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Archive for the ‘Grateful Dead’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BOB WEIR AND WOLF BROS.-Tiny Desk Concert #952 (March 2, 2020).

Bob Weir is, obviously, a founding member of Grateful Dead.

This set goes on much longer than a typical one (and they’re not rappers or R&B singers).  I got a kick out of this comment in the blurb:

When I produce a Tiny Desk Concert, one of my most important jobs is to make sure they run on time and that the performance sticks to our set time limit (roughly 15-minutes). So when Bob Weir and Wolf Bros achieved lift-off during a pre-show sound-check, it was my unthinkable responsibility to tell the guy who practically invented the jam band to… stop jamming.

It also fell to me to keep looking at my watch during the performance, even as I realized that my favorite “Dark Star” jams alone lasted well beyond our fifteen-minute performance window.

I’ve never been a big fan of the Dead (despite how much I enjoy jam bands).  Their music is a bit too slow for my tastes.  But in the right mood (like a rainy Sunday), they can be right on.

These songs are slow and expansive and allow for a lot of jamming.  There’s not a lot of opportunity for jamming here as this is just a trio, but Weir is very comfortable stretching things out.

The trio make an interesting look with drummer Jay Lane in a tie-dyed shirt and upright bassist Don Was in all black.  Weir stand between them in a gray T-shirt and his gray hair.

The first song

“Only a River,” from Weir’s 2016 solo album Blue Mountain, feels like a memorial to Jerry Garcia, with a reference to the Shenandoah River, a body of water Garcia famously made reference to on the song, “A Shenandoah Lullaby.” Weir turns the chorus into a mantra and seems to evoke the spirit of his fallen bandmate.

This song references the melody of “Shenandoah” pretty directly n the middle, but the “hey hey hey” let’s you know that this is a very different song.

Before the second song, he says they just got clearance to play it.  I didn’t realize that “When I Paint My Masterpiece” was a Bob Dylan song, but I guess maybe I should have.

And what would a Grateful Dead-related performance be without a Bob Dylan song? The intimacy of the Tiny Desk turns Weir into a sage Master Storyteller during a version of “When I Paint My Masterpiece” with its reference to Botticelli and a lonely Roman hotel room.

The set really comes to life when special guest, Mikaela Davis comes out to play harp.

The harp is always a magical-sounding instrument and amid the quietness of this trio, it really shines.  Davis basically takes the lead on “Bird Song” including bending strings (I’ve never seen a harpist do that before).

Midway through the song, Weir waves his hand and allows Davis to take a solo while Weir puts down his acoustic guitar.

When Weir switches to electric guitar midway during “Bird Song,” I looked at my watch because I knew we were in for some time travel. And the band didn’t disappoint as the rhythmic interplay between Weir and Davis showed off his singular rhythm guitar style, honed from more than thirty years of playing alongside one the most idiosyncratic lead guitarists in modern music.

Davis does some more note bending in her solo, which is so interesting.  When Weir joins in, their music melds really beautifully.

They jam the song out for 8 minutes and as the music fades Bob says, I’m pretty sure we’re over our time limit.

He says they were slated for 20 minutes and they’re at forty now (sadly we only get to see 26 minutes).  Someone shouts “keep going” and they do one more.

They play “Ripple” Grateful Dead’s fifty-year-old sing-along from their album American Beauty.  It demonstrates

the song’s celebration of hope and optimism, found in the spirit of all of the band’s music. Bob Weir continues to evoke that spirit every time he picks up a guitar; and as we all sang along at the end, we evoked that spirit too: “Let there be songs, to fill the air.”

I suppose it’s never too late to start enjoying a band, right?

[READ: March 25, 2020] “In the Cards”

This is exactly the kind of story I don’t like.  It seemed to go nowhere and in an oblique fashion. Plus the narrator was really hard to relate to.

The point of the story seems to be the last line: “You’re crazy when you’re a good writer.”

It starts with a discussion of playing cards and moves on to tarot cards.  Her friend Michel gave her a deck and she felt ill at ease just reading the directions.  But what most disturbed her was the image of The Fool.

The narrator says she is unfamiliar with playing cards and yet later she says when she was a child they played Mistigri which is a card game.  So go figure.  (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 7, 2020] Garcia Peoples

I saw Garcia Peoples on New Year’s Eve eve at a Phish after party.  The show was great with them playing their new 30 minute song “One Step Behind” as well as a few others.  For that show, their original bassist Derek Spaldo was in town (after this Philly show I talked to Tom Malach and he told me that Spaldo lives in Chicago and tours with them when he can–sometimes they are a six-piece band).  That show was great.  It was the second time I’d seen them playing a short set and I really wanted to catch them as a headliner. So I was pretty excited to see that they’d be playing Boot & Saddle (even if I’d only seen them a month ago I wanted to check them out again).

