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Archive for the ‘Road Trip’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DIRTY PROJECTORS-Tiny Desk Concert #809 (December 4, 2018).

In my head Dirty Projectors are a noisy, chaotic band who make weird songs.  But this Concert could not be further from that understanding.

The music is beautiful, the harmonies are outstanding and the instrumentation is gentle and pretty.

The blurb seems to suggest that the music is often quirky:

Dirty Projectors’ eighth album is often loving and forgiving. It’s full of the quirks of production and rhythm and rhyme that had me fall for their music when I first heard it about a dozen years ago.

and maybe some of their earlier music exaggerates the quirks.  But watching this band with their acoustic guitars and candles makes this a delightfully warm and sweet Tiny Desk.

When Dirty Projectors let us know they couldn’t make it to the band’s Tiny Desk performance until late in the day, we were sad because the clocks had recently turned back for the fall, we knew that our beautiful, natural light would be gone and it’d be dark. But with candles left over from a late-winter day performance by Rhye — and some LED panels and spots — we were set up right on time for David Longstreth to sing these words: “The sky has darkened, earth turned to hell / Some said a light got shined where darkness dwelt / So I won’t cry or collapse, overwhelmed / Time like a song just might rhyme with itself.”  What’s wonderful about this Tiny Desk Concert is watching these talented people arrange this complicated music without amplification and seeing the joy on their face when it all worked out.

The band plays three songs:

The first one, “That’s a Lifestyle” has such a delightful guitar melody.  I love it.  I also love that the three female singers sometimes harmonize, sometime follow and sometimes both.  Felicia Douglass (vocals, percussion, keys), sings “that’s a” over and over while Kristin Slipp (vocals, Rhodes, Wurlitzer), follows each instance with a series of words.  I also love that both Longstreth and Maia Friedman (vocals, guitar), are playing this wonderfully complex guitar section–while he sings leads and she contributes extra backing vocals as well.

“Right Now”  has a great middle section where Douglass sings the first “Now… Now” and then Friedman and Slipp harmonize the repeated “nows” after that.  Slipp plays an awesome little melody on the keyboard as well.  And all along there’s a rather complicated guitar going throughout.

Nat Baldwin (bass) switches between finger plucked and bowing on the upright bass to add yet more textures to the music.

“What Is The Time?” opens with a wonderfully complicated drum pattern (Mike Johnson) before settling down into more delicate folk.  There’s more gorgeous harmonies on the chorus and an amusing moment where the lyrics are “say hello” and Longstreth waves “Hey, NPR.”

All in all, this blew away all my expectations for Dirty Projectors and was a great Tiny Desk.  I’ll have to explore their music a little more.

[READ: January 18, 2017] “Spiderweb”

This is a very long story in which not a lot happens, but in which tension builds and builds between major characters.

The narrator goes to visit her aunt and uncle in Corrientes:

My aunt and my uncle were the custodians of the memory of my mother, their favorite sister, who was killed in a stupid accident when I was seventeen.

But the aunt isn’t happy about the situation: “You got married and we haven’t even met your husband!  How is that possible?  You’re hiding him from us?”  She explains: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Live at Massey Hall (April 29, 2016).

After their farewell concert at Massey Hall in 2007, who would have guessed that some nine years later they’d be back again.

When I heard this show was announced I immediately bought a ticket, not really thinking about how I would logistically manage such a thing.  I was able to get it to a fan who could go, but at least I’ll have my email confirmation:

Live at Massey HallRheostatics
Fri 04/29/2016 8:00 PM
Main Floor Centre Front  Seat I-44   $29.50

This time Martin’s voice is working again.  But in the intervening years he has had something else go on with him.  I don’t know details, but there’s some kind of anxiety present–and it comes out during this show.

Amazingly, for such a big show, there is hardly any evidence of it online.  There’s a few fan videos but no full sets available.

The only performance available that I can find is the official release from (the terrific) Live at Massey Hall series.  The whole series is wonderful–professionally filmed and beautifully recorded.  The only problem is that it’s so short.  I don’t know how long the show was, but the video is only 40 minutes.

The video opens with Martin talking about his laryngitis, “laryngitis taught me to enjoy singing in a lower range.”  There’s Tim talking about seeing Devo (who were walking on treadmills the whole show) at Massey Hall and overheating from wearing a heavy coat in winter.  Dave saw lot so new wave bands who weren’t great live but were great because they were in Massey hall–it’s a forgiving and inspiring place.

