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Archive for the ‘Guster’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: WHITEHORSE-Live at Massey Hall (December 8, 2017).

I saw Whitehorse open for Barenaked Ladies a few years ago and they blew me away.  I really want to see them again.

When I saw them it was just the two of them and the magic of their interplay was what really impressed me the most.  For this special Massey Hall show, they have a full band.  But as Melissa McClelland explains:

This is the first time playing the Massey stage with a full band.  We wanted to … finally invite some friends on stage with us and play music.

Those friends include John Obereian on drums, Ryan Gavel on bass, guitar and backing vocals and on keys and bongos and guitar, the second best singer in this band Gregory MacDonald.  He replies, “Thanks to the second best guitar player in the band.”  I have seen MacDonald on tour with Sloan a bunch of times and he is awesome.

As to why they are a duo, she says

we knew that Whitehorse was always going to be just the two of us and that everyone would know that we are equal partners in the band.  But we didn’t want it to be a folk duo so we started brainstorming and bought looping pedals and a kick drum and a stomp box and we  found new arrangements and once we got it we were like Yeah!

The show opens with hand clapping from the band and the audience and then Melissa’s slinky bass intro to “Baby Whats Wrong.  Then comes Luke Doucet’s echoing Western guitar. Their voices are wonderful together and I love when Doucet sings in that weird telephone microphone.  He also plays a ripping guitar solo.

Luke introduces “Tame as the Wild Ones” by saying they needed to write a sexy song so “Melissa kicked me out and said she’d do it alone.  I go to the bar to get drunk and when I come home, she plays me this song.  And nine months later our son Jimmy was born.”  I love the way the bridge (or is it a chorus) builds and settles–that melody is just gorgeous.

“Pink Kimono” has a simple rocking riff and the two singers singing at the same time.   Doucet’s soloing is on fire in this song.

“Die Alone” is a showstopper.  A slow moody piece in which Melissa sings over a wash of synths.  The music so much build as just unfold as first Luke sings with her and then the band kicks in.  Wow can Melissa belt out a song.

“Downtown” is a celebration of how you can put hundreds of thousands of people in a city and for the most part everyone gets along.  It s got a great throbbing bass and some cool guitar scratching and riffs from Doucet.  It’s a bummer that they interrupt the awesome middle solo section with an interview, even if it is quite interesting.

After Melissa lays out how they wanted the band to sound, Luke says that when people ask him about what it’s like to do Whitehorse, he says

we were solo artists first but we had been involved with each others albums as singer or producer  or touring musician.

So in order to be successful

you have to hang out together for five or six years and play in each others bands and make eight albums together and then you have to go on tour as freelance/hired gun musicians working for Blue Rodeo or Sarah McLachlan and then you have to live together for five or six years and listen to music together and fight and then you have to get married and once you’ve done all these things and listened to 10,000 hours of music and dissected Tom Waits entire catalog and argued about which is the best Beatles record and had fights on stage about who is speeding up or slowing down and once you’ve done all those things together then start a band.

It certainly worked for them.  The only bad thing about this show is that it’s only 30 minutes.

[READ: January 24, 2019] Hits & Misses

It has been a while since Simon Rich published a collection of his stories.  This one was pretty enjoyable.  Overall, not as much fun as some of his previous collections, but still a lot to laugh at.  Rich tends to write what he knows, which is often a very good sign.  However, sometimes what he knows is limited to writing and filming, which tends to miss the everyman silliness of his earlier pieces.

Having said that there are still some hilarious pieces that anyone can enjoy and some pieces about writers that are very funny.

A few of these pieces appeared in the New Yorker, and I indicate as much, with a link to my longer review.

“The Baby.”  This was a highlight.  A sonogram reveals that their baby is holding a pen–he is going to be a writer!  But when word gets out that the baby is already getting a reputation AND representation, well, that baby’s writer father is pretty damned jealous.  Wonderful absurdity based on reality taken to its extremes. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: January 11, 2019] Guster

Guster has a new album coming out this month.  And as part of their tour, they are coming to the Philly Fillmore on S. and my wedding anniversary!  Obviously, we got tickets and plan to have a bizarre Anniversary celebration–no fancy meal, just music–and we hope we are acknowledged from the stage!

[UPDATE: This date, our anniversary show, has been postponed!  Why?  Because the band is going to be on Late Night with Seth Meyers instead.  We love Seth, so if anyone is going to ruin our anniversary plans we’re glad it’s him.  It turns out that the rescheduled date is going to be a 20th anniversary show of Lost and Gone Forever, which means two full sets of Guster.  I think we made out ahead.  Thanks Seth].

