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Archive for the ‘Film & TV’ Category

 SOUNDTRACK: JIDENNA-Tiny Desk Concert #645 (September 5, 2017).

I had never heard of Jidenna despite all of his apparent hits.  I was rather turned off by the initial song, “Trampoline.”  The chorus of “Bounce Bounce Bounce like a trampoline” was dumb enough and the music was cheesy enough that I didn’t like this at all. Although the lyric “the lady ain’t a tramp just coz she bounce up and down like a trampoline” is at least female positive.

So who is this guy?

MC Jidenna is Nigerian-American: he rocks thrift-wear tailored to a T.  Jidenna and his band recently visited NPR to perform three reworked selections from The Chief–A tribute to his father, a Nigerian chief, the record is peppered with African rhythms and themes.  They excitedly explored every nook and cranny of the Tiny Desk in search of props, eventually settling on a toy, the magic microphone, a tambourine and a bottle of whiskey.

But then he said some eloquent words about NPR–“a beacon of light of information in this information age,” and I was impressed that it wasn’t just all bouncing asses.

For then he began”Long Live the Chief.”  This rap song has some great sounding rough guitars.  His delivery is sharp and fast and the lyrics are fantastic. But its the music that really won me over–the sound of the guitars, the unexpected rhythm and some great drumming.  It was like a 180 degree turn.

But I love these lines:

Ridin’ for my niggas gettin’ locked up in the slammer
Elders saying everything’s a nail to a hammer
And niggas can’t spell but we know our Instagrammar
Well done’s better than well said
I read niggas well, a nigga well read
Really I ain’t met nobody smarter
That’s why I got admitted but I still rejected Harvard
I’m the fresh prince, in a school where they couldn’t read
Mama put me in a school with the Kennedys
When I met Bill Clinton I was seventeen
But dead presidents is all my niggas need
Dining with the governor’s daughter
And her father say I remind him of Obama
I’m the chief diplomat, every day
And I’m black and white, Janelle Monae

And then in another 180 degree turn (but not full circle, more like 180 degrees in the opposite direction) came “Bambi.”  This is a gentle lullaby–a sweet song to a lost a love.

The women among the tribe
They will be jealous of this lullaby
I’ll drink alone in my hotel and cry
‘Cause now they know you are love of my life

It sounds like a sweet reggae song or a proper doo-wop 50s song.  he seems to have a Jamaican accent (or is that a Nigerian accent?) as he sings the chorus “Bahm-bee.”

I really can’t get over the diversity of these three songs.  And by the end, his charm really impressed me (although i still don’t like “Trampoline.”

[READ: October 1, 2016] Ms Marvel: Crushed

This book collects books 12-15 of the Ms. Marvel series and includes a bonus of S.H.I.E.L.D. #2.

There’s yet another crossover moment in this book because we start book 12 in the Kingdom of Asgard where Loki, who is apparently a good guy now? is punished for his bad idea and is sent to earth to help out Ms Marvel.

I love how Loki flairs to blend in on earth and is called a hipster viking dude.  This first story is light-hearted because Kamala’s friend Bruno admits out loud (but Kamala does not hear) that he is crazy about her.  He even asks her to the dance but in such a lame way that she thinks he is joking.

Loki overhears this and decides to write her a love letter instead.  It is over the top and outrageous and Kamala thinks it is from a crazy stalker.  But she is still curious to see who it is so she goes to the Valentine’s Day dance. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: September 13, 2017] Believe Me

When I saw that Eddie Izzard had a book out I was pretty interested to read it.  I have loved his stand-up since 1997 or 1998 and I was lucky enough to see him on his Circle Tour (on the date they recorded it!).  I have been keeping up with his career and trying to see him in whatever he does (although I like my comedy more than drama and he has certainly made the shift towards drama in recent years).

I thought an autobiography or memoir by him would be pretty interesting (even if he claims to be boring).  But when I saw that he read the audiobook, I knew I had to give it a listen (even if it was 12 discs)!

Amusingly, there was a long delay at the library.  The lady at the counter (who is not the librarian–we librarians know the difference) said if I knew his voice, I could just read the book to myself in his voice.  It was an amusing thought, and I possibly could do that, ….yes, but Eddie’s voice is just so fantastic that it never would have worked properly.  Plus, he throws in easily an extra hours worth of footnotes and rambles that aren’t in the print book!  That’s right, an extra hour’s worth of nonsense if you do the audio.   True you don;t get to see the pictures, but it’s a fair trade-off.

Well the book finally came in and I had plenty of driving time to make short work of this 12 hours behemoth.  And I laughed and laughed.  And cried and cried.

