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Archive for the ‘J. Mascis’ Category

[ATTENDED: July 30, 2018] Heavy Blanket

About a day before this show, I looked up who Heavy Blanket were.  Imagine my surprise to read that they are a side project of J. Mascis.  So this makes four times I’ve seen Mascis live now (twice with Dino. Jr and once when he jammed with Pearl Jam in Boston).

Heavy Blanket put out an album 5 years ago ( I completely missed it) and the backstory of the band is pretty funny:

It was the summer of 1984, and a teenage j Mascis was bored. Sure, his band Deep Wound were still playing shows and melting faces.  [but] he wanted to start something new. He wanted to shed the pretentiousness and elitism that had risen around him  – to slow things down and turn the volume way, way up.

He remembered a couple kids from his early high school days – stoner kids he’d always admired for their “who gives a shit” attitude. Those kids, Johnny Pancake and Pete Cougar, had been kicked out of marching band for smoking weed out of a tuba. Way better musicians than the marching band deserved, they’d formed a duo that was all rhythm section – no vocals, no guitar, a sick, punchy brew of Band of Gypsies and Japanese hard psych (Johnny’s uncle was a US Marine stationed on Okinawa in 1973. From his frequent visits to Tokyo, he brought home a killer psych record collection. And a mean dose of the clap). These were the guys he needed. He rounded them up and it soon became obvious that the heavy rhythms they created were the perfect backdrop to young Mascis’ insane, fluid ability on the guitar. The trio came up with six blistering tracks, named themselves Heavy Blanket, and set a date to record.

But then, tragedy struck. Johnny hit his head and nearly drowned while swimming in an old stone quarry in southern Vermont. His recovery was… incomplete. He gave up playing altogether and became something of a recluse, retreating to the relative safety of his grandmother’s basement. Disheartened by Johnny incapacitation, Pete moved out to Ohio to work in his uncle’s second-hand furniture store. He later did a stint in federal prison for repeatedly passing low-denomination counterfeit bills at the local Stop’n’Shop. Mascis went on to form Dinosaur jr, and the rest is history. The boys lost touch, and those blistering tracks were lost to history.

Fast forward to the winter of 2011. While on his semi-annual ski retreat to Stowe, Mascis runs into an old friend. Johnny had emerged from his grandmother’s basement (having been forced to, once her demise stopped the flow of milk and sandwiches to his underground lair) and taken a job grooming the ski trails with a Snowcat. Convinced his long-ago accident was the handiwork of those schemers in Pearl Jam, Johnny begged j to reform the band. It was the only way to get back at them, he insisted. A quick search of Ohio prison records turned up Pete, living in a halfway house in Columbus. After securing the proper permissions from his parole officer, Pete boarded a Greyhound with the only recording of Heavy Blanket in existence – an old practice cassette. Building off those old tune structures, the boys – now men – have finally succeeded in fulfilling the promise of that long past summer.

(more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 26, 2016] Dinosaur Jr.

2016-11-26-22-33-27I saw Dinosaur Jr. open up for Jane’s Addiction this summer.  I enjoyed their set (in fact, I was really going mostly to see them although I did like Jane’s as well).  But after it was over, I realized that I didn’t want to see them as an opening act. I needed a full show.

So even though it had been just a few months, when I saw that they were doing a headlining tour, I decided to check them out again.  And I’m really glad I did.  They played twice as many songs and were on more than twice as long.

The guys were able to stretch their songs out more and to pick from a really diverse set of songs.  2016-11-26-23-15-04Of course, being the headliners didn’t mean anything fancy–their stage set up (amps and more amps) was exactly the same as this summer.  And it’s possible that J. Mascis talked even less.  They were there simply to rock.

2016-11-26-22-59-14The only time that bassist Lou Barlow spoke was to berate people for complaining that they couldn’t hear the vocals.  The same thing happened at the summer show as well.  Barlow seemed pretty angry as he told us that we were standing in front of the guitar amps and that the vocals were coming through the house speakers.  So if we wanted to hear the vocals we needed to move to the back of the club.  “It’s Fucking Physics!”  I didn’t move back (the show was pretty crowded and I had a good spot), but I was able to hear the vocals much better than at the Summer Stage show.  I had planned that I would stand nearer the back to see if it was true, but I had a hard time passing up the chance to be so close. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 24, 2016] Band of Horses

2016-09-24-22-06-57This is our third time seeing Band of Horses in three years.  Sarah and I loved their first three albums a lot, so in 2004 when XPNFest announced they were opening for Beck, we knew it was an amazing pairing.  They were great and we decided we needed to see them as the headliners.  The following year, they came back although this time opening for Neil Young.  We were going to see Neil anyway, so it was even better that BoH was opening.  But that set was shorter than the first!  We needed the full experience.

