Archive for the ‘Grateful Dead’ Category

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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SOUNDTRACK: DR. DOG-Tiny Desk Concert #7 (October 20, 2008).


I have been hearing a lot about Dr. Dog lately (they are from Philly and the radio station we listen to is from Philly, so that makes sense).  But I had assumed they were a new band.  So imagine my surprise to see that they were the 7th Tiny Desk Concert and the first full band to play the Tiny Desk.  (Their first album came out in 2005!).

It’s fun to watch a five piece band squeeze into the Tiny Desk (the drummer is playing a small pink suitcase) and the fifth member of the band is playing some various percussions (I wonder if he does more in the band).  It’s also funny when one of the guitars breaks a string and the singer says “son of a bitch.”

Dr. Dog proves to be quite interesting.  Their first song is “The Beach.”  It’s a rocking awesome track–the guitar is great and bassist Toby Leaman’s move is raspy and powerful.  I really like this song a lot.  The second song is quite different, it’s a bouncy boppy song that sounds a bit like a more rocking Grateful Dead (that bass).  This song has a different singer–Scott McMicken, who plays lead guitar on “The Beach,” but acoustic guitar here.  (The other guitarist, Frank McElroy  played acoustic on The Beach and electric on this one).

After a lengthy discussion they play the third song (in a different version from the record) “How Dare.”  This song opens with their great harmonies (a wonderful feature of the band).  It also has a jam band quality (Toby’s back on vocals but less raspy and powerful, and more bluesy)/on this track.

The band seemed to think they were only to play two songs, and frankly it’s a shame they only play 3. At 12 minutes it one of the shorter Tiny Desk concerts.  But I am a convert to Dr. Dog, and I need to hear more from them.

[READ: November 10, 2013] “Reunion”

After listening to Richard Ford in yesterday’s podcast, I decided I wanted to read his take on the Cheever story “Reunion.”  And while I can definitely see that it was inspired by a kernel of an idea in Cheever’s story, I probably never would have put the two together had I not known.

Ford’s story opens the same way as Cheever’s with someone waiting in Grand Central Station.  It turns out that the person is Mack Bolger.  Bolger is waiting intently for someone.  We quickly learn that the narrator who spies Bolger had had an affair with Bolger’s wife, Beth about a  year and a half prior to this meeting.  It ended abruptly when Mack confronted them in their hotel room (in St. Louis).  Mack (who is a large man) boxed the narrator’s ears a bit and sent him running from the room in varying stages of dress (and without a precious scarf which his mother had given him).

He had not seen Mack again, although he did see Beth on one final instance–a sort of final closure.  They met in a bar and tied up loose ends, and that was that.

So when the narrator sees Mack he gets this sudden urge to speak to him:

just as you might speak to anyone you casually knew and had unexpectedly but not unhappily encountered. And not to impart anything, or to set in motion any particular action (to clarify history, for instance, or make amends), but just to speak and create an event where before there was none.  (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: May 13, 2013] Musicophilia


My sister-in-law Karen got me this audio book for Christmas.  I had never read any Oliver Sacks before although I have always been amused/intrigued by his stuff (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is such a great title).  So this book, as one might guess, is all about how music impacts our lives.  Music is more than just an enjoyable set of melodies, it is a more primordial form of communication.  The key thing for any fan of music to know about this book is that about 97% of the music he talks about is classical.  Which is fine, but you’re not going to get any kind of insight into rock.  The reason for this is twofold.  One–he likes classical (and doesn’t seem to like rock–although he did take one of his patients to a Grateful Dead show) and two–he wants to talk more about music and not so much about lyrics (although again, that’s not entirely true).

I have to admit that while I enjoyed the stories in the book and will certainly talk about it a lot, I found the book a little overwhelming–it was exhaustive and exhausting.  Sacks really tries to cover ever aspect of music (and many I never would have guessed) and so I found the nine hours of story a bit tiring by the end.

Part of that may also have been John Lee, the reader, who spoke very clearly and a little slowly and gave the book something of a lecture-feel.  Which was fine for much of the book, although again, it was a little exhausting sometimes.

The thing that is most exhausting about the book is that virtually every person he talks to or about has had some kind of trauma which makes their appreciation of music different from the norm.  If you are in any way a hypochondriac, this book will make you go insane  I’m not, but even I found myself worrying about having a stroke at any second or experiencing some kind of weird brain thing where I no longer like music or god forbid get some kind of long term amnesia.  Jesus, I was getting a little spooked by the end. (more…)

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unescoSOUNDTRACK: GASHCAT-“Morning Sun” (live at SXSW, March 28 2013).


When I first heard that the Grateful Dead had two drummers, I thought, “Wow these guys must rock hard.”  Which is not true at all.  Gashcat have two drummers and while the band is not heavy, they rock hard.  “Morning Sun” is a non-stop frenetic blast of bouncy folk pop.

They lead singer/screamer uses an acoustic guitar, and there are two old- school keyboards (for both backing music and spacey effects).  They main drummer drums and the secondary percussionist pounds along with him, using a big drum and an occasional tambourine.

This is the first I’ve heard of them and while the song doesn’t make me want to run out and buy more, they’d be a great opening act to see live.  They remind me of the Waterboys on speed.

You can watch the video here.

[READ: March 25, 2013] “Brilliant”

When I started reading Roddy Doyle books again recently, I decided to see what else he had written.  And Wikipedia listed several “uncollected” stories (several of which have by now been collected).  The final story on the list was this one, “Brilliant” which was written for St. Patrick’s Festival Parade 2011 & Dublin UNESCO City of Literature.  I don’t know exactly what that means although I understand that the Cities of Literature “promote the social, economic and cultural development of cities in both the developed and the developing world.”  So clearly Doyle was writing on behalf of a cause.

It starts out very oddly:

Poor oul’ Dublin.
Dublin was a city on the west coast of –
Dublin was a city on the east coast of Ireland.

That interrupting East is never explained, although it does go on through the story, correcting the narrator who can’t tell east from west.  The story proves to be more in the vein of Doyle’s children’s stories.  There’s no poo but there is a flying dog.  In this case the dog is “The Black Dog of Depression,” an expression of Winston Churchill’s that I was unfamiliar with, although I also just read it again in an issue of The Walrus (weird serendipity, that). (more…)

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