Thursday, December 18, 2008

Le Voyage Dans La Lune

So I've recently been having some nostalgia about old-school MTV, when they played music videos on a regular basis, many of them being very good and creative! What a concept! Sadly, these days are gone, but luckily, MTV has launched, where you can look up just about any video that you crave, and watch it.

That being said, one of my all-time favorite videos is the Smashing Pumpkins' "Tonight, Tonight."

It is beautiful in its surrealistic imagery, and the video actually has a coherent, structured plot that is engaging and entertaining the entire way through. The plot consists of a Victorian space-ship take-off and moon-landing, and the music is elegantly complimented by the original cinematography. Bottom line, one of the best videos ever.

But did you know that it actually takes its entire storyline, literally scene-by-scene, from a French silent film from 1902? The film, by Georges Mlis, is called Le Voyage Dans La Lune, and is considered the first science-fiction film ever made.

It is inspired by Jules Verne's book From the Earth to the Moon, and contains some brilliant special effects, that still hold up over 100 years later. Most memorable is the iconic image of the man in the moon getting hit in the eye with the spaceship. I love all the imagery and scenes in the original film, many of them are pretty bizarre.

After watching the original film, then re-watching the Smashing Pumpkins' version, completely new dimensions are added to the music video. The video stands up great on its own as a work of art, but once it's viewed as an homage to the original, it gains an entirely new level of depth, while at the same time losing some of its originality.

Actually, now that I think about it, that image of the man in the moon used to haunt my dreams as a small child... and I don't even remember where I first saw it! I guess that means it's pretty effective imagery.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Just want a little Taste...

Midnight on a carousel ride
Reaching for the gold ring down inside

Never could reach
It just slips away, but I try...

-Robert Hunter (Grateful Dead), "Crazy Fingers"

An immortal instinct, deep within the spirit of man, is thus, plainly, a sense of the Beautiful. This it is which administers to his delight in the manifold forms, and sounds, and odours, and sentiments amid which he exists… [But] There is still a something in the distance which he has been unable to attain. We have still a thirst unquenchable, to allay which he has not shown us the crystal springs. This thirst belongs to the immortality of man. It is at once a consequence and an indication of his perennial existence. It is the desire of the moth for the star. It is no mere appreciation of the Beauty before us - but a wild effort to reach the Beauty above. Inspired by an ecstatic prescience of the glories beyond the grave, we struggle, by multiform combinations among the things and thoughts of Time, to attain a portion of that Loveliness whose very elements, perhaps, appertain to eternity alone. And thus when Poetry – or when by Music, the most entrancing of the Poetic moods – we find ourselves melted into tears – we weep then – not as the Abbate Gravina supposes – through excess of pleasure, but through a certain, petulant, inpatient sorrow at our inability to grasp now, wholly, here on earth, at once and for ever, those divine and rapturous joys, of which through the poem, or through the music, we attain to but brief and indeterminate glimpses.

- Edgar Allan Poe, “The Poetic Principle”

All lovers live by longing, and endure:
Summon a vision and declare it pure.

- Theodore Roethke, from “The Vigil”

The one thing that we yearn for in our living days, that makes us sigh and groan and undergo sweet nauseas of all kinds, is the remembrance of some lost bliss that was probably experienced in the womb and can only be reproduced (though we hate to admit it) in death. But who wants to die?

- Jack Kerouac, On the Road

And so we live on, day by day, looking forward to the next occasion we find to get a taste. Cause that's all that we really need to rejuvenate ourselves, is just a taste of it. The taste comes through art, or music, or love, or whatever. And it's that continual anticipation of our next taste that keeps us going.

Thought you'd enjoy some philosophical ranting for a change. Gettin' deep and heavy is good for ya every once and a while, we should try it more often.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Led Zeppelin Tour Update (Bad News)

So after the successful one-off Led Zeppelin reunion show last year, rumors of a tour have been intensely spreading around the internet. Way back in last November, with all the buzz surrounding the reunion, Robert Plant told Rolling Stone that "I never wanted to do it again, now I want to do nothing else." This got many, many people tremendously excited.