When I arrived the place was pretty empty, but by the time Garcia Peoples went on, it had filled in nicely.  I was intrigued by the diversity of ages in the crowd–a lot of old Dead-heads and a few younger frat boy types as well as a lot of (drunk?) women.  I am also pretty certain that Chris Forsyth was in the audience.

The crowd was responsive and really appreciative whenever the guys played some impressive soloing (which was often).

I was intrigued to see that Spaldo was not with them this time but bassist Andy Cush was.  Cush played with them when I first saw them.  This means that there are two guys who know the bass parts to their songs. Pretty cool. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: December 31, 2019] Garcia Peoples

I saw Garcia Peoples about a year ago when they opened for Heron Oblivion.  I really liked them and knew I’d want to see them again.  The fact that this year they were on a bill with Chris Forsyth, who I also really wanted to see, and it was an after-party show after the final Phish show I’d be seeing of the year made it even more cool.

I was even willing to stay in NYC until 3 AM to see it!

I arrived at Le Poissin Rouge early enough to get a slice of pizza in the Village (yum) and even get a drink at LPR (the bartender assumed my change was a tip, apparently).

I parked myself on the right side of the stage (I usually prefer the left side, but it was a little crowded there).  I wound up being right in front of GP’s guitarist Tom Malach (who looked different since last time he wore a toque the whole night).

The big difference between these shows was that last time Andy Cush was on bass, but this time it was Derek Spaldo, who also sang lead vocals much of the time.  I understand Andy is still in the band–do they alternate venues?  Well, whatever the case, I thought Cush was great last time and I thought Spaldo was great this time.

This band is so much fun to watch.  Spaldo is often playing a great grooving bassline while Malach and other guitarist Danny Arakaki trade amazing licks. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STEVE GUNN-Tiny Desk Concert #299 (August 31, 2013).

Steve Gunn is a fascinating guitar player:

his work mostly stems from a bushy, overgrown definition of what we often call “Americana,” with a healthy understanding of the La Monte Young drone.

Grateful Dead and J.J. Cale certainly reside in the rubber-band bounce of “Old Strange,” a song that keeps the groove mellow, but will suddenly pop with water-drop elasticity. “The Lurker” comes from a much longer solo guitar version that originally sounded like one of Roy Harper’s acoustic epics, but with Gunn’s trio, it becomes a back-porch barn-burner.

For this concert, Gunn and his band play two 9-minutes songs.  They center around his guitar work which yes, has a drone, but the main focus are the Americana riffs that he plays with precision.

“Old Strange” opens with a lengthy guitar passage that shifts after 2 and a half minutes to a slow folky kind of style.  The song seems like it will be an instrumental but 3 and a half minutes in he begins singing. His voice is deep and he sings a kind of narrative story.  It’s quite mesmerizing.   “The Lurker” is a slower, more mellow jam.

[READ: September 3, 2016]: Beatrice

I have read a couple of books from Dixon through McSweeney’s.  I didn’t know much about him then and I still don’t, but I recalled liking his stuff pretty well.  And this book was short so I thought I’d give it a look.

This book is told in a fascinating style–a kind of stream of consciousness in the mind of the main character, but through really close third person.

The book details the encounter of the main character Professor Philip Seidel (there’s a joke about this name, as Seidel means mug) and a woman named Beatrice.  Beatrice was a student of his some 25 years earlier.  She has stopped at his house to deliver some food in condolence for the recent passing of his wife.  She knows about this because she is now a professor where he taught her, although he had retired a few years back.

She brought some food and also wanted to tell him that he was her favorite teacher back then.  She had studied German and wasn’t allowed to take fiction courses until she completed her requirements.  She loved his teaching method and loved how encouraging he had always been.  She has clearly been keeping tabs on him–she has read some interviews he gave–and she definitely knows a lot about his life.

When she leaves he briefly wonders if maybe she’s interested in him now that the are older.  But he puts that out of his mind. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 10, 2017] Wolf!

2017-02-10-20-38-07Back in August I saw Marco Benevento open for The Claypool-Lennon Delirium.  I didn’t know Marco, but his show was so much fun I promised myself I’d see him again.  So I was pretty psyched to see that he was playing at this venue.  WOLF! opened up. Technically the band was billed as WOLF! featuring Scott Metzger.  This actually didn’t help me, because I didn’t know who he was either.  The only other clue was that he was also in a band called Joe Russo’s Almost Dead (with Marco Benevento) who do mostly Grateful Dead covers.