I have never been to a Free at Noon show before.  They seem so awesome–a free concert from some amazing bands?  Sign me up!  The problem is that the venue, World Cafe Live, is 75 minutes from my work.  So, an hour show, two and a half hour driving…  that’s about a four-hour lunch.  Well, I had some personal time, so I used it and got myself and S. tickets for Free at Noon.  I didn’t think she’d be able to go and she didn’t think she could either, so I went by myself.

Parking was a lot harder to find during the day and it was very cold.  I never thought if I got there at 11:45 I’d have to wait online, but they were having some kind of technical difficulties and they kept everyone outside.  I specifically took off my sweater in the car figuring the venue wold be roasting, so I was pretty chilly waiting out there.  By five to 12, someone came around and told us that we wouldn’t miss anything.  And indeed, the free at noon started at 12:15 instead of noon. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 1, 2018] Guster        

It had been over two years since we’d since Guster and we were going through some withdrawal.  So it was pretty exciting that they were starting their latest tour at out favorite club in Jersey City.

We’d never seen them at the beginning of a tour before and I have to say the rest does them well.  They seemed energetic (which they usually are) but more importantly everyone’s (especially Ryan’s) voices sounded amazing–best I’ve ever heard them.

They have a new album coming out in January so we thought it might be a show of all new songs . But it wasn’t.  They played two brand new songs (and none of the singles that they’ve released so far).  The rest of the show (all 23-2 songs + two improvs) were familiar and more than welcomed.

When we saw them last time, we had seen them three times in 14 months and during those three shows they had played a ton of songs that we hadn’t heard before (or not since a decade earlier). So this show was a lot more songs that we’ve heard (which is still fine).  But with a few that were more or less new.  And of course those wonderful improvs. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 1, 2018] Zac Clark

Thursday nights are bad music nights for us.  C. and I have a Boy Scout meeting.  During Field Hockey season, T. has practice (or in this case a party).  So arrangements must be made.

We thought the Guster show started at 8:30, which would have given us just the right amount of time to drop of T and get to the show.

But then they moved the show up to 8.  (Irritatingly, Guster had malfunctions with their gear so they didn’t go on until 9:30 anyway).  If there was easy parking we would have made it fine.  But Jersey City on a Thursday night was something of a zoo and it took us fifteen minutes to find a spot (there was a potter’s wheel in the garbage which I seriously considered taking).  Then we had to walk the 8 or 9 blocks (and we had a delicious slice form a gourmet pizza place on 5th) and after security and bathrooms, we basically walked in and heard two and a half songs from Zac Clark. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GUSTER-Keep It Together Live from The Beacon Theatre (2014).

In 2014, Guster released three CDs of them playing their early CDs live in their entirety (excluding for some reason their second disc Goldfly).  This is their fourth CD ‘Keep It Together’ recorded live in concert at The Beacon Theatre on November 30, 2013, ten years after its release.

As the disc opens, Ryan shouts, “Keep It Together starts now.”  This makes me think that they played other songs before it?  It would be great to hear an album in its entirety but not if that’s all they played.

After the first song, “Diane,” Ryan jokes,  “I guess there no real surprises in the setlist from here on out.”

Midway through the show, he comments that as an active band making new music, you want to be careful not to trade in nostalgia.  But he also knows that if one of his favorite bands played one of his favorite albums…it would be magical.

The band sounds great.  And, fortunately, it’s one of those shows where the live recording sounds at times even better than the original.

The only real divergence from the album is that after “Homecoming “King” they play “Chariots of Fire” on piano and strings.  I’m not sure why, but it’s fun.

One of the great moments of any Guster concert is when they play “Come Downstairs and Say Hello” and the Thundergod plays the bongos and smashes the cymbals with his hands.  It’s more fun to see it, but it’s great in this case to hear it.

“Red Oyster Cult” sounds great with the horns as an addition and Ben Kweller comes out and sings lead on the first verse of “I Hope Tomorrow is Like Today” (I had no idea he co-wrote it!).  They even leave a slight pause for the “hidden track” of “Two at a Time.”

This is a great version of this album, and well worth the listen.

[READ: June 2, 2018] “Fungus”

This is a story about carrying on after the unthinkable. But not just carrying on, carrying on with the mundane things that you can’t live without but remind you of exactly what happened.

The story opens with an insurance check and talk of geckos.  But the tone is not lighthearted like Geico commercials.  Andrew has access to Ingrid and Ron’s car, but really, he can only borrow it for so long.  It is time to buy a new one.

So Andrew and his daughter Willa go to the Subaru dealer.

These two scenes are simple enough, but they are fraught with meaning–with the undertone of what happened and how Andrew is allowed and allowing himself to deal with it.   There’s darkly funny thoughts (he’d like a homemade sign around his next that says “I don’t know”).  But the reality is that he has to go on for Willa’s sake, if not his own.