But through 2008, Plant was touring with Alison Krauss in support of their quiet, country/Americana-tinged album Rising Sand. He has now made a statement saying that he does not want to play "loud" music anymore, and will never tour with Zeppelin again. On its own, this is very bad news. But now we know that Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones have been happily rehearsing together and are "ready to go," and still plan to tour as Zeppelin, even if it means recruiting a new singer. Combined, these two pieces of news are utterly and horribly devastaing.

But wait, it gets worse. We now know that they have allready named a potential new lead singer that they decided on through try-outs. It is some schmuck named Myles Kennedy, singer of some shit post-grunge band named Alter Bridge, which contains multiple members of the shittiest band in recent history: Creed! This could be one of the worst things to ever happen to music. To have the singer for a Creed-like band singing Plant's lines in Zeppelin would be a legacy-ruining move for Jimmy Page. This would be like, I don't know, if the Beatles reunited with George Michael replacing John Lennon. Just horrible. Sacreligious.

This is why I propose that a new singer is recruited. If Robert Plant is stubborn enough to turn down a huge pile of money AND watch his legacy get shit on by some imposter by not touring, then I think Page should get Chris Robinson from the Black Crowes to sing lead. This would be a respectable choice, as Robinson is probably the best modern frontman in Rock. He's taken his cues and style from the classic 70s frontmen, and though he sounds more like Faces-era Rod Stewart, Robinson would be a perfect decision for a replacement. He oozes sexuality like early Plant did, and has the pipes to back it up.

We allready know that Robinson would rock the Zeppelin songs, as Jimmy Page has allready played them with the Black Crowes; this collaboration was released on the excellent double album, Live at the Greek. I suggest that you get your hands on this album immedietely, as it rocks very hard, and long. Having already toured succesfully with Robinson and the Black Crowes, I don't really know what the fuck Page is thinking by not considering him. He should get his head out of his ass before its too late, and realize that he may ruin a legacy that deserves more respect than some guy from Creed can give it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Regarding Aliens, Pyramids, Music, and Transcendence

So I watched Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull the other day, and it was entertaining and fun. The ending to the movie was completely over the top though, even for Indiana Jones. And however ridiculous it was, it still got me thinking about Steven Spielberg's obsession with aliens, specifically good, wise aliens that inspire awe and admiration in the humans they interact with. This in turn got me thinking about a specific and reoccurring view that pop culture often puts forth of aliens and pyramids.

(Spoiler Alert!) In the film, Indy's crew ends up at an ancient hidden city in the Amazon, which they find by listening to to the crystal skull's messages - it tells them things telepathically. This city has an ancient temple-pyramid, which they enter into, and soon discover that it houses the aliens' inner sanctum. The aliens were treated as Gods by ancient Mayan civilization, and provided the Mayan society with technology to grow food and thrive. There are 12 crystal alien skeletons in the chamber, and once the stray and final skull is returned to its body, the aliens awaken, and offer universal knowledge and wisdom to the humans as thanks for making them whole again. This opportunity is lost, however, as everything disintegrates and crumbles as the aliens take off back to their dimension in their spaceship. Indy and his friends of course escape being destroyed in the nick of time.

This absurd plot treats the pyramid/spaceship as a vessel that inspires holiness and wonder in people. Such an approach to the pyramid figure is not new. This concept has recently been taken to the next level by the electronic act Daft Punk's live show. When Daft Punk toured in 2007, their stage centerpiece was a futuristic pyramid, equipped with an incredible light show. Perched atop the pyramid were the two members of Daft Punk, decked out in their robot-spacesuits. With their block-rockin' beats, their show turned them into alien/god-like figures. The stage was set to present Daft Punk as the master of ceremonies for a night of transcendence through light and music before a glowing pyramid. Check out some footage of this awesome spectacle here.

The concept of musical pyramid worship that this stage show suggests also reminds me of an epic trip that the Grateful Dead took in 1978. In what turned out to be a massive undertaking, the band arranged a set of shows to be played at an amphitheater at the foot of the Great Pyramids and Sphinx. The highlights from these shows were recently released on CD and DVD, and further add to the mystical and timeless tradition of celebration before the pyramid. In recounts from members of the Dead and their audience, those shows were imbued with an otherworldly feel, taking on a holy aura. Playing under a lunar eclipse at the World's Most Ancient Temple, the Dead sounded like they never had, before or after – something about the setting gives this music an extra transcendent and spiritual quality. Imagine, a worship of the gods, a celebration of life through the Grateful Dead. In the words of Bob Weir: “I got to a point where the head of the Sphinx was lined up with the top of the Great Pyramid, all lit up. All of a sudden, I went to this timeless place. The sounds from the stage – they could have been from any time. It was as if I went into eternity.” What a fucking scene.