One year later, the busiest weekend we’ve had in a long time, and BoH was squeezed right into the middle of it.

We love The Fillmore in Philly, it’s a great venue with really good sound (and nice parking).  So it was a great place to hear the soaring vocals of Ben Bridwell.and the rest of the band.

The show was an outstanding mix of songs from four of their albums (turns out that their previous album Mirage Rock has been largely dismissed by the band and they don’t play much from it anymore).  And that’s fine because the four albums are awesome. (more…)

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overpoSOUNDTRACK: J. MASCIS-Tiny Desk Concert #406 (November 22, 2014).

mascisJ. Mascis is best known as a wailing guitarist who plays in front of a wall of speakers with Dinosaur Jr.  But for this Tiny Desk Concert he busts out an acoustic guitar and plays some songs from his solo album (as well as an old Dino classic).

“Stumble” is sung in Mascis’ delicate falsetto.  They zoom in on him singing and its amazing how he doesn’t seem to be straining in any way doing this really high voice.  After all the falsetto, his saying “Thanks” in a deep voice is really kind of funny.

For the second song, he busts out the classic “Little Fury Thing.”  This acoustic version sounds really good–so simple and clean.  The original is great burst of loud rocking and it’s amazing that the song can sound so good stripped down. His voice is much deeper for this song .  I love at the end how he plays the strings really really fast but continues to swing in his most languid style.

The third song is actually two songs.  He switches guitars (and is apparently using sheet music) to play “Drifter/Heal the Star.”  The first part is a lengthy, really pretty instrumental.  For all of Mascis’ noise and rocking out, he knows how to write beautiful, lovely melodies.  The main melody is played on the high strings alternating some great strumming on the low strings for the “chorus.”   I could listen to this for ages.

The song segues into “Heal the Star” which sounds very Mascis–his most Mascis voice and strumming style.  Although for the chorus he’s back to the falsetto vocals again.  The solo a the end is great as he plays chords on the lowers strings while soloing ion the high strings (there must be a different tuning to make this sound so good).

I saw Dinosaur Jr a couple of months ago and I’m going to see them in November again.  I love Mascis’ loudness, but it’s wonderful to hear him play these quiet pieces too.

[READ: April 1, 2016] Overpowered!

I loved the premise of this book right from the start.  I mean, the cover alone is great, and flipping through it, there are some wonderful images of men with great mustaches in turbans doing all manner of hypnosis to people.  What I didn’t expect (but probably should have if I’d read his bio on the back) is that Green himself is a practicing hypnotherapist (in addition to being an actor and performer who has created such characters as “US Country music star Tina C and pensioner rap star Ida Barr.”

It turns out that Green has been interested in hypnosis for a long time.  He learned how to do it and then wanted to set the record straight for what hypnosis actually is as opposed to what we believe it is.

So this proves to be a thorough (and very funny) history of hypnosis through the years.   He says the book is called “Overpowered” because “I’m fascinated by the delight human beings derive from the idea of being taken over.  Being conscious may be beneficial, but it is also hard work.” (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 7, 2016] Pearl Jam

2016-08-07 18.26.10After the excitement of seeing Pearl Jam at the Wells Fargo Center, we were psyched out of our minds to go to Fenway.  I didn’t realize that Fenway has a regular concert series.  I’d assumed that Pearl Jam were the first band to play there–they weren’t–but that didn’t detract in any way from the coolness of the venue.

Neither of us are baseball fans, although when I lived in Boston two decades ago, I did attend a couple of games at Fenway because it is a landmark (and when I was a kid I loved baseball, so duh).  But we knew that the venue would make the show even more special.

We’d have loved to have gone to both shows, but unlike some people, we couldn’t get tickets for both nights.  However, through a small piece of luck, I won tickets to a screening of Friday night’s show on Saturday night.  What?  Well, each night is filmed.  So the film crew filmed Friday night, then edited the footage together and had it ready on the next night as a really nicely edited package at the House of Blues (across the street from Fenway) on Saturday night.

