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Archive for the ‘TV on the Radio’ Category

[ATTENDED: December 29, 2019] Phish

I blew off two of the three Phish shows I had tickets to this summer.  (I really should have gone to that Sunday show).  Camden is such a hassle.

Somehow, I find getting to Madison Square Garden much less of a hassle–which makes literally no sense.  These were my fourth and fifth times seeing them at MSG (compared to two in Camden).  But this MSG trip involved driving into the city ($15 tunnel toll?) and then getting a garage.  And, because I planned to go to an after party at Le Poisson Rouge with Marco Benevento, I decided to park in the village and subway it up.  That’s actually a lot of hassle.

But it was worth it.

This was my eighth Phish show (I could be in double digits by now if I didn’t sell those Camden tickets).

The theory is that the Sunday night of the New Year’s Eve run is always great.  And boy howdy was it. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 29, 2018] Phish

I was very excited to see Phish again this summer.  I bought tickets for all three shows at the BB&T Pavillion.

But then my week had turned very busy with shows and other commitments.  When I heard Cate Le Bon was playing at Boot & Saddle on the Friday night, I decided to sell Friday’s ticket.  I mean, let’s be honest, BB&T is a pain in the ass to get to (and parking is insane and expensive).   (I wound up not even going to Cate Le Bon either, boo).   I also decided to sell Sunday’s ticket because Saturday was a long night and I had had enough of the late nights for a time.

But for the Saturday show I had originally bought two tickets so that S. could go to her first Phish show.  I was bummed that they were lawn seats, although I think she felt this added to the experience because she got to see all of the people dancing and milling about.  We were supposed to meet my friend Armando, which would have made the whole night really fun, but he had car trouble and wound up not making it.  (boo).

So it was just S. and I.  Traffic sucked, parking sucked and the weather was questionable.   We arrived literally as “Mike’s Song” started.  So we found a somewhat unused spot on the lawn and settled in.  Phish fans are very friendly but for some reason the group around us wasn’t very inclusive.  In what has to be a first, no one offered either of us a joint the whole night!  They must have thought we were narcs. (more…)

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  SOUNDTRACK: FOXING-Tiny Desk Concert #857 (June 12, 2019).

I saw Foxing live and they were quite different from their recorded output–louder, more intense, a very physical band.  I was curious if they would sound more like their records or more like their live selves.

They have chosen the album sound–quieter, more subtle with gorgeous orchestration.

But I wasn’t the only one to wonder this.

When we invited Foxing to NPR HQ, we wondered how the band’s big sound would translate to such a (forgive us) tiny space. Would Foxing bring a bagpiper to recreate the shrill accent it snuck onto its latest album, 2018’s Nearer My God, or try to replicate the cathartic energy of its live shows over the hum of computers and fluorescent lights?

I didn’t realize that Foxing was

at the forefront of what’s referred to as “emo revival,” a term for today’s crop of bands heavily influenced by late-’90s and early 2000s groups… But with each new LP, Foxing’s ambitions reach beyond the genre’s boundaries, incorporating broader inspiration.

When I saw them, the show was dominated by singer Conor Murphy and guitarist Eric Hudson.  Interestingly, Hudson is on keys for this set.  Caeleigh Featherstone was on keys for my show.  She is on keys here, but her backing vocals are far more prominent here.

For this performance, Foxing expanded its numbers, bringing a saxophonist (Jordan Pettay) and a couple of string players (Gabriel Valle: violin; Nathan Sander: viola) to accompany the band’s touring lineup — and somehow, we managed to fit everyone behind Bob Boilen’s desk.

The first song, “Slapstick” features Conor’s falsetto and Caeleigh’s backing vocals.  Hudson plays the single wobbly notes that float behind the vocals. The strings are quiet but fill in the silences really nicely.  I love the gentle repeating guitar solo that Ricky Sampson plays through the middle.  Sampson plays bass throughout the rest of the show and Brett Torrence plays it on this song.  That sax solo at the end adds a nice touch to the emotional ending.