Because while Eddie Izzard is an action transvestite (transgender, now) and one of the best stand-ups around, he is also an extremely warm and thoughtful person. He worked very hard to become the success he is.  And he has used his fame to do some absolutely wonderful things for humanity–including raising millions of dollars.  Not bad for an atheist who is sometimes in girl mode and sometimes in boy mode. (more…)

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instruct SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Record Body Rheos Day#6, Toronto, ON (November 12, 2001).

Sometimes you would go see Rheos and they would play a show packed with rarely played songs. This is one of those shows – The Woods Are Full Of Cuckoos, SRBM, Onilley’s, Jesus Was Once A Teenager Too, Public Square, Halloween Eyes, Satan Is The Whistler, PROD, Martin’s First Day Of School, Home Again…a treasure trove for hardcore fans. This was night 6 of Winter Nationals 2001 aka Record Body Rheos.

This is the only show remaining in 2001.  It is also only the second show of this run available on RheostaticsLive.

The recording of this show is spectacular—loud and very clear soundboard recording.  It features Michael Phillip Wojewoda on drums–the band’s final drummer before their dissolution in 2007.

Dave as always is very chatty: “Is it the first night for a lot of you folks here?  Oh you’ve been here before?  Cool.  We mixed it up for you tonight.  We got a lot of stuff we haven’t played over the last 4 or 5 nights.

Mike says, “A lot of stuff I haven’t played.”  Apropos of nothing Martin says, “We’re going to play a new song called ‘Couscous.'”  [They don’t].

The show starts with “The Midnight Ride Of Red Dog Ray.”  I’d always assumed this song was by Stompin’ Tom, but in fact it was by Washboard Hank Fisher.  The songs sounds sounds big and full–much louder than other versions of this song.  Tim has lots of backing vocals: “riiiiide” “Raaaaaay.”  Dave rolls his rs in the last chorus.  It ends and Dave asks “That wasn’t too hard was it, Mike?”

Dave says, “we’ll stay in Ontario for this next number.”  It’s a nice, spare version of “Christopher.”  I like when Martin is singing “we used to take trips,” he plays the melody on the guitar the same notes.  And when he “setters” ‘trips’ a second time he plays the guitar note as well.  They have a really hard time with “The Woods Are Full Of Cuckoos.”  They play it twice way too fast for Tim to sing.  The guitar in the beginning feels way too fast even if you don’t know the song.  Tim says, “Hey this is way too fast.”  Martin agrees: “Bit of a wrist twister.”  Tim: “I only go so fat.”  They try again, Martin slows down but the drums are the problem.  It’s pretty much the same tempo.  Then MPW gets it right and Tim does a good job—it’s still a pretty fast song.   During the end part they mess up that final riff, but they do manage it after another try.

Martin jokes: “The woods are full of caca” (chukcle).

Tim says, “Speaking of that band, Gordon Cummings’ new band Precious Little is playing with us this week.”  He asks when and Dave says “It’s in the paper, Tim.”  Tim: “‘I don’t subscribe to such things.”

A fan says something and Dave replies, “I’m not smoking.  My playing is pretty hot, but I’m not smoking, sir.”  He then tells a story about playing hockey at 2PM at the Annual Green Sprouts Game.  He says he normally wears full pads, but this time he wore pants and water got all over him–it looked like I peed myself.  Tim: “remember that gig in Victoria when you actually peed yourself?”  Dave says something about a toilet and then says “And you were drawing it in your sketchbook.”

Martin has his new robotic voice synthesizer and speaks “SUPERdifficult.”  It’s fun to hear this song after so much time in the mid-1990s.

Dave: “I sense that you are a loud crowd.  Sometimes smaller bodies of people should be louder”
Martin: “The example of the Belizian howler monkey–small body, loud sound.”
Dave: “Any howler monkeys here tonight?”

They thank the opening acts: Some Guy with a Guitar (is that the guy’s name or are they joking about who it is?  I can’t find anyone with that name).  And The Keep On Keepin’ Ons  they should lose that Dave Love guy he’s gonna destroy them if he doesn’t destroy himself.  [Can’t find anything out about him either].

Martin introduces “PIN”:  “This is a song about stuff that goes like this.”  But for “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine” Dave says, it’s a song from The Blue Hysteria which we recorded in 1996.”
Martin: “Really eh?  This is song about probiscis monkeys and how good they are at sweeming…swimming.”
When they start there’s a terrible flat note on bass.
Martin says, “No, no, its not gong to be that interesting.”
Dave: “I mean how many fucking songs do we have to have about proboscis monkeys who swim?  Shit.”
Tim: “Martin, can you stretch a little?”
Martin: “All my songs are about apes.”  Fan: “What about ‘That’s How They Do It in Warsaw’?”  Martin: “Polish apes.  It’s about a zoo I visited there in the elate 60s.  Zoos at the at the time, ooh la la.
Before this gets out of han Dave says “Let’s go capo monkey.”
When Martin gets to the “sweetest ass” part he chimes in: “all red and blue and such.”