It seemed kind of dumb to go to a music venue to watch a movie.  And Sarah and I were skeptical about going.  But we did and we had a  great time.  I’ve watched live DVDs and it’s always an okay thing to do–fun, but never like you were really there. But this was different. Having a group of some 600 people in a club–with bars and good lighting and excellent sound–it made it feel (almost) like a real concert.  And even though we laughed at the people who were clapping and cheering (as if the band were actually there), and taking videos of the screen (my battery died or I would have grabbed a few screen shots too), we were caught up in the excitement on several occasions as well. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 16, 2016] Dinosaur Jr.

2016-07-16 19.49.10I have wanted to see Dinosaur Jr for many years.  I intended to see them last year when they toured with Primus, but I couldn’t get to the show.  So I was pretty excited that they were touring again, this time with Jane’s Addiction.

I had never been to a Stone Pony Summer Stage (never been to The Stone Pony either) and I didn’t really know what to expect (reviews on Yelp are pretty harsh).  Things got even more questionable when the weather turned nasty.  The show was supposed to start at 6, but as of 4:30 there was a huge thunderstorm in Absury Park, so they delayed the opening of the show.  And since there were more storms threatening for later, it was possible that it might get cancelled.

Just to make things a little more unsatisfying, Living Colour was supposed to be the first band on the bill.  I’ve never seen them and while I wouldn’t go out of my way to see them, I thought they’d be a lot of fun live.  I found out yesterday (although this was probably decided much earlier) that they weren’t playing in this show (they are in Germany), and that Minus the Bear would be opening instead.

I don’t know Minus the Bear (a lot of bands with names like “noun the noun” lately, and I don’t really know any of them).  I listened to a few songs before the show and thought they might be fun.  But the gates didn’t wind up opening until 8PM, so Minus the Bear didn’t even play. (more…)

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july21SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS 2014-With a Little Help from My Fwends (2014).

fwendsAnd speaking of covers.

Probably the least anticipated album of 2014 was the Flaming Lips’ cover of Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.  Although the biggest surprise (mostly in a bad way, it seemed) was Wayne Coyne’s embrace (metaphorical, we hope) of Miley Cyrus.  The fact that Cyrus appears on this record at all totally overshadowed the fact that so many other people and bands appeared here as well.  I literally had no idea at the names that contributed to this electronic psychedelic re-imagining of a very psychedelic album.

The biggest overall difference between the two is that the Beatles’ psychedelia was conveyed through organic instruments–strings, horns, sitar, piano–while The Fwends version is almost entirely electronic.  This of course means that the album sounds very different from the original.  But what I think makes the album a success overall is that the various artists involved all bring a slightly different vision to the proceedings.  This makes it less of a Flaming Lips record and more of a Friends of Lips-style psychedelia collection.  I’m not even sure why it’s a Flaming Lips record, except that they are credited with playing on a bunch of songs (and presumably produced it–which explains some of the excess noise on the record).

Obviously, they are not trying to improve on the original.  And obviously, die-hard Beatles fans are appalled at this travesty.  But anyone who knows the Beatles knows that they were all about experimenting themselves.  Rather than getting mad about this, perhaps listeners should see that  they are having fun with the originals–sometimes staying faithful, sometimes exploring other ways to do songs, and sometimes just throwing everything out the window for a chance to jam.  And some versions you may even like.

