilsammer takes a left turn to Leoš Janáček, the idiosyncratic Czech composer from the early 20th century, acclaimed for his operas. He set one of them on the moon; another, the dramatically taut and emotionally wrenching Jenůfa, is perhaps the most undervalued opera of a generation. But Janáček also wrote in smaller forms. His piano cycle On An Overgrown Path plays out like a diary of musings, nervous tics, simple pleasures and mysteries. Within the claustrophobic tension that pervades “The Barn Owl Has Not Flown Away,” you can hear the rustling of wings and the repeated four-note bird call.

Greilsammer says that Janáček lived in the Romantic period and all of his music is enigmatic, with many secretive things.  He wrote things related to dreams and wild scenes with things obsessively haunting him.  In “The Barn Owl Has Not Flown Away” (from On An Overgrown Path) the theme of the owl comes back many times.  Every time you try to get away from it, it comes back.

For Greilsammer, who recently performed in a working crypt in Harlem, threading these disparate musical fabrics together comes as naturally as, well, playing behind a desk in an office building.

These are some really beautiful and nicely unexpected pieces.

[READ: May 31, 2017] Audubon

I have really enjoyed most of the French graphic novels that come across my desk.  This book, translated by Etienne Gilfillan, is no exception.

It is a biographical sketch of John James Audubon (born Jean-Jacques Audubon in Haiti in 1785).  His story, aside from the whole birding aspect, is quite fascinating in itself. He was an illegitimate child (his father has seduced a servant) who was eventuality adopted by his father (!) and called Forgèére (which means fern).  His father wanted him to escape military conscription, so the boy was sent to Mill Grove in he United States in 1803.  He became a US citizen and there met his wife Lucy Bakewell.

The book actually begins in 1820 with Audubon and two other men sailing on the Mississippi river.  They hit bad weather but all he cares about are his drawings.

Then we jump back to 1812 in Kentucky.  Audubon climbs into a tree to study the swallows who are living in it–some 9,000. He took home more than 100 birds to study them.  And then he tagged some others to study their migratory patterns.

As the end of the book points out, Audubon was one of the world’s greatest naturalists who did a lot for birding. Except he was also responsible for the death of thousands of birds.  There’s a section where he kills two ivory billed woodpeckers.  He is so excited at his luck because they are becoming a rarity. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PINEGROVE-“Intrepid” (2017).

Pinegrove frontman Evan Stephens Hall just announced that, because of indiscretions, he was cancelling the band’s winter tour.  I had tickets to two of these shows, so that’s certainly a bummer.

I can only hope that whatever the details of his trouble, he can work it out amiably, get the help he needs and get back on the road in a better place.

Before this all happened, the band released their first new single since Cardinal took off.  “Intrepid” opens with a quietly strummed guitar and Hall singing quietly, including an unexpected falsetto note.  The song threatens to get big and loud but then seems like it might just end.

But after a minute and a half the rocking guitars and backing vocals come in and the song lifts off.  It strikes me as far less catchy than anything they’ve done so far, but it feels a lot more complex, as well.

The end of the song drops in volume, with one more little rocking guitar part before it fades out quietly with the same part that sounded like the end earlier.

It’s really well crafted.

[READ: May 7, 2017] Dark Shadows

This fourth book is once again Illustrated by Stephen Gilpin.  It also has an introduction by J.J. the search and rescue dog whose current civilian job is to look after the Chicken Squad.  I would love to see what the humans think of these chickens acting this way, I think that would be a very funny insight.  But maybe it’s best if it’s left unknown.

The family, including J.J. and the chickens are in the car going to a farm to “See things you’ve never seen before.”  Sugar says she has seen everything there is to see.  J.J. counters that she has never been out of the backyard.

Their mom, Moosh, explains that this will be a family reunion–they’ll meet all of their aunts, uncle and cousins.  And when they arrives there are hundreds and everyone expects them to lean all of their cousins’ names. (more…)

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