When the song ends, Martin says “Archie” in Edith’s voice (why he is talking about All in the Family I have no idea).  Dave says, “All I could think of the tragedy in the towers.  (this show is just a couple months after 9/11) Archie Bunker lived in Queens and when they showed the footage of the plane wreckage all the houses looked like Archie Bunker’s house.”  Martin: “704 Hauser Street.”  Dave: “Alright Tim [Mech], atta boy.  Pretty good to have a guy feeding you lines in the wings.”
Tim: “No more monkey jokes, Tim.”
Martin: “Yeah, cool it on the ape shit.”

While they’re bantering, someone says, “That last song was really fucking good.  Dave: “Thank you, sir.”

This next song [“Mumbletypeg”] is dedicated to Tim’s tie.  Dave says that Night of the Shooting Stars is out in a couple weeks.  The album cover is a cross between Spinal Tap, Charlie’s Angel’s and Metallica’s black album.  And it sounds like a cross between those three things.
Martin: “Precisely.  With nothing else.”
Mike: “As a total marketing move the last night of our run here is the night of the shooting stars.  So everyone should go up north and watch the Leonids
Martin: “When does the meteor shower start, Mike?”
Mike: “Well 4 in the morning. Until the 18th”
Dave: “We should probably end the night with a processional chant of LEE-OH-NiD.”
Mike: “With flutes and a bus.”
Martin: “The flute bus!”
Dave: “The flute bus, I think The Medieval Babes have it.  They did beautiful older music but they added a sexy edge to it.”

They play another song from NotSS called “Reward”: “We’re gonna do a song we did last night but it didn’t turn out to good, so we’re going to try it again for you. No, No, for us.  For the greater good. We are true artists.”

“Oneilly’s Strange Dream” sounds so much like “Saskatchewan” in parts.   Those three harmonica notes before the solo are just like in “Claire.”  Dave seems to fill in on some of the words if Martin forgets them.  The end of the song has a really noisy section of chaotic chords and drums.  Martin ends the song with the lyrics from the first verse instead of the final verse.  Dave rescues the song and Martin finishes it.

Tim: All we did was smoke pot in the Bahamas when we recorded that album.  Sorry about that.

Dave tells a very long story about he Bahamas that is very funny (drinking, missing planes, throwing up).

This leads to a mellow, almost acoustic “Jesus.”  Martin messes up a lyric and Dave feeds him a line, so he continues.

Dave: “Pretty great fun for a Monday night for us.  We’re usually at home watching Golden Girls by this time.

They go all the way back to their debut album for “Public Square,” a song they didn’t even play that much back then.

Someone shouts “Halloween Eyes.”  Dave: Halloween has passed, ma’am.”  But they play it anyhow. Really goofy.  They don’t play it much at all: “Don’t look at me with your Halloween eyes.  Don’t hit me with your pumpkin pies.  Devils got horns devils got a tail.  666 gonna fuck you up.  Some even say that he’s got scales. 666 you’re a sitting duck.”  Dave: “They actually really were stones when they wrote that.”

This next song [Bad Time to be Poor] is dedicated to the retirement of Mike Harris [Harris was the 22nd Premier of Ontario from June 26, 1995 to April 14, 2002. He is most noted for the “Common Sense Revolution”, his Progressive Conservative government’s program of deficit reduction in combination with lower taxes and cuts to government spending].

“Satan is the Whistler” is sloppy but rocking with more of that robotic voice “he is the whistler.”

There’s an interesting surf guitar like opening to “Four Little Songs.”  The whole thing is crazy fun.  For Tim’s: “Lets go to France, beautiful France.”
I’m not sure who is singing Don’s part, but they stop “we should get these guy to sing that one.”

Huge creatures prowl the streets tonight
Moon and antlers set the sky alight

Martin: “These beast have antlers, perhaps they’re just moose.”  After the first attempt, Dave chides, “Wait that’s really terrible, hold on.”   They resume the middle part and then the audience sings along pretty well.  During the Neil Young part there’s some gentle jamming with funky bass from Tim.  Whoever sings it has a crazy voice.  They slow things down at the end for “and my brain goes….”  The sound goes slow and woozy.
When they stop that, Martin says, “This is the morning after” and they resume properly, except Dave sings “We drank all our beer and ate all our pizza.” at the end.  And then he introduces, “Drunk guy.  Drunk guy.  Thanks, Justin.”  Mike says, “Dave, I love it we your son gets up to sing with us.”

On his way out Martin says, “Rush never sleeps.”

Thanks to The Keep on Keepin’ Ons and the Poppy Salesman (this makes me think the guy with a guitar was Martin).

