The infrequently-updated site blog, featuring a range of content including show reviews, musical musings and off-color ramblings on other varied topics.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
December 11, 2014
"All that has dark sounds has duende, that mysterious power that everyone feels but no philosopher can explain." Frederico Garcia Lorca mused on the inexplicable sadness that lives at the heart of certain works of art.
Duende was a key theme of Nick Cave’s lecture on “The secret life of the love song.”
Cave claimed that duende needs “space to breathe” – Sydney’s State Theatre with its Gothic, Italian, and Art deco adorned walls offered ample breathing space on four consecutive nights this December (11th-14th).
Your humble narrator has had the pleasure of seeing Nick Cave hold court on three continents in various locations in a variety of incarnations. This time it was him in the usual well-tailored suit and the Bad Seeds in chamber ensemble formation and, again, they did not disappoint.
An eclectic evening of hushed moments interrupted by short glimpses of the natural force that the Bad Seeds are when they bring out the heavy artillery and fire on all cylinders in rock mode.
Cave prowled the stage in a manner that would make the most prominent figures in the expressionist movement of German 1920s-era cinema paler than Nosferatu himself, while having his tongue placed firmly in cheek when the audience’s adoration seemed to become a bit too overwhelming.
Warren Ellis has become his right-hand man and in conjunction with a rhythm section capable of effortlessly shifting moods, heightened with quieter moments of minimalist dissonance the impact of the heavier passages, accompanying Cave’s crooning at times with blasts of atonal, howling feedback.
‘Twas a grand evening beyond genres or comparison.
Until the next time . . .
Words: T, "era vulgaris"
Photo: Vladimir via flickr
Run The Jewels, Ratking
The Fine Line Music Café
November 20, 2014
Earlier this week I attended an artist’s talk/writer’s workshop-type thing here in Minneapolis. Kevin Bowe, who’s toured with Paul Westerberg, recorded as a member of the Replacements, produced the Meat Puppets, and written award winning songs for people that can’t write them themselves, was interviewing Jon Bream, the lead music critic for the Star Tribune. Bream has been writing about music since 1974, so he’s pretty much seen, listened to, written, and read it all.
In a rather leading manner Bowe asked Bream about his approach to writing concert reviews, following up his question by stating, “I don’t want to hear about how many beers the reviewer drank; I want to know if the show was good.”
Bream said that even though he doesn’t write that way, mostly because he works for a daily, that he thinks it’s totally legitimate to interject oneself into the story. “An event review is ultimately about the experience of the person who’s writing about it.” Said Bream. “If the reviewer drank four whiskey Cokes it is likely going to affect their experience. Why choose to ignore that?”
I had six beers tonight.
By the time I arrived at the Fine Line I was already three beers deep. I had a Fat Tire Amber Ale and a Fixed Gear American Red at home prior to leaving. I also had can of Hamm’s which I mainlined in two ginormous chugs in the parking lot behind the venue. Upon entering I stopped to take in the scene for a moment, opened my arms wide, and declared vociferously, “HIP-HOP!” A few people looked at me sideways, and a few others raised their drinks in agreement. It felt good to be out, as up until very recently I’d been sidelined for nearly four months as the result of a ruptured achilles tendon. I quickly made my way to the bar and got myself a Summit Saga IPA.
I missed the opening act, whoever they were, but had arrived as planned just in time to see Ratking. Ratking is a group of youngsters from NYC made up of rappers Wiki and Hak and producer Sporting Life. They mix an alluring cocktail of post-everything/no-nothing—punk, wave, EDM, graffiti culture, whatever—noise that is strangely and undeniably hip-hop. Hip-hop with a capital H. It makes perfect sense that they are touring with El-P, a fellow and elder New York-ian that’s been making bombastic, boundary-bending hip-hop for nearly 20 years. Metaphorically speaking, in many ways Ratking are the offspring of El-P. I fell in love with them the moment I saw their Ari Marcopoulos-directed video for “Piece of Shit.”