Big red letters in the back of the stage spelled out RHEOSTATISC (sic).

The set opens with “King of the Past” Martin plays a lovely solo and gets some applause and the whole thing sounds great.

“Californian Dreamline” opens with some great sound effects from Martin, Hugh Marsh and Kevin Hearn.  But after the “sensamilla” bit, Martin freaks out.  He steps away from the mic and waves everyone off.

Dave jumps in, “this happened in Montreal once. It’s true.  We were opening for Moxy Fruvous, so it’s a kind of curse we’ve got to exorcise.”

The band jams on and them Martin comes back to sing and the crowd gives him a big cheer–there really is no more forgiving crowd than a Rheostatics crowd.

The opening acoustic guitar of “Claire” begins.  That’s Tim on acoustic, Dave on bass and Martin on his gorgeous double neck guitar.  The letters have been rearranged to say SORTA ITCHES and Martin plays a great solo.  Tim sounds perfect, of course.

They start “P.I.N.”  Martin sings the first line and then has an issue.  He steps away again while the band plays on. He catches himself and returns (again to encouraging applause).  Once it gets going it all sounds great.

Dave finally gets a lead vocal song.  The letters spell out SHITCOASTER as they play a flawless “Mumbletypeg.”

Then apparently the entire rest of the show happens and we get the night-ending encore–a wild and raucous “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds.” (The letters finally spell RHEOSTATICS). The song gets off to a pretty good start.  For the middle, Martin and Hugh face each other (Martin always seems comforted by being with Hugh) and then Don Kerr gets a drum solo (with sound effects from Kevin Hearn).

At the end of the song, for the “moon,” there are howls, probably from Kevin, possibly from the audience.  As they slowly fade away, Dave jumps of the drum rise and the end of the song begins.  But this is an extended jam ending.  Hugh and Kevin make some menacing sounds and then Martin plays a solo with a slide.  It’s a weird, very undramatic ending for such a dramatic band.

I have always been sad that I couldn’t go to this show, but it sounds like it would have been a real roller coaster of a night.

Read this review from Radio Free Canuckistan for the perspective of someone who was there.

Over the closing credits, Kevin Hearn’s father read “The Laughing Heart” by Charles Bukowski.  I assume he read that before the band came out (accompanied by Hugh Marsh).

I don’t know much by Bukowski, but this is great for its simple profundity.

The Laughing Heart

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

[READ: March 5, 2018] Head Games

As with some of my favorite books, the story behind the creation is almost as interesting as the book itself.

Craig McDonald is a journalist and he says that he is often frustrated by trying to write the truth: “read five biographies about the same person and you’ll feel like you’ve read about five different people.”  With fiction maybe you can find something bordering truth.

The introduction by McDonald tells us that we will be riding with pulp novelist Hector Lassiter.  Lassiter is the protagonist of a finite arc of ten novels. The last one, Three Chords & The Truth is a sequel to Head Games and appeared in 2016.  Lassiter is a charmer, a rogue, a rake and a crime novelist who lives what he writes and writes what he lives.  Hector was born in Texas in 1/1/1900 and the arc of the novels spans the 20th century.

McDonald says the publishing history of the books is not chronological. Head Games was the first novel published.  The second was set in 1935 and features Hemingway prominently.  Other books hopscotched through the decade. They have recently been reissued and presented in roughly chronological order.

The novels “follow secret histories and underexplored aspects of real events.”  They’re set in real places and use history and real people to drive the plots. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING CRIMSON-The Elements Of King Crimson – 2015 Tour Box (2015).

The Elements box set has become a tour staple since the band reformed in 2014.  This is the second set and it contains another fascinating cross section of music from throughout Crimson’s existence.

In addition to the music, these sets contain a booklet that is chock full of pictures and usually an essay that gives context to what you’re about to hear.

It also includes the seven Principles of King Crimson

  1. May King Crimson bring joy to us all. Including me.
  2. If you don’t want to play a part, that’s fine!
  3. Give it to someone else – there’s enough of us.All the music is new, whenever it was written.
  4. If you don’t know your note, hit C#.
  5. If you don’t the time, play in 5. Or 7.
  6. If you don’t know what to play, get more gear.
  7. If you still don’t know what to play, play nothing.