The encore starts with “CCYPA.”  Dave says this is the lead off track or the emphasis track about Canadian politics.  As the song ends, Martin says, “Pleased to meet ya.  Dave Love of Love Your Stuff Records.”

It’s followed by a wild “PROD.”  Dave: “Tim’s got the urge, we got the urge”  ….Tim gets a small bass solo.  Then “Let’s give the drums some space.” (a small solo).  And then they say goodbye.

They come back and Tim asks Martin for a few bars of “Martin’s First Day of School.”  “I’ve always liked that song.”  Martin: “The last time we played that was in 1992.”  Dave: “Not even.”

Martin: “Before the world changed.   Before the horrible events of Dave’s birthday.”  Dave’s birthday is September 11.  He said people were calling him up saying, “Dave, happy birthday.  What a tragic day, terrible day, your birthday.”

They end with “Home Again” from Harmelodia and then “Song of the Garden” which they re-recorded fro NotSS.

As they head out, Dave reminds everyone: Tomorrow’s free, so you got no excuse.  Tomorrow night: Precious Little at 9:30.  John Ford at 10: 25 and  Rheostatics later on.

[READ: June 30, 2016] The Instructions

I put off reading this book for six years.  And I see that I started to write about this over a year ago.

The book is massive!  (Category Thirteen even created a web page comparing the size of the book to other things).

It has been a major conversation piece.  I was reading it at the mechanics and an elderly lady and I wound up talking about books for 20 minutes because of it (she was reading Michael Chabon).

I had heard that even though it was big, it was not particularly challenging to read.  So while it is physically bigger than Infinite Jest (see the link above), it has about 40 fewer pages (and while it does have footnotes, there are not very many).

This story is all about Guiron ben-Jusah Maccabee, a ten-year old Israelite who may just be the next Messiah.

The book itself looks like a Bible (from the sheer size) and, indeed, as it opened we see that The Instructions were written by Guiron and translated and re-translated from the Hebrew and the English by Eliyahu of Brooklyn and Emmanuel Liebman.

Then there is a note from the publisher in 2013 (the book came out in 2010) saying that Guiron received no fanciable remuneration for his work, but money will go to the Scholars Fund.  Whether the U.S. Government “convicts, acquits, or fails to prosecute him for crimes relating to “The Damage Proper,” “the 11/17 Miracle,”: or any other event pertaining to “The Guironic War,” note that the Scholars Fund “in neither a terrorist organization nor a sponsor of terrorist organizations.”

That’s a pretty intense introduction.

The whole 1000 page book takes place in just a few days Starting November 14, 2006 (between second and third period).
Although the book is about Guiron, there are dozens of characters in the book–those who are “faithful” to Guiron and those who are not.

Benji Nakamook and Vincie Portite are his two closest allies.  They go to school with him at Aptakisic Junior High.  And they are all in The Cage.  The Cage is sort of a detention class–a high-security education experiment–the kids have all of their classes in this one room that has more security than any other room.

Guiron has been expelled from two other Jewish day schools.  In both instances he was considered brilliant and a genuine scholar but he was removed from both because of his violent tendencies.  And those violent tendencies are right up front.  As the book opens, Benji, Vince and Guiron are trying to waterboard each other. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-LivePhish 10.21.95 Pershing Auditorium, Lincoln, NE (2007).

In addition to formal live releases and a series of 20 full show LivePhish releases (which were packaged in some horrible goo and have subsequently been ruined), Phish has also released some shows a but more formally as LivePhish archival “releases.”  I don’t know if there is any specific reason for the release of any of them, but they seem to put out two or so a year.

There’s a pretty thorough review and essay (with photos) by Kevin Shapiro about the show here.  And it provides a lot more context and Phish lore than I can and I’ve quoted some below.

This is another great set from 1995.

It starts with a ripping, quick “Tweezer Reprise,” a great way to begin a set (and the first time they had done so).  It’s followed by a rocking “Chalk Dust Torture” and great version of “Geulah Papyrus.”  Then comes a fantastic 14 minute version of “Reba.”  It’s the first jam of the night and they really explore the song (it doesn’t have the whistle ending).  It moves into “Wilson” which is (as usual) a lot of fun too.  After the “blap boom ” section Trey has some wild noisy effects on his guitar.

That settles down into a jaunty “Cars Trucks Buses” and the typically weird “Kung” which is a 4 minutes and features a drum solo that leads to a great, long version of “The Lizards” (10 minutes).  There’s a piano solo which leads to a pretty “Strange Design.”  Unexpectedly for me, next up is “Acoustic Army,” a four-person acoustic guitar song (see it here).  You can hear Trey shout Let’s do “Good Times” and they launch into great rocking version of the Led Zeppelin song (with a few nods to “Jessica” and “Reeling in the Years.”  I love that you can hear them decide what to play next right on the fly.   “Good Times” sounds perfect including the solo.  They end the set as they began with a reprise of “Tweezer Reprise.”