I genuinely didn’t know what to expect from WOLF!, although I certainly had an idea of what they’d sound like from those bona-fides.  But boy was I wrong.2017-02-10-20-57-45

Turns out that WOLF! plays pretty much all instrumentals.  The songs are kind of surf guitar rock-ish, but not exactly.  They are jam-band-ish, but not exactly (the songs are relatively short).  And they all center around Metzger’s wonderful, melodic soloing. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 10, 2015] Belle and Sebastian

2015-06-10 23.11.13After the major hassle of getting into the city we at least had plenty of time for Belle and Sebastian (which meant plenty of time to take pictures of the awesome art deco structures and sculptures and paintings in Radio City Music Hall).  It’s an amazing theater.

We bought the tickets in April.  Then about two weeks ago we weren’t sure if we could go.  Then we realized we could.  And then three days ago, we had a miscommunication with our babysitter and thought we again couldn’t go.  So we tried to sell them to friends.  But thankfully no one took us up on it because our plans went as planned and we made it.

I had seen Belle and Sebastian back in 2002 with my friend Ailish.  Although my memories of the show aren’t the greatest because the crowd was so overwhelming (B&S were an “it band” at the time).  This was much more civilized.  And high tech!

Back in 2002, B&S were kind of mellow folksingers.  Some of their breakthrough If You’re Feeling Sisnister was bouncy and jaunty (and some was actually quite rocking), but the vibe was shushed and personal.  Well, thirteen years later, they are a huge band with horns and strings and dancers and a cool video screen and a ton of charm.  Just the fact that lead singer Stuart Murdoch ran around high-fiving everyone in the front row, and then later ran through the aisles singing is testament to how much more extroverted the band has become.

And Stuart and lead guitarist Stevie Jackson had a lot of amusing banter going on up there.  There was a lengthy one about walking around Broadway

Stevie: “I was walking down Broadway earlier today, singing to myself…”
Stuart: “Oh, and what were you singing Stevie?”
Stevie: “It was Guys and Dolls.
Stuart: “Oh, which part?”
Stevie belted out (very nicely) a line from the musical Stevie said he was a rocker who liked musicals.  and then Stuart said he was singing “Feelin’ Groovy.”  That’s when we learned that the trumpeter has played with Paul. (more…)

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paintedSOUNDTRACK: THE DECEMBERISTS-Long Live the King EP (2011).

220px-The_Decemberists_-_Long_Live_the_KingLong Live the King is an EP that was made of outtakes from their previous (and so far final) LP The King is Dead.  In the style of that album–straightforward folk songs with country tinges, this EP makes a fine companion.  “E. Watson” is a classic storytelling Decemberists song.  It has a great chorus and really wonderful harmonies.  There’s a pedal steel guitar on “Foregone,” which adds a neat sound to this really catchy song.  In fact, the chorus is one of the catchiest things they’ve done, and it’s hard to believe they tucked it away on this EP instead of the album.

“Burying Davy” (which I had been mishearing as Burying Babies, such is the darkness of Colin Meloy that that was a real possibility) is a much creepier song.  The melody is dark and minor chord and yet it’s somehow still catchy and strangely fun to sing along to.  “I 4 U & U 4 Me” rumbles along with a great Smiths-esque bass line.  This version is a home demo (although there’s no non-demo version that I know of).  “Row Jimmy” is a cover of Grateful Dead song that I do not know.  It’s the slowest and most shambolic song on the EP.  I don’t especially like it, but I do like the way he sings “Get Down and” before some choruses.  “Sonnet” is a pretty straightforward folk song.  It’s done on acoustic guitar and features Meloy’s falsetto at certain times.  But just as the song seems to be a pretty standard acoustic guitar ballad, a whole bunch of horns blast in and play along.

Even though this is an EP of predominantly folk songs, there’s some cool headphone stuff going on in this album as well (especially the guitars on “Burying Davy”), so turn it up and tune out for 25 minutes or so.

[READ: October 18, 2014] Painted Cities

Painted Cities is a collection of stories (I assume they are all short stories although the early ones read a bit more like essays) that are all set in the Pilsen district of Chicago.  Evidently AG-B grew up there and these stories are about the people and gangs in this largely Latino neighborhood (the fact that his name is Alexai Galaviz Bidziszewski, which conjures up so many different nationalities, although few of them Latino has certainly confused me, although I have no doubt that these are all based on reality).

There are fifteen stories in the book.  I enjoyed the first couple, then I got a  little tired of the gangland/macho tough guy aspect of the stories.  But just as I was a bout to give up on them, he threw in one with magical realism that I really loved, and the rest of the book was equally interesting.   I will say that this region of the country is completely unknown to me and while I don’t typically like gang related stories, these stories did not dwell in the heartache of gangs, but used them as a periphery around which to establish the stories. (more…)

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