Now to tie all these disparate concepts together, I'm reminded of another Spielberg alien film – Close Encounters of the Third Kind. For those who haven't seen it, this movie treats aliens in a similar way as Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull – they are peaceful, wise, and reach out to humanity, offering their wisdom to us. They do not have a pyramid, but instead arrive in a huge spaceship that offers us a spectacle of beautiful music and color. In this sense, the aliens' spaceship has more in common with the Daft Punk stage show than it does with any other Spielberg film. The movie climaxes with a blissful interaction with the aliens - the moment of contact. The aliens take our musical beacon, and respond by creating a symphony of sound and color out of it. The look on the people's faces during this scene is one of bliss and euphoria, not unlike one would feel at an excellent concert. (Watch this awesome scene here) The aliens are presented as God-like in this film, offering an ultimate answer to life's banal existence. And when Richard Dreyfuss' character is taken aboard the ship in the final scene, it can be viewed as his spiritual journey fulfilled, with the aliens providing transcendence. This is very similar to the end of Indiana Jones in this sense.

I suppose the bottom line is that we all crave to feel and be moved by something that's bigger and grander than we are, and the pyramid is an excellent symbol for this. It is stolid, immobile, and seemingly eternal. It is also mysterious in its grandiose majesty, seemingly not of this earth. Spielberg touches upon a similar sense of unknown desire in his alien films, and uses music to deliver his vision. Live music and the celebrations that arise from these gatherings are an ethereal way to reach toward these spiritual places we crave, and when pyramids and all they stand for are thrown into the mix, things can get pretty surreal. I hope I've gotten across what I've tried to convey regarding our pop culture's perspective of the role of pyramids, aliens and transcendence.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

PHiSH Reunite! - My all-time top PHiSH shows

This morning's momentous news that Phish is reuniting spread through the online world like wildfire. Text messages were sent, and status messages were updated to spread the almighty word to all that "Phish is back!!!" As I write this, message boards everywhere are filling with speculation about Summer tour dates, setlists, and what color shirt Mike will be wearing.

I'm sure many of us have weaned ourselves off of the Phish somewhat over the past few years as our lives have progressed and changed, but now seems to be the time to revisit this collective obsession and embrace it for all its worth. As tribute to this renewed fervor of Phish-maina, here are my all-time top Phish shows, in order of utter sickness factor: (click on links to download the shows via BitTorrent)

1. February 28, 2003 - Nassau Coliseum - The best concert experience of my entire life. The magic-hose-mojo was everywhere this night. This show is most known for the re-emergence of the song "Destiny Unbound," which hadn't been played since 1991, but that was nothin' compared to the jamz that abounded. The band rolls along, exploring uncharted musical avenues with complete and utter synergy. "Get Back on the Train" and "Bathtub Gin" in the first set were journeys, then the time-stopping, 30 min. "Tweezer" to start the second set, which is really one long jam, all the way to the final notes of "Harry Hood." A three-song Encore is icing on the cake.

2. December 31, 1993 - Worcester Centrum - A no-holds-barred barrage of face-melting, shredding, celebratory music. I like this show better than the more popular MSG NYE show from 1995. It just rages, and every single song is pushed to an old-school bliss-out climax, with Trey flexing his then-impeccable chops. Favorite moments include Auld Lang Syne> Down With Disease Jam (First time played)> Split Open and Melt, and my all-time favorite "Harry Hood," complete with an "Auld Lang Syne" tease thrown in there.

3. December 31, 1999 - Big Cypress - It's hard to beat a six-hour, midnite-to-sunrise continuous set. Not much needs to be said for this one. The band itself has said that it was the peak of Phish. Too many highlights to list here, but the "After Midnight," as well as the Drowned> After Midnight Reprise are rage-tastic.

4. December 30, 1997 - Madison Square Garden - A cow-funk-heavy party of a show that has something for everyone. Amazing setlist, plenty of spacious arena-funk, lots of jamming, and a Harpua thrown in ta-boot before a 30 min. encore caps it off. This show contains every disparate musical element that makes Phish amazing.