And then there’s this idea which is perfect for the story but works wonders in everyday life: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GUSTER-Lost and Gone Forever Live (2014).

In 2014, Guster released three CDs of them playing their early CDs live in their entirety (excluding for some reason their second disc Goldfly).  This is their third CD ‘Lost and Gone Forever’ recorded live in concert, ten years after its release.

I’m not sure why they don’t say what show it is from, unless they picked the best recordings from a tour?  He does mention Boston at one point, but not sure if the whole show was recorded there.

As with the other two releases, the sound is great.  On “Barrel of a Gun” you can really hear the bongos.

There are a few more guests, which again, makes me think it’s different shows.  Ryan says “We’re inviting a bunch of people to help with instrumentation. Donnie and Amy are going to play strings” [on “Either Way”].  And later, “Fa Fa” has an amazing horn section.

For “All the Way Up to Heaven,” Ryan introduces, “Alright snow kitty bring up the children. It’s 10 o’clock.  It’s late.  Did you teach them the big rock move at the end?  That’s the most important part of the song.”

Like the other discs, they thank everyone for coming out and supporting this album.  He talks about how when they first started playing in 1991 they were all skinnier and had more hair.  They had no idea that so many years later they would still be together and be selling out shows.  “It’s a humbling experience.”

Incidentally when they announced this tenth anniversary tour, they made a video announcement.

[READ: May 31, 2018] “Silver Tiger”

This story involves realism and magical realism.

The narrator Ah Yang, is an adult looking back on his childhood when he lived with Deaf Granny.  He was sent to her early and only rarely saw his parents.

He first saw the titular Silver Tiger near a well pond by Deaf Granny’s house.   Well ponds are an ancient water storage system in China.  They are shaped like pools but are the depth of wells.  It was always off-limits to him  Deaf Granny feared that if he fell in there’d be no saving him (not unreasonable).  But that’s all he wanted to do after he first saw it.

It became even more enticing when a local boy found a turtle in a neighbor’s well pond.  Oh how the narrator wanted his own turtle. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GUSTER-Parachute Live from Brooklyn Bowl (2013).

In 2014, Guster released three CDs of them playing their early CDs live in their entirety (excluding for some reason their second disc Goldfly).  So this is a recording of their first album ‘Parachute’ performed and recorded live in concert at Brooklyn Bowl on December 1, 2013.

This album sounds quite different from the other Guster albums.  I don’t really understand what the difference is.  It sounds like Guster, but not exactly.  Is it that they both sing in harmony through most of the songs?  Is it that Ryan sings “better?”  Are the songs just more folkie?

Whatever the case, even after several albums that don’t sound like this album and nearly twenty years, the band jumps right back into it (the harmonies on “Window” are perfect, for example).

They aren’t the same three-piece they were back in 1994 (they have drums now for instance), but it all works very well.  They also aren’t terribly funny between songs.  Usually Ryan is pretty silly in a show, but they seemed to take it more or less seriously.

After “Dissolve” Ryan says, “we’re playing in a bowling alley I just realized.  Cool.”  You can hear someone in the crowd shout “steeerike.”

I know the guys have made jokes about their song “Happy Frappy” a few times when I’ve seen them, so it’s no surprise that before the song, Ryan shouts, “Alright its ‘Happy Frappy’ time, stoners.”  Although I have no idea what the song is actually about.

When the disc is over Ryan shouts, “Parachute the album–19 and a half years old!”

I think it sounds even better than the original.

[READ: June 2, 2018] “Orange World”

I love when a title gives you an idea but it is totally not the idea of what  the story means–and the new idea is even better than what you had imagined.

“Orange World” conjured up many things to me, but not the devil, not a woman nursing the devil and not a woman nursing the devil every night because the evil saved her baby’s life.

When Rae was pregnant she was worried about a lot of things: ABNORMAL RESULT, HIGH RISK, CLINICAL OUTCOME UNKNOWN.  When the third test came back, she started begging for anything to save her baby from the unknown.

Between 4 and 5 A.M. one night something answered and it promised the baby would be okay.

So what does this have to do worth orange world?  Well, “Orange World is where most of us live.”  It is a nest of tangled electric cords and open drawers filled with steak knives.  It’s a used crib  It’s compromises that could hurt the safety of your baby.  You take a shower with your baby and suddenly….

“Green World” is a fantasy realm of soft corners and infinite attention. The Educator say that Green World is ideal but Orange World is the reality.  Next week’s class is “Red World” and Rae doesn’t want to think about it.

Rae takes the baby doll.  Its head falls off and she steps on the blanket.  Sneaker bacteria: Orange World; decapitation: Red World.  The educator encourages her to go to new moms group. (more…)

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