Of the four boxes, I think this is my favorite–although the second disc of 2017 is pretty awesome.  I really enjoy the first half of the first disc.  It’s all instrumental (even tracks that have words are instrumental versions).  It’s a great collection of  sometimes pretty, sometimes not, 70s prog rock.

The eight-minute instrumental version of “Epitaph” (Steven Wilson 2015 instrumental mix) is gorgeous.  Even though I like the words just fine, there’s something really thrilling about removing them on this song.  “Catfood” is (somewhat obviously) a rather goofy lyric, so hearing this complex song without words is also a treat.  “Bolero – The Peacock’s Tale” is listed as a Tony Levin overdub.  I don’t know exactly what that means, as it is taken from the Lizard recording sessions, but the song is lovely.

In addition to longer, complete songs, the Elements sets feature short snippets.  Like the two-minute extract of “Islands” (with oboe).  Or the four-minute jazzy “A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls” which is clearly the foundation for “Lark’s Tongues in Aspic.”

Although the set is largely chronological, there’s an excerpt from the 2014 tour rehearsals in which Fripp discusses how the band knows all of their parts.  They give a mellow example of how he and Jakko will play “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (Part II)” which is followed by the full 6 minute version from 1974.  It’s followed by an 11 minute live version of “Fracture” from 1974 (the previous box’s version was from 1973).

There’s a “guitar extract” of “One More Red Nightmare” (less than a minute long)  from 1974 followed by a full performance of the song from 2014 which doesn’t feel like a jump of forty years in any way.

The disc jumps to the 1980s era with an extended remix of “Elephant Talk” followed by 1981’s “Absent Lovers.”

1983’s “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part III/Sleepless” is staggeringly good.

Disc Two suffers a bit in comparison, which I find surprising as I really like the later era of King Crimson–the more metal sounding stuff is really intense.

I enjoyed the first part–the late 1990s; work.  “Jurassic THRAK” sounds huge, and 2014’s drum solo “The Hell Hounds of Krim” works fine as a connector to the next four songs which highlight the late 90’s abrasive guitars.  It’s about 20 minutes of noisy coolness. “VROOOM,” “Coda: Marine 475” and “ProjeKction” (Performed by ProjeKct Four) all showcase that complicated music really delightfully.

Then things start to slow down somewhat. “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic – Part IV/the construKction of light” suffers in my mind because of the smallness of the band.  With only four members playing, the song doesn’t feel like a huge organism, it feels more like two guitarists playing next to each other.  Mind you, it sounds amazing if you can get away from the fact that it doesn’t feel terribly “full.”  Of course, I may be just spoiled from the great versions of LTIA I’ve seen with the 7-piece band.

Things really slow down and chill out for “Sus-Tayn-Z” (Performed by ProjeKct X), “Power to Believe,” “Ex Uno Patres” and the nine minute exceedingly mellow (with vocals) “The Light of Day.”  I do not love this style of Crimson.  It works as a palette cleanser between heavy songs, but too much is too much.

The “Ba Ba Boom Boom” drum solo and “ATTAKcATHRAK” ramp things up with the kind of noise that segues nicely into the blistering 2014 version of “21st Century Schizoid Man.”

This box set once again demonstrates that King Crimson is a multi-headed beast, liable to go in any direction at any time.

[READ: January 6, 2018] Heroes of the Frontier

Somehow I missed that Eggers had written this book. I saw it in the bookstore recently and immediately grabbed it and devoured it.

I was worried that it was going to be a woman-moves-off-the-grid-and-life-gets-better story, but it’s not that at all.  It’s far more complicated and a bit more unsettling.

Josie is a dentist in Ohio.  But as we meet her, she and her children are riding in a crappy rented RV through the highways of Alaska.

Josie has a large sum of cash with her.  She had been sued by a patient for a sum she could not afford.  Rather than trying to raise th e money to save her practice or giving it over to woman, she sold her practice in total to a dentist friend.  So now, she has the cash and, temporarily, no future.

She was also in a terrible relationship.  Her children’s father, Carl, had taken off on them.  He was always aloof and a loser, but this disappearance to Florida was something else entirely.