They took to the stage amidst a hazy blue fog and went right into their set with little fanfare. Hak was not in attendance tonight, so Wiki handled vocal duties solo. From my vantage point it was difficult to make out exactly what instruments Sporting Life was using to create the grandiloquent soundscapes. It appeared to be a combination of drum machine, mixer, MPC, and oddly enough, a large drum pad. I might not know what I’m talking about when it comes to that other stuff, but one thing I’m certain of is that there was a drum pad. I know this because he was repeatedly hitting it with a drumstick throughout the duration of the set.
I’d estimate that about half the audience was familiar with Ratking’s material - the Wiki93 EP and So It Goes LP. The only song that wasn’t recognizable was one Wiki referred to as “the new new.” I didn’t catch the name but it was just like their other tracks – pulsing, near-theatrical beats matched against Wiki’s metrical Ad-Rock on Adderall-like mic control.
Wiki’s voice is brash and nasally but his cadence is so rhythmic that at times I forgot that he was actually saying real words. On “Eat”, a song about OxyContin addiction, he rapped, “Pops cooked away the trouble of his day / All the Oxy out his cupboard that I ate, vomit / Step in the puddle that I’d make” and I was like, oh shit, that’s right, this kid can write too!
Appearance-wise, Wiki and Sporting Life are your average twenty something everymen – hooded sweatshirts, baggy polo shirts, slim fitting pants that still manage to sag, and Adidas Sambas and shell-tops. They’re the kind of guys that could jump off the stage after their set and blend into the crowd with ease. Which is basically what they did.
Because Minneapolis has an inferiority complex about out of towners, the sound guy played an Atmosphere song right after Ratking’s set. I grabbed another Saga and caught up with my friend DJ Morplay Katana, who hosts an excellent hip-hop show called Rebel Lego Radio on KNDS 96.3 FM out of Fargo, ND. I hadn’t seen him for a couple years but we fell right back into it, cracking jokes and talking about ridiculous things. We lamented the decline of the deejay in rap music, and specifically at shows. Ten years ago this show would’ve had a live deejay spinning between sets to keep a party atmosphere going. We also talked about how lame it is when a rapper comes on stage without a deejay.
Then Despot came on stage without a deejay. He rapped some songs and then he was done. Some people might have paid attention but I wasn’t one of them.
I grabbed my final beer—a third Saga—and posted up near the back of the room where there was still a little breathing room and braced myself for Run The Jewels. El-P, Killer Mike, and Trackstar the DJ entered the stage to Queen’s “We Are the Champions” and it was as if the size of the crowd had doubled itself. Suddenly lines were longer, the temperature had risen, and people were wild’n the fuck out. Within the first few minutes “Run The Jewels” two gentlemen were thrown out for fighting – plowed towards the door, arms twisted up their backs by bouncers, and out onto the cold city streets.
Run The Jewels’ thriving amalgamation of conspiracy theory, science fiction, and loud fucking bass is penetrating enough that it can cause people to act out of character. At one point Killer Mike stopped mid-song to squash some front row beef between two other overzealous fans. “Alright, you take one step back. And you take one step back.” He instructed. “This will be your area to bug out. And that will be your area to bug out. We don’t need any violence up in here.” Then, with an ear to ear grin, he asked them, “We cool?”
I’ve seen El-P countless times over the years but it never ceases to amaze me how goddamn hard his beats come across live – booming from the speakers with panic attack-inducing intensity. And even better, they are given an extra bit of oomph thanks to Trackstar’s non-stop record scratching. This marks the third time I’ve seen Run The Jewels and I have to say, I prefer them this way – just a deejay on the ones and twos backing them, rather than the additional band members they had when they toured on El-P’s Cancer 4 Cure and Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music albums.
They ran through a lengthy and comprehensive set that included all the best tracks off of both volumes of Run The Jewels as well as the ones from their solo albums that feature each other. “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” and “Love Again (Akinyele Back)” rang the hardest, with the crowd singing in unison “suck my dick, that’s word to pimp” and “she want this dick in her mouth all day” respectively. Give a large group of young men the opportunity to scream misogynistic obscenities and they’ll happily oblige. I had to wonder if Gangsta Boo had been there to do her verse from “Love Again (Akinyele Back)” if the few ladies in the house would have shouted along, “He want this clit in his mouth all day!”