5. June 18, 1994 - UIC Pavillion, Chicago, IL - In a year as amazing as 1994, this show really stands out as simply perfect. Every song is flawlessly executed with red-hot intensity, and there is some really ferocious Trey-action going on here. Mind Left Body Jam> David Bowie is raunchy. Listening to the tapes, it sounds like an extremely sweaty time. This is the show where Trey says he had a mystical experience during the pause in "Divided Sky." In Trey's own words:

"I had a really incredible experience once when we were playing in Chicago. It was a really special night, and I was envisioning the music flying around the room. You know the concept of being the tube, and the music is flowing through you? I was really open, we were doing "Divided Sky," and I felt like the music was these sheets that were zinging across the air in front of my ace. All I had to do to play was jump on one, and let it do the playing. I got to that section of "Divided Sky" where we usually do a pause, and I realized that just because I wasn't playing notes with my hands didn't mean I couldn't still be a vehicle for this music that was there. I decided I was going to have the same feeling the music going through me and coming out through the guitar, but without making any noticeable sound. I started imagining the music zipping out through the middle of my chest into the audience, and right when I started doing that, the place erupted. No joke. It was the wildest thing. We were standing up there for 45 seconds, motionless, with no sound, and I realized I could continue jamming in silence. I did it, and the place went, "RAHHH." It was the coolest. I was writing in my journal about it for a week."

6. June 19 and 20, 2004 - SPAC - Saratoga Springs, NY - When I met Mike on his golfcart at Coventry, I asked him what he thought the best shows he ever played were. He replied that in recent memory, it was the shows at SPAC, notably the second night. For some reason, I did not attend these, which I will regret forever, as my friends have been raving about them since. There was obviously crazy energy going on, due to the farewell tour. But these shows were jammed to perfection, with Trey holding back enough to give everyone in the band a chance to lead the jams into new places. The collective group mind, the absolute telepathy between these musicians is astounding at these shows. Check out the Piper> Gotta Jiboo from the 19th, and the Drowned Jam and the entire 2nd set from the 20th, which Mike owns. This is the band jamming as four equal parts of a whole, and the results sound like nothing the band had ever played.

7. July 1 and 2, 1997 - Paradiso - Amsterdam, Netherlands - Probably the most psychedelic and out-there shows the band has ever played. The first night has a five-song 2nd set, the second night's 2nd set has three songs. And as a thematic thread, trey keeps yelling "You're on the back of the worm!" during freaky jams. In Trey's words from a High Times interview, here is the story behind that:

"When we were in Amsterdam, me and a friend took a couple of hits of acid and a hit of Ecstasy later on that night. We were walking around and I started imagining I was riding on this giant sandworm, because the roads kind of go up and down. I was picturing these huge sandworms, diving up out of the canals. That's where the phrase 'Back of the Worm' came from. The next night in the middle of this crazy jam... I think I was yelling that and people started saying 'Back of the worm!' soon as I'm on stage I start trying to play the guitar like that... I probably started using effects in a different way the night after that, because I wanted the music to be able to
do it."

So these shows are obviously influenced by substances, and they are seriously tripped out due to this fact. The "Ghost" from the first set first night is the perfect place to start, as it rages hard and long. The other highlights are the Bathtub Gin> Jam> Cities from the first night, with a perfect transition, and the uber-weird "Stash" from the second night. Strange, amazing music.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Brief History of Grungy Pop -Rock

For some reason, lately my musical attention span has decreased. It is probably purely affected by the situations in which I listen to music. Because of this, it feels like my musical tastes have dumbed down a bit, and gotten somewhat more primitive and immediate. Put away the Jazz and Jamband cd booklet, bust out the underground 60s and 70s Rock and New Wave.

It kind of feels like in the late 70s, when people started viewing bands like Yes and Led Zeppelin as bloated, self-important, pompous and indulgent, and started favoring the straight-ahead, stripped-down approach of bands like the Ramones and the Talking Heads. Punk and New Wave followed, and much of its sound was taken from both the mindless teenage surf-sci fi party music of the early 60s, and the obscure, raw garage bands of the late 60s. These late 60s bands (think “Louie Louie”) were really the first wave of groups to really utilize guitar distortion and feedback as components in a simple pop song, having been shown the way by the Beatles. And in the late 70s and early 80s, a second, new wave of bands re-embraced this aesthetic of pop primitivism. The Ramones, Devo, the B-52's, the Police, the Talking Heads and Elvis Costello all emerged during this period with a similarly simple and tightly wound approach to their music.