She took her kids, Paul (8) and Ana (5) and got outta Dodge.  The children are an interesting pair.  Paul is nurturing and worrying, especially about his sister. He looks after her more closely than their mother ever does.  Ana, meanwhile, is a disaster–she seems to have a natural gift for how to break something–she can find the weak point of any structure or situation and cause havoc wherever she goes–and Paul is happy to fix the situation.

Why Alaska?  Because she has a stepsister (sort of) who lives in Homer.  Sam is independent and successful (which Josie was as well, although she was unhappy). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ARTISTS FROM THE “TAKE ME TO THE RIVER” TOUR-Tiny Desk Concert #692 (January 15, 2018).

This is a touring band playing classic soul.  But I found the modern updates to be unpleasant and almost undermined the tone of the show.  The blurb says:

“Take Me To The River” is a 1974 song from the legendary Al Green and guitarist “Teenie” Hodges. And though it wasn’t a big hit at the time, this song’s mix of religion and desire has become part of pop music’s canon.

Here at the Tiny Desk, some of the original players of this deep southern soul have come together to honor and update this tradition. It’s a celebration of Memphis soul old and new, with 13 musicians wedged behind the desk.

Some of those players of the old include singers Bobby Rush and William Bell; on the Hammond organ, Rev. Charles Hodges and LeRoy Hodges on bass. But it’s what’s new that makes this more than a look back – the addition of southern rappers Frayser Boy and Al Kapone – that truly puts this project on new musical ground.

But it is this update–Frayser Boy and Al Kapone who really ruined this show for me.

I’m not suggesting that the original lyrics to “Push and Pull” are profound.  They are not, but Frayser Bay’s rap is just up front and graphic whereas the original song is more understated (as much as something called “Push and Pull” can be).  Bobby Rush is a great singer and he looks spectacular in his sequined jacket.  Rush has a nice harmonica solo too.  That rap just seemed to come in and mess the whole thing up.

“I Forget To Be Your Lover” suffers from the same problem.  William Bell has a great sound–a cool rough voice.  And the original has this conceit: “I forgot to be your lover and I’m sorry.”  Al Kapone  comes in with a fairly explicit and hardly apologetic rap.  And what’s even stranger is that Rev. Charles Hodges who plays an outstanding organ throughout the show (I loved seeing the organ’s spinning fan that makes the great organ sound), plays really sour notes while Kapone is rapping.  Each verse has this weird nauseating sound. In every other section it sounds amazing, but during the rap it’s almost like he’s commenting on the rudeness of the rap.  The contrast is even more stark when Bell takes back the song mid way through and holds a high falsetto note for about 10 seconds–which really shows his power and range.

The backing vocals by Ashton Riker and Evvie McKinney are a nice touch.   Then on “Take Me to the River” Riker shares lead duties with Bobby Rush and they sound great together.  Riker hits some powerful high notes while Rush keeps it all together.  This is the song that really sells the show.  But look at how uncomfortable Frayser Boy looks during this song.

The rest of the band sounds just fine, playing quiet and understated:  LeRoy Hodges (bass), Edward Cleveland (drums), Andrew Saino (guitar), Jamel Mitchell (sax), Scott Thompson (trumpet), Martin Shore (percussion).

[READ: November 10, 2017] The Talented Ribkins

I saw Ladee Hubbard on Seth Meyers.  She was really interesting (and went to Princeton) and her book sounded fascinating.

On the surface the book is fairly simple, even fairly uneventful. Johnny Ribkin has to come up with $100,000 in a week because he has run afoul of a powerful man.

A few things separate this from similar books.  The first is that over the course of his life, Johnny buried various amounts of money and possessions in random places around the state of Florida.  He should be able to find the money fairly easily.  The reason why he buried all of this is part of the story.

Another thing is that he and his siblings all have special powers.  Not exactly superpowers, but certainly special powers.  And while these powers don’t exactly come into play in the quest, they are ever-present and unavoidable.

So what the heck is going on here? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Vegas 96 (2007).

This show was recorded at the Aladdin Theatre in Las Vegas, Nevada, on December 6, 1996.  The set also includes a DVD.

The show has a great amount of classic songs, a few big rarities, some cool covers and a whole lot of surprises.