On the surface El-P and Killer Mike may seem like an oddball paring. But onstage, like on wax, their interplay is seamless; surely a result of extensive recording and touring together. El-P, for all his titled cap buffoonery takes hip-hop very, very seriously. And Killer Mike, well he just goes hard. One of the things that makes Run The Jewels work so well is the personality that that pair have cultivated as a duo. While their music is tough-as-nails hip-hop, their outwardly appearance is a satirical caricature-like ode to a much more dangerous time in rap music.
I had to laugh at the predominantly young and predominantly Caucasian crowd mimicking the RTJ B-boy stance – pretending to hold a gold rope chain in one hand and a gun in the other. Likely very few in attendance tonight realized the irony. I’d tell you about the time a junior high version of me had his jewels ran on him on a winter’s night in downtown St. Paul, but that’s a story for another day. I’ll just say a fake gold rope chain with a dollar sign symbol hanging from it aint worth it.
Here’s a possible set list. Keep in mind, I did have six beers. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, yes the show was good.
Run The Jewels
Oh My Darling Don’t Cry
Blockbuster Night, Pt. 1
Close Your Eyes (and Count to Fuck)
All My Life
Tougher Colder Killer (El-P song)
Butane (Killer Mike song)
Lie, Cheat, Steal
Pew Pew Pew
All Due Respect
Love Again (Akinyele Back)
A Christmas Fucking Miracle
(Killer Mike & El-P photo from Creative Commons Image. All other photos by Nathan G. O'Brien.)
The Gaslight Anthem, Against Me!, Cory Brannan
October 15, 2014
It had been many a year since I’d seen Against Me! and I hadn’t seen Gaslight Anthem at all. Entering Wednesday at the “early” show, it was a nice to check in on how some roots punk bands have grown over the years. For some context, I last saw Against Me! at this venue back in support of Searching For a Former Clarity on the Fat 50 States tour. A lot of time has passed.
After missing Cory Brannan, unless half a song counts, I found my way across the venue for a decent sightline of Against Me! where their energy wouldn’t be lost. Always a band built around emotion, Laura Jane Grace and company didn’t disappoint. While I fell off as a fan sometime around Clarity…, I found my way back with the angry yet pointed Transgender Dysphoria Blues. The record is both intriguing due Grace’s transgender status, but also in capturing universal feelings of alienation and acceptance. Anyway, the big takeaway is that while the band and its membership have seen a lot of change in the past decade, the live show has not. Grace is still front and center, with her voice and her guitar as the primary weapons. The rest of the band are enthusiastic and fully engaged as well—say what you will about rotating memberships, but they are clearly there for the band and are not simply hired hands. The setlist was peppered from their entire past, opening with “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong,” lots of new material, and other songs from the major label era. A surprising observation was that the crowd, while likely there for headliners Gaslight Anthem, were the most into The New Wave material. While that was never my favorite period, it fill well in the larger catalog and it has an extra punch live. And to this listener Against Me! has always been about that punch. My greatest takeaway from the show, having seen the band play live several times a decade ago and not over the past few years, is how much they have grown. The stage presence and set were all very “veteran,” with the mark of a band who has fully established themselves and holds their own in any setting.
The Gaslight Anthem were the headliners, and while the audience was respecting and generally engaged all night, it was clear from the getgo that they were the main draw. To pull from my Against Me! closing, The Gaslight Anthem are also established and hold a firm presence about themselves. Their brand of Springsteen rock doesn’t hide its influences, and the band delivers a live show in step with that: it’s rock-first, comraderie second, fashion last. Sporting scally caps, bomber jackets, and ’59-ish haircuts, Brian Fallon’s band played song after song of anthemic singalongs with the crowd taking on as many vocals as the group. That’s not to say he pulled the old “hold out the mic” bit, the sound in the venue was strong and at all times Anthem’s big guitar rock and Fallon’s voice led the charge while most every person in the crowd was watching front and center, mouthing the words. The band pulls the audience in through their music, not through a stageshow—the same way they do on record. While the music can be called derivative at times, it is authentic and that shines through above all else. To keep the unavoidable Springsteenisms coming, while The Boss is championed as a working class mouthpiece, The Gaslight Anthem one-up the man by offering a show that the working class can actually afford to attend, grab a tallcan of local beer, and singalong and let loose after a rough day. In that sense, it was all the more fitting that this show took place in the early evening on a Wednesday, as the patrons needed to get back home to rest up for another day pounding the clock.