Set 2 opens with an audience chess move and then seems to start with “David Bowie” but instead its “2001” which segues into “DB.”  Its “only” 17 minutes but there’s lots of parts including a dark part and a fast part with echoed guitars.  There’s a mellow “Lifeboy” that winds up with a really long solo.  “Sparkle” sounds great with some awesome harmonies in the “laughing laughing fall apart” section.

Then comes the 25 minute “YEM.”  It starts with trippy washes of guitars.  There’s a lengthy bass solo with a lot of high notes—somewhat unusual for Mike–and then a long funky keyboard solo that segues back into a funky bass section with some trippy sounds and even a drum solo. The last five minutes is a voice jam that ends with snoring.  It somehow morphs into Fish singing “Purple Rain” (rather poorly) with a (rather great) vacuum solo.

I love this description of these events:

YEM synesthesiastically blends music theory, reggae, funk and trampolines into a psychedelic prog-rock rite of passage that primes the college Being for exactly that for which the composition is aptly named.  Blown away, the lively audience clapped along with a polyrhythmic vocal jam that became a pitch-increasing rotation of sound effects and lights (strobe alert #2) before sinking into a dynamic breathing-snoring exercise.  As the snoring subsided, You Enjoy Myself drifted away on cymbal rolls that allowed Trey to slide behind the drum kit while Fish grabbed his vacuum for Purple Rain.  Upon arriving center-stage, Fish crowned himself with a glow ring that he wore the rest of the show.  It’s a shame the video of this song can’t be released at this time because Fish, looking like a short Jesus or a white Hendrix with his head-ring and running slow motion in place as he guided you to the Purple Rain with an Electrolux solo was a sight to behold.  The crowd was spellbound,

When they return to “Harry Hood” they resume some notes of “Beat it.”  It proves to be a pretty mellow guitar jam, although during the “Thank you Mr. Minor”, section, there’s some nice full-band improvisation.

The crowd erupted as Trey called Suzy Greenberg.  Fish continued the Harry Hood humor into his usual Greenberg commentary, making Trey and Mike laugh as they tore into the last song of the set.

The set ends with “Suzy Greenberg,” more “Beat It” riffs and a Led Zeppelin nod.  “As Suzy drew to a close, Trey threw out one last stanza of Tweezer Reprise as a parting nod to the shared magic of the moment.”

The encore is a rocking version of “Highway to Hell.”

Due to licensing, we can’t present the Highway to Hell video at this time, but like Purple Rain it warrants mention.  There is a combined glow from watching Fish wearing his head-ring, Mike mysteriously sitting down in a chair during the second verse and Trey in Husker red, pumping his fist and singing like a kid in a candy store.  As Highway to Hell drew to a close, the room exploded with lights flashing (strobe alert #5), heads banging and fists pumping in a classic display of arena rock power.

The bonus filler is a 20 minute soundcheck “Dog Log Soundcheck.”  It contains teases of You Enjoy Myself (“Wash Uffitze”) and The Landlady.  The dog log part doesn’t start until way near the end of the song but the beginning is really cool with lots of trippy synths.  As usual, the soundchecks don’t compare to the real show, but as a bonus feature, it’s a nice add.  This one is particularly good.

[READ: November 24, 2016] The Murder of Monty Woolley

Madras Press publishes limited-edition short stories and novella-length booklets and distributes the proceeds to a growing list of non-profit organizations chosen by our authors. For this particular book, proceeds to benefit initiatives to cure and control Cystic Fibrosis like the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

This is very short release, unlike all of the other Madras Press books.

The title page shows a screen shot for Colossal Studios Presents Monty Woolley, Doris Merrick in Alfred Hitchcock’s [fake] Death Wears a Beard. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-LivePhish 11.14.95 University of Central Florida Arena, Orlando FL (2007).

In addition to formal live releases and a series of 20 full show LivePhish releases (which were packaged in some horrible goo and have subsequently been ruined), Phish has also released some shows a but more formally as LivePhish archival “releases.”  I don’t know if there is any specific reason for the release of any of them, but they seem to out out two or so a year.

Regardless, this show is pretty fantastic.

There’s a pretty thorough review and essay (with photos) by Kevin Shapiro about the show here.  And it provides a lot more context and Phish lore than I can and I’ve quoted some below.

Hoist had come out the previous year but Billy Breathes not for another ten months or so.

The show has a lot of whispered vocals from Trey (especially at the beginnings of songs—they’re audible, sure, but just seem quieter than usual).  The show starts off with a blast of “Chalk Dust Torture” and an extended 10 minute “Foam.”   The whispered vocals are especially noticeable on “Billy Breathes” but once the song really begins there are some great harmonies.