So it is this type of musical approach that I'm craving right now, as pop-rock before the mid-80s is often surprisingly relevant, compared to most produced after. One excellent compilation for obscure and awesome 60's garage rock is the Nuggets Box Set: Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968. Almost every band on the 4-cd set is obscure and unknown. At its best it is essential and groundbreaking, at its worst its at least entertaining. It is all grungy and raw, but still really catchy in that 60's pop way. This set was originally released as a double-LP set in 1972, and played a role in influencing the bands that let up to and became part of the Punk and New Wave movement. The garage sound of these bands definitely rubbed off on bands like the New York Dolls, the Stooges before the Punk and New Wave generation embraced it. This made apparent by the fate of the Strangelove's 1965 pop ditty “I Want Candy” (on disc 4), which was turned into a New Wave classic in 1982, when it was covered by the band Bow Wow Wow.

Nothin' like good old teenage kicks to satiate the musical ADD. I'm bustin' out the surfin', twistin', rock-n'-roll high school radio candy like its my job, and it feels great. Compared to listening to Jazz, this feels like switching to a lollipop after trying to eat a spaghetti dinner. Its lot sweeter, and also succinct and less messy, but it has no nutritional value in the long run. It is instant and momentary gratification. Just listen to the Ramones' Rocket to Russia and tell me that it's not totally musically refreshing...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sometimes You Just Feel Like Astral Weeks

Sometimes You Just Feel Like Astral Weeks

Sometimes mood is melancholy, and blues runs deep.

Maybe you're alone, unable to sleep.

Maybe you're numb, and need

A reminding taste of the world's wells of emotion -

Need soul that cuts sharp and to the core,

And you know its time for Van the Man.

His tortured pleas reveal things -

Deep human urges, pain and suffering,

Rapture, beauty and ecstasy,

Mixed together in a confusing blend.

It feel strange, possibly uncomfortable,

As it is too real and from the deep deep heart -

This is not music to listen to socially.

But as it pierces with its truth,

Van's voice recalls a feeling forgotten or lost in everyday life -

And in doing so gives undeniable proof that it exists.

For though his cries are tinged with loss and longing

They contain a sense of hope and renewal which lifts the spirit

As this is a spiritual record. (Let Mr. Bangs tell you about that)

Because sometimes you don't know what to do with your hands

And sometimes you just feel like Astral Weeks.

This really is a marvelous album.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pretentious Top 5 Lists (a la "High Fidelity")

This week I will present some well-thought out musical top 5 lists, which were pondered over laboriously with ma nephew Matt in the Arizona desert this past July. There was lots of time to kill in between the time spent tracking California Condors, so we retorted to impressing each other with our vast musical knowledge. About 8 miles deep in the Grand Canyon, there wasn't much to do during a long day of sweating and hiding under a rock from the blistering sun (though no hot chili peppers). At well over 100 degrees, we threw out top 5 lists of our own device, just like John Cusack and Jack Black. These are some of the results, none of which can be considered definitive:

Top 5 Grateful Dead Shows:

- May 2, 1970 - Harper College - Dick's Picks 8 - This show is epic. It's all over the boards, with a nice country-gospel tinged acoustic set, followed by an absolutely primal, furious electric performance.
- June 26, 1974 - Boston Garden - Dick's Picks 12 - This is pure liquid drippy trippy Jerry at his cleanest and most blissful. China Cat ->Rider is my all time favorite.
- August 27, 1972 - Field Trip, Veneta, OR - One of the legendary all-around amazing shows. From clean, tight, succinct songs to summer melty deep space jams, this one has it all.
- October 29, 1980 - Gainsville, FL - A seemingly random choice, this show is meaty, with thick, muscular playing, added to greatly by Brent Mydland's organ and keys. Really intense and rocking.
Tie for 5th:
- July 12, 1990 - RFK Stadium, Washington, DC - Played during a massive rainstorm, this is another rocking, meaty show that Brent is all over. A great version of "Foolish Heart," then a way-out-there, very powerful "Dark Star."
- May 9, 1977 - Buffalo, NY - I choose this over the more popular show the night before, mostly because of its absolutely perfect Help->Slip->Frank opener. Everything else is also performed to perfection. Just flawless music.