Photography by Loren Green
The Pixies, Royal Blood
October 11, 2014
There’s a lot that can be said about The Pixies and their 2014 tour—well, about any tour of theirs this millennia, really. I’ll cut 90% of that out, though—briefly reflecting on their bass situation—and just talk about the show. The rest is…well…we all have our opinions, man.
After a bus snafu, I entered the venue as Royal Blood left the stage so I didn’t get to see them. I was curious about how their energy would be, as their record is filled with groove-heavy guitar—always a plus for a live act in a setting with good sound. Instead, I found my seat (yes, it was a seated venue), got an overpriced drink (yes, it was that kind of venue), and got ready to watch The Pixies, formed in 1986, for the first time. It was a mixed group of people in the theatre, with many grey-haired professionals standing side-by-side with younger generations, a mix of first-timers such as myself and those who knew what to expect.
Entering to “Ed Is Dead,” it was clear early on that this was a show for the fans. Opening with a classic and little fanfare in terms of making a stage entrance, they jumped into playing and didn’t slow that pace over the next 90 minutes. In fact, the band didn’t address the crowd once, and barely seemed to address one another. They were strictly professional: playing their set, basking in the stage lighting and fog machines, and hitting their notes while mixing up a playlist behind their back catalogue from the 20th Century alongside their newest material, Indie Cindy. Based on audience reaction, many in the crowd hadn’t heard the new songs but they gave them attention rather than heading for the bar. While I did mention the seating situation earlier, the crowd all stood and danced throughout (at least on the floor level of the historic theatre). While it was unclear how the band themselves felt about their show, given their non-existent acknowledgement of the crowd, it remained clear that the audience got what they wanted.
The elephant in the room was the new line-up, with founder Kim Deal having left the group in 2013. She has not been replaced, but instead the band has hired touring stand-ins—Paz Lenchantin (A Perfect Circle, Zwan) on Saturday night. The set wisely waited to introduce her, kicking off with songs featuring Black Francis on vocals, while she added capable backing touches. Midway through, they raised the bar by playing “Debaser” and it went seamlessly. While Deal’s departure is nothing to write off—her basswork defines the band’s sound in many ways, the set was powerful and effective without her presence. In fact, Lenchantin and drummer David Lovering were, by far, the most enthusiastic and entertaining performers in the band with Lenchantin reading the rhythm off Lovering. She clearly enjoyed playing with the Pixies.
Rounding out the group, guitarist Joey Santiago mostly kept to himself on the left of the stage, playing spot-on and seemingly lost in the music, and occasionally acknowledging Black Francis in the center as their picked out their set. For the most part, the spotlights hit Black Francis in the center, with Lovering getting some of that center stage aspect, including when he sang in “La La Love You.” Francis was fun to watch—his whooping and yelping are still in the right key and the right spot, and they seem just as random and inspired as on record. Otherwise, his vocals tended to be more powerful in the rockers. As the set progressed, he grew a bit weary, vocally, and the more somber songs sounded coarse from life on the road. While classics like “Here Comes Your Man” and “Caribou” are some of their best material, they didn’t hit quite as hard live. He was noticeable more enthusiastic during the newer songs.
The real takeaway from a live aspect was volume. I think I’ve always known the Pixies were a loud band, but that early ‘90s production didn’t do it justice. When they amp up the guitars they play real earplug music, where they bring the rock in a heavier fashion than Black’s V-neck T-shirt had you ready for. The dynamic shifts are still as powerful as ever and the lighting, while maybe a touch overdone, complemented the epic status as they hit those big notes.