Then for the fifteen minute “Divided Sky,” which sounds amazing, there’s quite a long pause before the main riff starts—teasing the audience a bit.  Trey basically stands there, stock still for almost a minute and a half.

It’s always a treat to hear “Esther” which has a good jam going and so does “Free” (which is technically a new song), although it seems to go a little dark. Then there’s another quiet verse to start “Julius” before it really takes off. All three of those songs were about 9 minutes each.

That all settles down to a quiet almost unplugged bluegrass version of “I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome” [the notes mentioned above indicate: I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome featured a brave mandolin solo by Fish as well as some especially inflected vocals by temporary upright bassist Page].  The set with a great version of “Cavern.”

At the end of the song he talks about the audience chess move that anyone can get involved in.   And then in the beginning of set two, they mention the audience move.

There’s a very extended “Maze” (13 minutes) in which Trey is on fire, and then a fun “Gumbo” that in no way prepares you for what’s to come: the wild frenetic soling in a hugely extended version of “Stash.”  The song segues into other songs (“Manteca” and “Dog Faced Boy”) and back into “Stash” for a total of 40 minutes of jamming.  There’s some crazy feedback and noise in Trey’s solos.  There’s also a percussion slow down with just one note of piano and percussion keeping the song going. The liner notes break it up into three distinct songs: the first part is 15 minutes, then a break into the jazzy instrumental “Manteca” and then back into Stash for a total of 14 minutes and then Trey breaks into a quiet a capella version of “Dog Faced Boy” which segues into the ending solo of Stash which is feedbacky and crazy.  A total of almost 10 minutes.  The notes say:

The improvisational skill and grace demonstrated in this “Stash” set the standard for years to come.  Staccato guitar and clavinet accents began to lead into some incredible jamming with massive, swirling tension as the band weaved in and out of Stash’s theme in a loose, psychedelic approach. Deep rhythmic tribal incantation followed with Trey eventually switching to percussion and grooving into something akin to the ending of “Fee.” This jam continued, melting perfectly into a supercharged version of “Manteca,” played for the first time in a year and sandwiched between segments of Stash

There’s a brief respite with a beautiful, mellow “Strange Design.”  And then the band ramps up again with a 21 minute “You Enjoy Myself.”

Like parts of the show-stopping “Stash” and other versions from this year commonly ranked among the best ever, this “YEM” is amazing, intense and engaging, exploratory and rocking especially when teamed with Chris Kuroda’s phoenix-shaped lighting rig. A brief nod to Led Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song” punctuates the jam and the energy in the room and intensity of playing throughout kept the set flying as high as Trey and Mike’s mini-trampoline performance.

There’s also a (fairly mellow) vocal jam at the end, bringing the show proper to a close.

The encore is two songs, “The Wedge” which sounds a little different from the record and a fast and frenetic “Rocky Top.”  It is truly a great show.

The disc is a three CD set and includes two bonus Filler tracks.  There’s a goofy, fun version of “Poor Heart” (from a soundcheck on 11/14/95 and a really silly “Dog Log” (with someone speaking the refrain “to the john” over and over).  That one comes from a show on 12/01/95, which is pretty far away from this show, but is a fun addition.

[READ: November 24, 2016] Fall Out

Madras Press publishes limited-edition short stories and novella-length booklets and distributes the proceeds to a growing list of non-profit organizations chosen by our authors. For this particular book, proceeds to benefit Women for Afghan Women.

This book is divided into four sections.  They could be short stories or they could be parts of a full story.  The pieces do fit together

Conduction
From 1951 to 1962, nuclear bombs were detonated in the Nevada Test site.  Buildings were destroyed, sand was turned to glass.  This story then jumps to Troy, New York in 1953.  Three students were tossing a ball around after a rainfall.  They went into a college building and tested a Geiger counter which showed ratings off the charts on the ball that had been in the puddle.

Night of the Avengers
On a given night, several people saw what looked like an ice cream cone made of light in the sky.   And then a local boy encountered the alien.  This section is actually a film made by director Zweig.  We learn about Zweig’s childhood working on the sets of Metropolis, and his difficulties in getting this low budget film made.  It’s an interesting plot–people blame the aliens for things that are going wrong, but the aliens are not responsible.  So they simply leave rather than taking the abuse.  There is also Dr. Exline, who is making a bio weapon.  He is the one responsible for all the troubles they’ve been having–won’t anyone listen? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Ventura (2013).

Not content to have just one concert on a release, Ventura contains two complete concerts from July 30, 1997, and July 20, 1998, at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in Ventura, California.