Matt's Top 5 Grateful Dead Shows:

- May 2, 1970 - Harper College
- Dick's Picks 8
- May 8, 1977 - Cornell University

- May 22, 1977 - Pembroke Pines, FL - Dick's Picks 3
- January 17, 1968 - Eureka Municipal Auditorium
- June 17, 1991 - Giants Stadium

My Top 5 One Hit Wonders:

- House of Pain - Jump Around
- Edgar Winter Group - Frankenstein
- Dexy's Midnight Riders - Come On Eileen
- Don McLean - American Pie
- Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
Honorable Mention: Faith No More - Epic

Matt's Top 5 One Hit Wonders:

- Dexy's Midnight Riders - Come On Eileen
- Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
- Thomas Dolby - She Blinded Me with Science
- Rick Derringer - Rock and Roll Coochie Coo
-The Knack - My Sherona

Top 5 Songs about Pot (in order):

1. Cypress Hill - Hits from the Bong
2. Peter Tosh - Legalize It
3. Bob Marley - Kaya
4. Black Sabbath - Sweet Leaf
5. Peter Rowan - Panama Red

List of Musicians who should have died years ago to save their reputation and legacy:

- Rod Stewart - Should have died right after Faces broke up in the mid 70's. Entire solo career was a poor decision.
- Eric Clapton - Should have overdosed and been dead in 1972. His entire solo career is regretable.
- Sting - Should have died in the late 80's early 90's
- Tina Turner - Should have never existed in the 80's at all. Poor decision on her part.
- Robbie Robertson - Should have died of a cocaine OD during the after party for The Last Waltz in 1976
- ELVIS (the definiton) - Probably should have died right after his '68 comeback special
- Pete Townsend - Should have died in 1978, with Keith Moon
- Michael Jackson - Should have died right after "Bad" was released in 1987
- Elton John - The 80s did not treat this guy well either. Should have died in the late 70s.
- Metallica (whole band) - Should have all gone down in a plane crash during their world tour for The Black Album in 1991.
- B-52's (whole band) - Their first album was incredible. Everything else sucked. They should have gone away back in 1979.
- Ozzy Osbourne - Should have gone down in the plane crash that killed Randy Rhoades. That was the last good music he ever made.
- Bono - Actually, Bono should have never existed on this earth as we know him. I would respect the man more if he was never the lead singer of a band called U2, and ended up a local mechanic in Dublin.

All-time Top Hired Session Musicians who MADE the albums they played on:

- Richard Davis - Upright Bass on Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks"
Mike Garson - Piano on David Bowie's "Aladdin Sane"
- Bernie Worrell - Keyboards on Talking Heads' "Stop Making Sense"
- Duane Allman - Guitar on Derek and the Dominoes' "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs"
- Billy Preston - Keyboards on the Beatles ' "Let It Be"
- Al Kooper - Organ on Bob Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone" (great story about this session here)
- David Grisman - Mandolin on Grateful Dead's "American Beauty"
- Jerry Garcia - Guitar on David Crosby's "If I Could Only Remember My Name"
- The Meters - Backing band for Robert Palmer's "Sneakin' Sally Thru the Alley"

That is all. I like the last list the best.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Rant on Radiohead - The Future is Now

I attended a Radiohead show a couple of weeks ago at Great Woods, and the uniqueness of the show that they put on struck me immediately. There really is no band around that sounds like these boys from Manchester. The vibe the band created in the venue that night was intensely otherworldly and intimate. I would describe it as breakbeat-fuzz-guitar-trance. Thom was decked in tight red jeans, and danced and raved onstage like an angelic, melodically inclined alien with something to prove. The fantastic light show, comprised of futuristic LED light sticks suspended above the band's head, accented and perfectly complemented the surreal soundscape of Radiohead's patented ambient show. At the best moments, the band's spacious sound and Thom Yorke's pixie falsetto combined with the intensely colorful light show to induce a trance-like, space-ship bliss-out. At one moment I felt as if I was experiencing the final scene of the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, where Thom was the alien, extending a sad, yet euphoric offering of music to us Americans. After tonight's show, it leads me to believe that Manchester, UK might as well be another planet relative to New England, as the musical realm that Radiohead lives in is truly a foreign place to us.