In the end, seeing the Pixies is worth it for the first time. No, it’s not the original band and I feel like the dynamic would have been different had it been, but the songs live on, and a show is as much audience as it is band. The sound from the stage was very good, the setlist was satisfying (no “Gigantic,” but I didn’t expect it with this line-up), and it was more entertaining than not. Still, it felt a little awkward that they played 32 songs over 90 minutes, but didn’t take the time to say “hello” or “thank you”—to the audience or, seemingly, to each other. I kept waiting for that wall to break down, but it never happened. For a band as influential as the Pixies have been, the live show, while satisfying, didn’t leave me very inspired. Later that night, I was more excited about running into a friend downtown and getting a beer to catch up than I was about the show I’d just seen. I think that sums it up.
Ed Is Dead
Indie Cindy ?
Where Is My Mind? ?
Brick Is Red ?
The Holiday Song
Here Comes Your Man
La La Love You
Greens and Blues ?
No. 13 Baby ?
Magdalena 318 ?
Rock Music ?
Isla de Encanta ?
Mr. Grieves ?
Crackity Jones ?
Bone Machine ?
What Goes Boom
I've Been Tired ?
Blue Eyed Hexe ?
Broken Face ?
Something Against You ?
The Sad Punk ?
Planet of Sound
Lethbridge is a suburb of sorts to Calgary to give you, the reader an idea of the towns size. Usually the Enmax (where this show took place) is host to more country oriented shows with a rare rock show. So it came as a surprise when i noticed Alice in Chains would be playing at this particular place.
As the crowd ambled in The Pack A.D. opened with a set of midtempo garage rock jams. Not unlike a version of The White Stripes only without the joyous messiness or dark lyricism. While the band played well they seemed not nearly energetic enough to ccarry off their style. While they did seem to be enthusiastic to be present their stage presence didnt share that impression with the audience.
The main support act, Vancouver's own Monster Truck, Brought more than enough energy and enthusiasm for both of the openers. While their style is a well worn version of the classic hard rock most of the audience (and world) has grown up with the band managed to play as though they were the first and only band to do it. While that may not sound like an endorsement i can say the band managed to win over nearly everyone in the crowd. Between the soaring forceful vocals and catchy as a cold riffs the band played to their strengths with each song. The major complaint i could make is that the sound was mixed as well as it could have been. At points the bass went missing and for most of the set the keyboards were non existent. Even with these low points the band played a strong set of heavy rock.
So finally the time came for the headliners to take the stage. It was impossible not to wonder how William Duvall would make these songs his own, what the set list would look like and what an AIC show in 2014 would look like in general. What i can say is that there is good and bad. William Duvall certainly has the pipes to carry most of the AIC catalog save for the rare moment Jerry Cantrell took over lead vocals. The band was certainly note for note perfect throughout the night. The downside in some ways would be Duvall's perfomance. Duvall is a more than capable frontman where it may seem to be a downside is in missing Layne Staley's inmittable presence and the atmosphere he carried the songs with. Where as Staley would usually seem aloof and depressive Duvall is a rock and roll frontman the screams the crowd goading and all. While it may seem off considering the depressive nature of the songs this helps the message in the songs go down a bit easier and make the show feel more like an event. The true beauty is when one gets to see the interplay between Cantrell and Duvall and realize that while it may not be the same as before it is something of a second coming in it's own way.