For its Tiny Desk, Foxing spotlighted three standout tracks from Nearer My God. The quieter instrumentation pushed singer Conor Murphy’s starkly confessional lyrics and shattering delivery to the forefront, especially on the set’s opening song, “Slapstick.”

And even with minimal amplification, the swelling chorus of the title cut “Nearer My God” is just as impressive as performed during the band’s explosive concerts.

“Nearer My God” accentuates Murphy’s falsetto even further and the harmonies sound truly wonderful.  The opening is quiet but it builds really nicely to the middle section which features great drums from the almost never on camera Jon Hellwig.

The set ends with “Grand Paradise” the song that I think makes them sound most like TV on the Radio.  It’s terrific the way the music counterpoints the vocals. The end section of the song just overwhelms with impassioned vocals.  The ending sax solo is pretty cool too although there’ s a nice bass riff around 11 minutes and we don’t get to see Ricky do it.

This is a great set, although I have a little question over the filming–too much attention to the strings and not enough to the rest of the band.

[READ: June 5, 2019] “Conduction”

This is an incredibly powerful story of slavery and freedom.

The story opens with Hiram Walker departing Virginia.  He is a slave with fake papers and a route to freedom.  The writing is excellent.  You can feel the tension, the fear and the sense that anything could go wrong at any second.  Slave catchers, known as Ryland’s Hounds, were at every turn.

He saw the men who were supposed to help him but he couldn’t make eye contact.  The conductor looked at his false ticket which stated that he had recently purchased his freedom.  The conductor didn’t care and he was allowed on.

After two days, he met a contact whom he also did not know.  After one more silent ride, he was in a house in Philadelphia with members of the Underground.

He explains how he knew the white man who helped him as well as the black man named Raymond White who also helped him.  Raymond’s brother Otha was also there–he was more charming, more jovial than Raymond.

For the next few days he wandered the city of Philadelphia, a free man.  Unused to and somewhat unhappy with this new burden.  It was an unsettling feeling, one that carried great deal of responsibility. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 30, 2019] Foxing

I feel like I should have known more about Foxing.  They have a huge following and have played Philly many times, but I really didn’t know anything about them.

Their new album was getting quite good reviews.  But the more I read about them the more confused I got.  Their music was described as emo, post-rock, math-rock, and even chamber-rock.

So I listened to a few songs, didn’t really grab on to anything, and decided I’d stay for them anyway.

And holy cow were they amazing.

One thing the reviews never really talked about was how heavy and loud they are live.  I have since listened to their albums and they really sound nothing like the explosion of intensity that their live show is.  You can hear the kernels of the songs in their, but live, wow.

Like Now, Now, it was pretty dark on stage, but the lighting was much more interesting and welcoming.  I could actually see most of the band most of the time. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKPHISH-sets one and three (MGM Grand Garden Arena, Friday 10 31, 2014).

The previous Ghost Box posts explored Phish’s Set two of their 2014 Halloween show.  But the rest of the night was perfectly suited to Halloween as well.

The band wore white tuxedos and white face paint.

Phish played a night of songs perfectly suited to Halloween.  A rousing spirited “Buried Alive” is followed by a slow moody “Ghost.”  “Ghost” had a lot of fuzzy dirty clavinet in the middle section.  It was followed by “Scent Of A Mule,” which features the Halloween related lyric:

She said, “I hate laser beams
And you never done see me askin’
For a UFO
In Tomahawk County”

A little guy from the UFO
Came on out and said his name was Joe
She said, “Come on over for some lemonade

There’s some wild piano soloing and then

an interesting “Mule Duel” segment spotlighting Mike and Trey. Mike utilized a synth effect, which drove the crowd wild, while Trey threw in dark and droning notes of his own. The interesting section of the Mule Duel climaxed with Mike and Trey holding their instruments in the air and rubbing them against each other, which made for quite a wild scene.

There’s some sci-fi sounding menace which seems to migrate into a kind of Yiddish melody until the song returns to the main melody again.