Thom Yorke commands attention. The crowd was not talkative, as Thom Yorke's delicate performance demanded an intimacy from all who were present. His falsetto pipes really act as an instrument that is essential to the band's sound. There were times in the show when he played the role of a theramin, sliding up and down the upper register in his own haunting tone. At its most delicate and gentle, his voice quieted the entire amphitheater of people. At his most jubilant, Yorke was a trance-induced shaman, chanting and gasping his voice to drive the breakbeat rhythm forward. Johnny Greenwood proved to be a master of nuisance and atmospheres, and played the role of creating soundscapes all night, switching between guitar, pedals, and keyboards.

The band's excellent setlist choice showcased songs from every album, with no songs from OK Computer played until at least 40 minutes into the set. The band delivered what seemed like endless encores, and with the show peaking in the last minute to a Technicolor static light show, Yorke chanted the band to a climax with an abrupt, grinding halt. Always leave them wanting more. With Radiohead's performance, we were more than happy to get what we got, as it seemed like the band gave us their all.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Keeping the Torch of Fusion

After seeing Return To Forever perform at the Pavilion a few weeks ago, it got me thinking about Jazz Fusion, and where it has gone in the past 25 years or so. When it first emerged in the early 70's this electrified jazz was approached by its musicians as the next step in their musical evolution. Jazz veterans from the 60's, many of whom were taught in the Miles Davis school, were freed by Miles' embracing of the rock sound and electric instruments. Many formed their own ambitious groups, which evolved through the 70's into bands where the chops and complex musical ideas of these jazz guys were beefed up with electric guitars and synthesizers.

The first tier of Fusion groups included Tony Williams' Lifetime, John McLaughlin's Mahivishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, and Return to Forever, all of which were formed by Miles Davis alumni. These groups peaked through the mid to late 70's with a catalog of complex, unbelievable electric music, some of which was accessible enough to become commercially popular. Albums like "Headhunters," "Heavy Weather," and "Romantic Warrior" all sold an unprecedented amount of albums for jazz, and set the bar higher than ever for the amount of popularity jazz music could achieve.

But somewhere around the late 70's and early 80's, something happened. Fusion, or at least quality Fusion, dissappeared. Throughout the 80's there were musicians who definetely kept the torch alive, including Billy Cobham, John Scofield, and Allan Holdsworth. But for the most part, this amazing genre of music was corrupted and diluted by the greedy 80's. In a quest for mass appeal, much Jazz-Rock became shitty, soulless pop improv, with an emphasis on empty virtuosity. One of the few exceptions to this rule throughout the decade was Pat Metheney, who was part of the next generation of Fusion, and continually put out quality music throughout the black hole that was the 80's.

Today, there are bands that still play this type of mind-blowing music, and seeing Bela Fleck and the Flecktones perform an opening set for the re-formed Return to Forever, there definetely was a feeling of tradition being handed down to the next generation. Musicians like Medeski, Martin and Wood, John Scofield, Soulive, Jeff Beck, The Bad Plus, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones are still holding it down for this generation, thank God. There is nothing like good Fusion live, and unfortunately many people do not know this, as they have not experienced such an event. Though there was a near-capacity crowd for RTF, Fusion certainly will never be in the mainstream as it was in the 70s.

And for that reason, it is my duty to make you aware of the Aussie female bassist for Jeff Beck's most recent band. Her name is Tal Wilkenfeld, and she is utterly nasty. She is also a 22 year old hottie. She is the future of Fusion, and I love her, probally along with every other male musician who has seen and heard her.

Another hope for Fusion's future is Hiromi, a 29 year old Japanese pianist/composer hottie. She is incredible, an d should be a superstar.

These young women and the incredible music they create give me hope for Fusion's future. I would suggest seeking them out immedietely.

Friday, June 20, 2008

What the fuck is up with that Roger Waters scream?