Wilson has a really rocking beginning (everyone is going nuts during the can you still have any fun) until just before the “blap boom” part when it slows to a halt with about 20 seconds of squalling feedback.  Then they launch into an excellent non-jamming version of Frank Zappa’s “Peaches en Regalia.”  It is followed by a fast romp through “Poor Heart”—one of the fastest I’ve heard.  It ends really noisily and then segues into a funky jam that’s mostly keyboard.  After 5 minutes it resolves into “2001,” which also ends noisily with scratchy guitars that segue into a very fast “Llama.”

This has been a simply rip-roaring show thus far.  And then they settle down for a 26-minute “You Enjoy Myself.”  The “Boy Man” section is very funky and the following jam stays funky with a lot of high-pitched bass soloing from Mike and a lot of percussion thrown in as well.  The song ends with a vocal jam but instead of doing weird sounds and screams, trey starts singing “doh doh doh donuts, I like donuts.”

I tend to think of “YEM” as set-enders (since that’s my experience with them), but this is still mid-set and they follow up with a synth and piano version of “Cars Trucks Buses” which seems like it’s going to morph into “Kung” but instead it becomes a loud, brash “Down with Disease.”  The set ends with a rocking “Frankenstein.”  I tend to thing they play this and “YEM” a lot because they seem to be on a ton of official live recordings.

Set 2 opens with a funky “Julius” (a song I always assume is a cover but which isn’t), and a nice version of “Sparkle” (with a super fast “laughing laughing” section at the end).  “Mike’s Song” runs about 10 minutes with a really noisy middle section and then segues into “Simple.”  There’s a lengthy piano section that turns into a rocking jam that goes on for quite a while (the whole song is over 18 minutes).  It winds down eventually and returns to a lot of piano.  It is followed by a noisy and raucous “Harry Hood” that feel really raw.  The song is 15 minutes and there’s a long solo before the “you can feel good” part.

Then comes a big, 11 minute “Weekapaug Groove.”  About midway through the jam the whole band stops dramatically and perfectly. They run through a bit again and stop perfectly again (except for an extra snare hit).  It’s amazing how tight they are.  The end grows very quiet as the band prepares for a quiet a capella “Sweet Adeline” (it’s so quiet all you hear is the crowd shushing everyone–this is the major downside to them doing these barbershop songs).  They come out of that with a set-ending, totally rocking cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times,” with Fish singing the “I know what it means to be alone” part.

The encore proves to be about 35 minutes long.  There are lots of guests and surprises.  And the band walks through a version of the “Harpua” story.  Ler and Les from Primus come out to start the song.  The chorus is done in half time—which is rather unsettling.  The story leads to Les singing Don Bowman’s “Wildwood Weed.”  I had assumed he made up but he obviously didn’t.  Then it’s back to “Harpua.”   In this version of the story, Jimmy walks to Vegas with his cat Poster Nutbag (Trey tells everyone to put all their money on 17).  As they get “closer to Vegas” they hear voices singing “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” (a song by Patsy Montana).  It is sung by the Yodeling Cowgirls.  (There’s some “Happy Trails” in there as well).  Then there’s more of the “Harpua” story and as they approach Las Vegas they see Four Elvises.  Which leads to a singoff of “Suspicious Minds.”  This contest was between four Elvis impersonators with Fish joining in at the end.  Unmentioned (as far as I can tell) are John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (on backing vocals) and actor Courtney Gains (on percussion). And then everyone launches into a wild “Suzy Greenberg” including the Elvises.  During the jam at the end, one of the Elvises turns the song into “Susie Q.”

This is one of my favorite shows.  The inclusion of the Primus guys and the crazy version of “Harpua” is just spectacular.  And by the end, everyone is having a great time.

[READ: April 1, 2017] “Las Gaviotas”

I enjoyed the way this story seemed really unsettled, just like its protagonist.

Finley is a in a relationship with Neil.  But she is currently hanging out at Brace’s apartment.  Brace is Neil’s old roommate.  Neil is in the other room with Brace’s girlfriend Alice.  They are all pretty drunk.

Brace is everything that Neil is not: he is big–not fat, just big–with a voice and presence to match.  And while Finley loves Neil–she keeps telling us that–there’s something about Brace (that name!) that she is drawn to.  She also hates Brace’s girlfriend Alice who has “otherworldly beauty.” (more…)

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