It as followed by a quick and fun “Sample In A Jar” which segues into a 12-minute “Reba” (a perfect Halloween song, indeed).  There’s a wailing solo just before the whistling coda.   It was followed by an intense “46 Days” (Taste the fear/For the devil’s drawing near) with some great mid-song soloing.  And then the perfect Halloween song: “Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars.”  The verses were really heavy and chaotic (musical nonsense from everyone as the noise crescendoed).  The song was particularly long at almost 3 and a half minutes.

Page then showed off lounge skills with a fun “Lawn Boy.”  He  took the lead mic and wished everyone a Happy Halloween and praised the great costumes.  Then after giving Mike a quick solo he had Fish do a very quick drum solo (he didn’t seem like he wanted to).  Next came another great Halloween song: “I Saw It Again”

When I wake in the night
(when I wake up in the night I’m pulled from my dreams)
Well, when something’s not right
I try not to look
(but the curtains pull open its breathing I hear)
For there is the shape
That I fear
And I’m fully woken
I saw it again

It had a great menacing feel to it with Trey’s wah wah adding extra sounds and the guys adding screams and cries during the choruses.  A funky “Tube” was next [You’re a portrait of your past / There’s a mummy in the cabinet / Are there no more arrows left?].  The set ended with a sprightly “Wolfman’s Brother.”  That opening piano note really snapped the darkness out of that previous ending.

Set two, was, of course the Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House [narration by Laura Olsher; Sound Effects by Walt Disney Sound Effects Group].

The third set pretty much eschews the Halloween motif.  “Punch You In The Eye” kicked it off with a 9 minute jam.  Then came a jaunty cover of TV on the Radio’s “Golden Age.”  Midway through, Page jumped over to his Wurlitzer electric piano as Fish altered his beat ever so slightly over the course of the 11-minute song.  There were a few times when it seemed the jam had petered out, but Page kept the keys going until Trey played the opening riff of “Tweezer.”  “Tweezer” was only 10 minutes long, but mid song they made a turn towards a bright, dreamy chord progression and eventually landed on a bright “Heavy Things.”

The expertly executed segue between the two is well worth the re-listen.

The 11 minute “Guyute” seems a but slow, but the end riffing part is really fast and intense and the slow last verse is quite menacing.  Although it comes out of that song bouncy once again and sets the stage for an 18 minute “Sand.”  There’s some great soloing from Trey and some cool funky keys from Page.

Just when “Sand” had hit its peak, the band pulled back and embarked on a second jam. McConnell took the lead on “Sand”s second jam as it seemed the band never wanted to stop playing the song. As Page milked the clavinet, Trey delivered thick, dirty riffs.

There were a few funk breaks (with Mike’s watery bass) and at each pause the crowd responded with a “whoo!”  Near the end of the song, the band started rocking out some heavy chords (with whooos as needed).  And while the band jammed those chords, Trey started playing a riff that sounded suspiciously like “Tweezer Reprise.”  I love when the band is playing basically two songs at once.  Eventually they all joined in for a spirited run through of the song.

The roof nearly came off the MGM Grand Arena by the time “Tweezer Reprise” came to a close as the clock approached 1 a.m. local time.

For the encore, they played Leonard Cohen’s “Is This What You Wanted,” sung by Mike.  It’s interesting to hear this done not but Cohen whose voice is so distinctive.  The song contains the lines “And is this what you wanted, To live in a house that is haunted, By the ghost of you and me?” which fits the haunted house theme perfectly.  Despite thematic choice, it’s not an especially rousing encore.  Which is why the band had one more Halloween song in mind.

Page came out with his keytar, [“which once was owned by James Brown,”] for The Edgar Winter Group’s  “Frankenstein.”  It sounded great and Page’s keytar had some fantastic old-school sounds that fit the Halloween theme perfectly.

The band played for almost four hours that night.  Now that is a treat!

[READ: October 26, 2017] “Hallowe’en in a Suburb”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar comes The Ghost Box.