Alice In Chains Setlist:
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The World/Inferno Friendship Society recently started their US tour supporting their new album, The Anarchy and The Ecstasy, with sci-fi-psychobilly (psy-fi?) band, The Phenomenauts. You could not ask for a ... read more
Last Thursday, The Purple Turtle in London's infamous Camden held what is likely to be the most fun headlining show I've seen this year. Cannabis Corpse, fresh off the back ... read more
Motley Crue and Poison live, Target Center, Mpls, MN, 6/24/11 The New York Dolls opened the show but I couldn’t tell you damn thing about them. The girlfriend and I literally ... read more
Read Midwest Hell Fest Wrapup-Day 1 here. Despite intermittent sleep, I wake up feeling fairly well rested. If memory serves correctly, I’m somewhere deep within the confines of enemy territory—Wisconsin. ... read more
After losing a year of my life behind the wheel, I finally arrive at my destination: Kimberly, Wisconsin. Upon walking into the hotel—and I use this term loosely—lobby, I am ... read more
After a long wait and two opening acts—the clock struck 9:30 and Fun took the stage, while the boys and girls cheered. Suddenly, the beautiful overture to “Be Calm” opens ... read more
200 bands, seemingly as many beers, and only three nights. Where do I begin my recap? My stomach is still shrunken from not eating right, and I continue to drink ... read more
Let me start off by saying that I love all three of these bands, and I have been looking forward to this show since I got confirmed to photograph it. ... read more
Portugal. the Man is a Portland, Oregon based experimental indie-rock band, fronted by native Alaskan John Gourley. If you haven’t heard the story about this up and coming group, Gourley’s ... read more
I don't know how many of you have heard of Moving Mountains. A band from Westchester, NY, they are fresh off a tour with Thursday, about to embark on a ... read more
I hit the 500 review mark last week with my Narrows review. That's a lot of reviews. Sometimes I get burnt out with all the stuff coming through, especially when ... read more
So I just got done watching the season finale of Scrubs. It was Zach Braff's final episode. His character is saying goodbye, but I think they gave it a nice ... read more
Two months ago I had high hopes for the Cleveland Browns. Now I am left with a fairly mediocre season. We shall see how the remainder plays out. I'm looking ... read more
Might as well has this here too, it's been three years since I wrote it. I think it still holds true. Space for rent. Your ad here. My name is ... read more
I forgot to post this prior to week one, but given the outcome of that game, maybe it was for the best. Anyway, the Browns season is underway and that ... read more
Over the weekend a band that was very dear to my heart announced their sudden breakup and played their final show. I first became acquainted with Life Long Tragedy over ... read more
I was yelled at again for writing this, and since I am applying for a job at a local newspaper, I don't really want this hanging over my head. Sorry ... read more
Last night my band played with Souvenir's Young America, City of Ships, and Monolith at Siren Records in Doylestown, PA; it was a fun time all the bands played real ... read more
If you didn't hear the news, Roy Scheider died this week at the age of 75. Jaws is one of my all-time favorite films. I am extremely sad. I fully ... read more
They could make me look not so good to certain people. Nobody read them anyways. read more
So, back when Cave In's Until Your Heart Stops dropped on the hardcore masses several years back, I had the chance of catching the band at Middlesex County Community College. ... read more
I broke out my CD for the Gehenna- The War of the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness and saw something that always made me smile. Allow me ... read more
Hello. Some of you might remember (or have participated in) my experiment over the summer collecting people's wishes on this page. I got over 160 entries and published them all ... read more
Imagine being in this kid's place... Interview w/ Henry Rollins read more
Even though it is just a joke, I'd still vote for Stephen Colbert for president before I'd vote for anyone else for running, outside of the longshots that have no ... read more
Dear Atreyu, Please stop. No seriously, please stop...now. - File has been removed. It was up for a month. It was the band's cover of Faith No More's "Epic." - ... read more
I woke up today at 5:30am to get my ass to the store to open it for what I figured would be another boring Sunday at work. Work has been ... read more
So the man that founded Factory Records and helped Joy Division become as huge as they did through hype died today. Not alot of people repect what Wilson did for ... read more
Yesterday during rush hour traffic on 35W the bridge than spans the mighty Mississippi fell. There was no earthquake. There was no terrorist attack. The bridge just buckled and toppled ... read more
Part 1: Mission Statement, Introduction, and first terribly nostalgic musing A number of years ago, a few friends of mine, myself, and people who would quickly become my friends used ... read more
Shook Ones, for the uninitiated, are a melodic hardcore band from Seattle, Washington. Their debut LP, Sixteen, had some serious Kid Dynamite aping going on, without a doubt, but it ... read more
Remember when the idea of Friday the 13th used to be scary? Maybe its because I am a grown adult, but there just does not seem to be any horror ... read more
You have no idea how wonderful it is to be finally typing these words. Not that my work is done: a SPB staffer's work is never done! But seriously: typing ... read more
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