Seriously, what is the deal with that sound that Roger makes with his throat? You know, the one that sounds like a bird call, like a rapid succession of high pitched, other-worldly noises. He did it a lot more in the early years, like in "Careful with that Axe, Eugene," but he does do it on the Wall once. You can hear him do it 1:00 into this version of "Run Like Hell," and again 5:00 in. Though the best example of Roger's bizzare vocal abilities would be the Ummagumma track "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict," which is a vocal collage of his ravings sped up in the studio to sound like small furry animals. The noises that this man emits are freaky enough as they are, so to modulate them like this makes for one unnerving listening experience.
I can't really think of a vocal trait in rock any more distinctive and quirky than this screeching that Roger does.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Archive II - New Orleans 2005

Going back, I lived in Nawlins for the Summer of 2005 interning at the local music monthly, Offbeat Magazine. I got to review some great shows and albums, and have them published. I left Nawlins for Fall Semester of college 2 weeks before Katrina, and the last issue I was in didn't get distributed until November because of the hurricane. Here are some of the published articles:

Buckwheat Zydeco

Victor Wooten's Soul Circus

Etta James

Avocado Love

The avocado is my favorite vegetable (though it is really a fruit). It has substance, a high fat content, and is a spreadable and filling buttery treat that is absolutely delicious. I often just cut one up and eat it with some lemon juice, salt and pepper, though guacomole is obviously the ideal preperation.

It has an awesome name, which is derived from ahuacatl, the Aztec word for testicles, and was known by the Aztecs as "the fertility fruit," which is badass.

This Blog is called the Ripe Avocado, as that image somehow brings to mind a kind of calm but rich anticipation... The fruit's green lustre, massive pit, and leathery exterior all give it a unique personality that is unlike any other friut or vegetable. It also exudes a zen-like aura in its simple appearance. Due to this, it is not surprising that the avocado has often been used as the subject for Rock Art over the years. Here are some examples:

Pearl Jam - Self-Titled

Hellogoodbye - Self-Titled

And my favorite:
Led Zeppelin @ Fillmore West and Winterland, April 1969

I hope that this vegetable rant has given your perspecive of the avocado new insight.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Dead End Job

It's a dead end job, and you get tired of sittin'
And it's like a nicotine habit you're always thinking about quittin'
I think about quittin' every day of the week
When I look out my window it's brown and it's bleak

Outta here
How am I gonna get outta here?
I'm thinking outta here
When am I gonna get outta here?
And when will I cash in my lottery ticket
And bury my past with my burdens and strife?
I want to shake every limb in the garden of Eden
And make every lover the love of my life

I figure that once upon a time I was an ocean
But now I'm a mountain range
Something unstoppable set into motion
Nothing is different, but everything's changed

Paul Simon - "Once Upon A Time There Was An Ocean"

The Clintons

Look at this photo of Bill and Hillary in the 70s, and tell me Bill never inhaled. He looks like the coolest mofo around with his sweater and jacket, I would totally do a J with both of them. Hillary looks like she was an annoying feminist, and I guess she was never attractive. But that's a hell of a couple; they look pretty damn good if you ask me.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Female Bass

A female playing the bass guitar is probably the hottest thing ever.

The bass is responsible for the drive in the music, and when girls play the bass, if it grooves, that right there is it. I could watch that all day.

Tina Weymouth, Talking Heads

This Guy On My Bus - A Haiku

Unkempt and careless
Grey with smoke, vacant and void
His creased face hangs loose

Archive I -

This article was published on back last year; I will try to spit some more out soon:

Going Local with Spiritual Rez and Bernie Worrell

This was a special night, as can be seen from these here video-captures:

The Start of The Tube

To begin my narcissistic digression into blogging, I want to start by clearing the wax out of my thoughts, so the flame can once again burn clean and evenly. While I have been in a stagnant ass groove for a while, all placid plaid and smoke in a sagged, too-comfy couch, I will now try to get mentally active again. This takes discipline, as it is all to easy to get into the routine of routine.

When beginning a new lifestyle approach even as seemingly slight as this one, it is important to make an active effort to start new habits, even if there is nothing to provoke them but your own restlessness. These may include push-ups, green tea, and smelling salts all on a regular basis.

The contents of this blog are only limited to my own aimless tube of thoughts. This mostly includes music and all things related, though it is not limited to anything. The one guarantee is that it will
all MATTER in some way.

Or it could turn into a junkyard of discarded thoughts. Hopefully not, though.