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” featuring My Morning Jacket, Fever the Ghost & J Mascis
The song starts out with a goofy falsetto rendition of the song which makes it seem like the whole album is going to be a big joke (I assume this is Fever the Ghost whom I don’t know).  But I loved the way the “record” slows down to let MMJ take over with a great noisy, respectful chorus.  The song could certainly use more MMJ.  When “Billy Shears” is introduced, it turns out be J Masics playing a totally song-inappropriate wailing guitar solo.
“With a Little Help from My Friends” featuring The Flaming Lips, Black Pus & Autumn Defense
I love that Wayne sings this verse (about being out of tune) with an auto tune on his voice.  He sings it really quite lovely.  I even enjoy that the response verses are done in a kind of out of tune crazy way.  But the problem is that they are too much–it turns the song into too much of a joke (which is to be expected form a band called Black Pus, I suppose).  It’s a shame because the idea could work really well if it didn’t sound like someone crashing a party.  Autumn Defense is a side project from the bassist for Wilco, and I assume he does the lovely harmony vocals.
“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” featuring The Flaming Lips, Miley Cyrus & Moby
Miley so overshadows everyone on this song that I didn’t even realize Moby was on it.  Miley sounds really quite good in this version–not all that dissimilar to John’s falsetto voice on the original.  The removal of the big drum before the chorus is distressing, although I do like the replacement, the echoed “gone” part.  I like that they are having fun with the song (the repeat of “Marshmallow Pie” is cute) I just wish the chorus wasn’t mixed so loud that it is so distorted.  I hate that about recent Lips releases, why do they do it?
“Getting Better” featuring Dr. Dog, Chuck Inglish & Morgan Delt
Dr Dog sounds great in this version, although I find Inglish’s recitation (in which he can’t seem to hit any notes on the few times when he  “sings” to be rather unsettling).  I don’t know Morgan Delt, but I find his trippy vocals to work quite well.
“Fixing a Hole” featuring Electric Würms
Electric Würms are the side project of Flaming Lip Steven Drozd.  This is claustrophobic but quite appropriate for the song (I wish it were a little cleaner though).
“She’s Leaving Home” featuring Phantogram, Julianna Barwick & Spaceface
This is a great, delicate version of this with Phantogram and Barwick sharing lead vocals duties.  It’s quite lovely.
“Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” featuring The Flaming Lips, Maynard James Keenan, Puscifer & Sunbears!
Maynard does a great job reciting the song.  The song is not necessarily more trippy than the original (which is pretty trippy, it’s just a lot more electronic-sounding.  It’s a weird but cool rendition of the song.
“Within You Without You” featuring The Flaming Lips, Birdflower & Morgan Delt
I don’t Birdflower, but she does a great job in a higher register with the Indian melody (it’s all electronic and not traditional Indian instrumentation but it sounds cool).  Delt sings alternate leads and is a good counterpoint.
“When I’m Sixty-Four” featuring The Flaming Lips, Def Rain & Pitchwafuzz
I don’t know Def Rain or Pitchwafuzz, but I think Def Rain is doing the voice.  The robotic voice that sings this song is kind of fun–a little too much at times, but overall fun.
“Lovely Rita” featuring Tegan and Sara & Stardeath and White Dwarfs
Tegan and Sara have fun with this song while the noise from Stardeath is much darker than the original.
“Good Morning Good Morning” featuring Zorch, Grace Potter & Treasure Mammal
This song is a little wild (although so is the original).  I don’t know any of the artists involved in it.
“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” featuring Foxygen & Ben Goldwasser
Foxygen takes this one minute reprise and turns it into a five minute jam session. It has nothing at all to do with the original and it is a weird way to delay the final song.  I don’t know what Goldwasser contributes.  If you can get past the fact that it sound nothing like the original, it’s an interesting noisy jam.
“A Day in the Life” featuring The Flaming Lips, Miley Cyrus & New Fumes
Wayne and Miley duet on this, with again, Wayne taking the vocals seriously.  Wayne does the “John” verses.  The switch to Miley’s take on the “Paul” verses is a pretty big shock the way it sounds so stark and electronic.  There’s a few too many echoes on her part, but again, Miley does pretty well with a detached reading.  And because they are difficult, the end just gets cut off before the final famous crescendo.

So is this a great record that people will listen to a lot? Nope.  Is it an interesting twist on a famous record?  Sure.  Is it enjoyable?  For the most part.  As long a you don’t think of it is a definitive re-make, and accept it as a way to raise money for a charity.

[READ: January 28, 2015] “Wagner in the Desert”

This story reminded me in spirit of both Less than Zero and Generation X, but perhaps for Generation Y.

It’s about a bunch of friends getting ready to ring in the New Year in Palm Springs with a lot of drugs.

The narrator and friends were vacationing some friends from whom he had drifted.  Marta and Eli were trying to have a baby and were looking to do one more sort of wild night before it all became to real: “The Baby Bucket List they were calling it.”  So they all headed to Palm Springs, a group of “modern hustlers: filmmakers, ad writers (screen, Web, magazine), who periodically worked as narrative consultants on ad campaigns, sustainability experts, P.R. lifers, designers, or design consultants, social entrepreneurs and that strange species of human beings who has invented an app.”

Unlike the coke heads of the 80s, though: “We thought we were not bad people.  Not the best, a bit spoiled, maybe, but pleasant, inconstant, decent.”

The group were all paired off except for the narrator and Lily, who was pretty and neurotic, an executive in training.  And he soon filled the role of her gofer because “she needed a lot of things.” He had hoped to have sex with her–his only goal for the vacation.  But as of day three, they had only made out a bit. (more…)

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