It’s an opportunity to compare the band at the same location one year later–these two shows exist in the vacuum between the release of Billy Breathes (1996) and The Story of the Ghost (1998), so there’s a few “new” songs in 1997, but it also doesn’t mean that they are playing the same sets–not by any means.  In fact, between the two shows they repeat only two songs: Water in the Sky (new) and Prince Caspian (from Billy)

1997 sees the band in good form.  After two solid openers with “NICO” and “Wolfman,” they play a wild “Chalk Dust” which has some crazy dissonant soloing in it.  “Water in the Sky” is a slow countryish version with piano and twangy guitar.  There’s a great “Stash” with appropriate audience clapping (I really want to see that live) and then a typically fun “Weigh.”  This is followed by lovely versions of “Piper” and “Cars Trucks Buses,” and the set ends with a slow funky version of “Character Zero.”

Set two opens with a groovy “Pinch You in the Eye” (9 minutes) and a great jamming version of “Free” (almost 12 minutes) with a funky solo.  “Free” is one of my favorite songs by them and I always think of it as “new” because it is rather poppy.  But it’s from way back in 1996 so it’s surely not new. After about four and a half minutes of trippy sounds and echoes. they start “David Bowie” (which includes The Simpsons riff and a Doh!).  The solo is long with a lengthy piano section and a mellow jazzy middle before it turns a little funky and then to a groovy jam to the end.  It runs for just over 21 minutes and the end of the song starts the chords for Talking Heads’ “Cities,” which the band segues into perfectly and then segues back into “Bowie” fop another 6 minutes.  There’s a scorching end of the song with a lot of noise before the end.  Those last scorching solos each have a break where the band sounds like they are collapsing before resuming perfectly.  It is a spectacular 32 minutes of music.  (Their live releases have me believing that they “Cities” a lot more than statistically they do).

They slow things down with a relatively mellow version of “Bouncing around the Room” (as mellow as that song can be anyhow) and then the bluegrass version of “Uncle Pen.”  The end of the second set comes with a mellow jam to start “Prince Caspian.”  Even the jam is mellow for about 9 minutes, but the set ends with a raucous version of Jimi Hendrix’ “Fire.”

The encore is a rollicking run through “My Soul” with a very fast “mymymymymymmysoul oh my soul.”  It’s a great show with lots of perfect peaks and valleys.

There’s a bonus track–a 9 minute soundcheck jam.  There’s some casual singing of some “dah dah dahs” and some high pitched “ooohs.”  A keyboard solo follows and it ends with a noisy section and a scream of delight.

In 1998, the band opened the show with a 21 minute “Bathtub Gin.”  It’s not that often that their opening song is a big ass jam.  (I’m sure someone has stats to back that up).   There’s a lot of piano riffage in the middle too.  After this, the band plays mostly short songs for a while: a mellow version of “Dirt.” Then a  fast and fun “Poor Heart” (in which Trey introduces Mike as the author–which he is).  Then a jazzy “Lawn Boy.”  There’s a romping “My Sweet One” which segues into a rocking “Birds of a Feather.”  By the time the get to “Theme from the Bottom,” which sounds great, they’re ready to stretch out.  It’s about 9 minutes long with a nice long solo.

They repeat “Water in the Sky” from last year.  It’s pretty although a minute shorter than 1997.  There’s a 4 minute jam before “The Moma Dance” starts proper (that will be on Ghost).  The set ends with a 14 minute “Split Open and Melt.”

Set 2 opens with a really long (14 minute) version of The Who’s “Drowned” and a dark moody jam although the reggae chords of “Makisupa Policeman” start long before “Drowned” ends.  And as the reggae jam starts, Trey sings “woke up this morning… SKUNKED” to much cheering.  The song ends with a trippy synth section that segues into “Maze.”  Page continues The Who theme with a solo version of “Sea and Sand.”  It’s interesting that in 1997 their second to last song was “Prince Caspian” (about 9 minutes). A year later their second to last song is also “Caspian,” this time 12 minutes with a rocking solo.  It segues into a stellar set-ending fifteen minute “Harry Hood.”

The encore is a crazy “Sexual Healing” sung by fish.  It’s goofy and it goes on way too long (nearly 8 minutes), but they follow it with a 12 minute jam of “Haley’s Comet.”  I love the harmonies.  The song ends with some rumbling noises as the guys leave the stage.

The bonus soundcheck is a reggae riff with them reciting the lyrics “I’m your Venus, I’m your fire.”  It’s a decent enough jam for a soundcheck although I’m most impressed with how Trey ends with a wrap-up riff instead of just stopping the song.

The bonus soundcheck songs aren’t that great to have–more like special feature on a DVD.  But the main sets are fantastic.  And you get 35 different songs between the two shows.

[READ: November 22, 2016] Tales Told in Oz

I read the 16 Madras Press Books some time ago and posted about half of them.  So here’s the other half coming up.  So what is Madras Press?