This is a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening) that contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

A collection of chilly, spooky, hair-raising-y stories to get you in that Hallowe’en spirit, edited and introduced by comedian and horror aficionado Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, on the inside cover, one “window” of the 11 boxes is “folded.”  I am taking that as a suggested order.

Tucked into the bottom of the box is an orange rectangle with the poem “Hallowe’en in a Suburb” by H.P. Lovecraft.

Typically I don’t find poems to be particularly scary.  It’s hard to make rhymes scary.  But Lovecraft does his creepiness pretty well.  This one is written in English Quintain style (A-B-A-B-B).

This poem is more a disturbingly supernatural description of the suburbs around Halloween. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 28, 2017] Blondie

When I saw that Blondie and Garbage were touring together (“The Rage and Rapture Tour”) I casually asked Sarah if she wanted to go.  It’s possible that Sarah was a bigger Blondie fan that I realized.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Blondie (I didn’t even realize that she grew up n the same town as I did!).  But I love The Best of Blondie and “Atomic” is one of my favorite songs from the era.  I believe that I even stood behind her at a Ramones concert in 1989, but alas I will never know for sure.  Retroactively I’ve realized just how important she was/is and I was pretty excited to see her live.

I knew that Shirley Manson loved Blondie but I didn’t realize he admiration was reciprocated.  I just read that Debbie Harry and Blondie asked Manson to deliver their induction speech upon entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a little over a decade ago. (more…)

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dec2014SOUNDTRACK: BOOGIE-Live at SXSW (March 21, 2015).

boogieAt this year’s SXSW, NPR had a showcase featuring 5 artists.  One was Courtney Barnett (see Saturday’s post).  The other artists were Stromae, TV on the Radio and Shamir.  I assumed that they’d be posting full shows from all the artists.  But aside from the Courtney Barnett show and two songs from Stromae, the boogie show is the only other one that we can view.

The first artist was rapper Boogie. Boogie is from Compton and he defied Compton stereotypes by not only not singing about gangs (well, he does but not as a gang member) but actually speaking about love and change. Like many rappers he has a weird tic (most seem to say Uh huh, yeah, but he says “wuh wuh” a lot). It’s a bit tiresome but not the end of the world.

I didn’t enjoy his first few songs because although his introductions to the songs were really nice—about love and respecting women while disrespecting bitches etc, I thought his lyrics were really poor.  Just a ton of repeated fucks and bitches. It was lazy.  And the second song “Bitter Raps” was just list of things he doesn’t like, which I also thought was weak—although may be the crowd enjoyed it.

And the beats weren’t all that interesting to me—I don’t really like the music behind West Coast rap so that’s a strike against it for me anyhow.

But by the end of his set I thought he really showed some good stuff.  “Gangbangin’” was a really good song (rhyming bullshit with pulpit was clever). “God Work” was also good, but “Oh My” was the best song of the night—a great chorus of “Oh my goodness” was funny but also effective.  Using his 5 year old son as a sample was also fun as the boy really enjoyed putting so words down for his dad.

By the end of the set with “The Change,” he had won me over, and while I won’t be listening to him again, I imagine he was a good warm up for the night.

You can watch his set here.

[READ:March 25, 2015] “Forbidden City”

I enjoyed this story a lot more than I was expecting to.  It’s not that I thought it would be bad, I just didn’t really have any expectations.  I barely know Dyer at all.  But it proved to be really enjoyable.  Although I feel like the ending was a bit of a let down (and how could it not be, with the way it was set up?).

James is a (British) author on a tour of China.  He has been to many cities in China and he is exhausted.  He had been to Shanghai and Beijing and he had been plied with many many drinks.  These combined with his jetlag to wipe him out.

He was being chaperoned by Min, the coordinator from his Chinese publisher and although she had done just about everything with him, she was relentlessly cheerful and up.  And on his last day the last thing he wanted to hear was that she had scheduled a tour of the Forbidden City.  He feared the well meaning and knowledgeable tour guide would bore him silly as they walked around the huge Forbidden City in stultifying Beijing heat. (more…)

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