Madras Press publishes limited-edition short stories and novella-length booklets and distributes the proceeds to a growing list of non-profit organizations chosen by our authors.

For this particular book, “The author of the bestselling Wicked Years series returns to Oz with a compendium of folktales.  Proceeds to benefit Friends of West Hartford Library.”

I’m probably the only person who would read this book not knowing who Gregory Maguire was.   Well, I’ll amend that.  I knew who he was and I loved Wicked when I read it.  But I forgot who he was (his name  did sound familiar, though).

As I said, I loved Wicked but didn’t read anything else in the series.  I was only vaguely aware that there was a series–evidently there are 4 books and this book is considered 0.5.

All of this is introduction is to set up why I didn’t really enjoy this book that much.  Not realizing that it was part of Maguire re-imagining Oz, I thought it was weird and arbitrary that it was “set” in Oz.  Why not just make up your own world to tell these stories about.

Now realizing what was at stake, I appreciate it more, but since I’m not invested in his series (or really in Oz itself–I’ve never read more than the first book of that series either), these were just amusing tales. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Live in Brooklyn (2006).

Just over ten years ago I started this blog.  And sometime in May of 2007 I wrote about this disc.  Well, actually, I didn’t really write about it. Initially the “soundtrack” was just the record I was listening to that day.  I didn’t really write about the music at all.  The only thing I noted about this disc was that a 17 minute guitar solo is not such a good idea when you are sleepy.

So, now that I’ve often spent more words on the music than the stories, here’s a full review of this live album (their fifth “official” live record).

This show was performed on June 17, 2004–the opening night of what was promoted as the band’s final tour, before their 2004 breakup.

This show starts with “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing.”  It is a rocking opening although it sounds a bit flat.  “Dinner and a Movie” is fun, an angular version with a perfectly jazzy end section.  It segues into a great 13-minute version of “The Curtain With” and then a short, fast “Sample in a Jar.”

“The Moma Dance” has a lengthy intro before the song starts and then a long jam afterwards.  It’s fifteen minutes long and then segues into an outstanding “Free.”  There’s a particularly cool razzy funky bass solo.  “Nothing” is a sweet song from Undermind, a nice mellow come down after Free and a good workout for Page on piano.  It’s followed by “Maze.”  This one sounds a little funny, but there’s some great soloing from Trey and Page.  Trey’s solo starts trippy and then turns wild and really rocking.  “Frankenstein” is not quite as faithful to the original as some earlier versions, but they’ve played it many times by this point.

Set 2 opens with the crowd chanting “It’s 1, 2, 3, strikes you’re out at the old ball game” and then it’s a 17 minute version of “46 Days.”  It mostly a guitar solo that segues into a long version of “Possum,” although this “Possum” is rather slow, comparatively.  The solo grooves along until it gets down to a quiet moment.  Then there’s a short “Oh Kee Pah” that launches into a rollicking 18-minute “Suzy Greenberg” with a great jam in the middle.  It segues into a super rocking “Axilla” and then segues into a groovy “2001.”  The jam on that song lasts 9 minutes and it’s connected to an excellent “Birds of a Feather.”

They dedicate the insane “Kung” to the people at the US Open next door.  They are going to sing it very loud so that the players can hear it.  And after the runaway gold cart marathon, Trey says they’re going to slow things down with “Mike’s Song,” but its’ got a very fast jam in the middle.  It does slow down to a mellow “I Am Hydrogen,” which segues into a romping “Weekapaug Groove.”

The encore is “Divided Sky.”   There’s a 1:15 pause while Trey doesn’t play the next note before beginning the rest of the show.  The crowd gets really restless.  It’s pretty funny.

This entire concert was simulcast on over 100 movie theater screens around the country.  The band was supposed to break up for good after this tour.  But here it is 13 years later and they are playing better than ever.

[READ: March 27, 2017] “Down and Out in Paris and London”

This issue of Lucky Peach includes an excerpt from a book by George Orwell.  Down and Out in Paris and London was the first full-length work by Orwell, published in 1933.  It is a memoir in two parts on the theme of poverty in the two cities.

What does it have to do with food?  Well, it was originally called “A Scullion’s Diary.”  And this excerpt comes from around Chapter III where the narrator obtains a job as a plongeur (dishwasher) in the kitchen at “Hotel X.”

He explains that one of the few humane jobs in the kitchen was polishing silver and glasses–at least the waiters might treat you as something of an equal.  Otherwise he was washing crockery–often for thirteen hours a day.

He marvels that the squalor of their kitchen–“we are in disgusting filth”–was only double doors away from the splendid dining room.  He says “we slithered about in a compound of soapy water, lettuce leaves, torn paper, and trampled food.” (more…)

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