The infrequently-updated site blog, featuring a range of content including show reviews, musical musings and off-color ramblings on other varied topics.
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:
Unless you've been living under a rock, you know Arcade Fire are currently shaking up North America with an enchanting spectacle of a tour. I caught the tour in Los Angeles where they played two nights at the historic Forum. Doors opened and thousands of fans filed in. The first band on the bill were indie-pop act The Unicorns. The group recently reformed and this was their first show back in just under a decade. They kept the fans entertained with poppy dance numbers.
Following The Unicorns, fans shifted their perspective to the center of the arena where a second stage was constructed. It was there that Dan Deacon started his set for the night. For those in attendance that got stuck in the back, it must have been nice to be close to any of the performers for the show. Plus, the second stage made the wait between sets minimal. Dan Deacon's set feature a barrage of lights and even a dance-off in the middle of the set.
Not long after Deacon's set, Arcade Fire took the stage -- opening with the title track from their newest album, Reflektor. The arena exploded with cheers while much of the crowd didn't hesitate to dance. It wasn't until the next song, "Flashbulb Eyes," that everyone got a feel for what surprises they had in store for their fans. Above the band there was a rigging of mirrors. As they began the song, the mirrors lowered and enclosed the band in a small space from above and behind. This gave the performance almost an intimate setting while also being a marvel to watch.
The band went on to next play songs from their debut full length, Funeral. They started with, "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" and then went straight into "Rebellion (Lies)." Afterwards they returned to their new album and played "Joan of Arc." During the performance, frontwoman, Regine Chassagne, garbed herself in clothes fitting for the song and stood atop a podium above the rest of the band.
The band didn't let the second stage go to waste either. After a string of songs from The Suburbs, the group played their latest single, "We Exist." The second stage featured the burly dancers reenacting the dance routine from the music video. Unfortunately, Andrew Garfield wasn't one of the dancers. When the band played, "Afterlife," guests found "Mirror Man" or "Reflektor Man" on the b-stage moving to the music. Regine even took to the b-stage to perform her portion of, "It's Never Over (Hey Orpheus)," where she was also surrounded by dancing skeletons. The last bit of amusement from the b-stage came in the form of a big-headed Arcade Fire playing Guns n' Roses', "Sweet Child o' Mine" while the real band was away before the encore.
When the band came back, they were ready to end the night on a high note. They rocked out through their own, "Normal Person," and then played a cover of Jane's Addiction's, "Been Caught Stealing" -- during which, Win Butler took cellphones from the fans up against the barrier. After playing the intro to "Welcome to the Jungle," the band went immediately into their track, "Here Comes the Night Time." Arcade Fire were finally ready to call it a night. They closed the night of course, with "Wake Up." Confetti was blown into the arena while the audience did their gang of "Whoas!" It was really one of the best events I've seen and highly recommend catching Arcade Fire if you can.
Too Many Rappers: July 2014
7/18/14 - Minneapolis, MN
Commuting earlier than usual this morning means it’s nice and cool. I ride by a kid who’s wearing an old 3rd Bass tee shirt and give him an approving Malcolm X-style fist in the air. He nods his head back at me like, “Yeah, that’s right, this is a 25 year old fucking 3rd Bass tee shirt.”
For some strange reason as I pedal over a set of tracks I think of the waitress at the Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub who once served my wife and me excellent wings and mediocre IPAs. She looked like Dolph Zigler, which I found equal parts disturbing and sexy. My love affair with professional wrestling is not something I'm sure I'll ever understand.
I stop briefly to slap a custom sticker on the back of a Yield sign. It will be gone by the time I ride home tonight; scrapped off or grayed out by the Greenway Vigilante. It’s me versus him/her on a daily basis. Gray is a great color; versatile and understated…for an outfit. But holy shit is it ever rage-inciting when it’s covering someone’s free public art offering. In my eyes, unsolicited buffing of graffiti and/or street art on public property is the same type of offense as artists going over each other. Not cool.
Waiting at a stop light like a decent law abiding citizen (which I do realize sounds rediculous, considering the previous paragraph) a women blows by me, through the light, and spits in my general direction. I playfully shout to her, “Yeah, that’s my girl.” She looks back and says, “Shut up creep.” I then reaffirming-ly say to myself, “Yeah, that’s my girl.”
In the earbuds Sonic Youth’s “Washing Machine” is transitioning into “Unwind” just as I pull up to work and the last thing I want to do is get off my bike. I just want to keep riding...to like, the suburbs or some shit. But then I'd be in the suburbs. Work or the suburbs? It's like voting for President.
As I’m locking up I am met by a man named Zygon. He’s actually the second person I’ve met named Zygon in recent times. He wants to sell me a photocopied chap book for five dollars. Instead I trade him a zine for one. These days I’m increasingly less interested in—dare I say irritated by—poetry. But I got mad love for my fellow DIY self-publishers. We shake hands and part ways. After he’s out of sight I feverishly tear through my bag looking for hand sanitizer because that’s just the kind of miserable asshole I am.
As soon as I’m done thumbing this out on my phone like some type of goddamn zombie, I’ll walk into work. I’ll wonder, just like I have every day for what seems like forever, if this one will be my last time. And if it is, at least I’ll be able to ride my bike home on a nice day. I’ll probably listen to The Cactus Album on the way.
Here's some stuff other rap shit that has soundtrack’d my bike rides this summer…
DJ Moneyshot – Half-Man Half-Amazing: A Tribute to Illmatic (mixtape)
For the April 24th episode of the Solid Steel Radio Show DJ Moneyshot produced an audio documentary tribute to Nas’ classic and influential debut album Illmatic, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The result is an intricately woven tapestry of source material—interview footage, remixes, beat sample material, etc. — combined with the original Illmatic tracks. It’s like NPR for hip-hop heads.
Trackstar the DJ – Ghost Stories: Ghostface Killah's Storytelling Raps (mixtape)
Trackstar the DJ, god bless his heart, took on the challenging task of rounding up all of Ghostface Killah’s most absorbing and unforgettable story time verses. The end result is 26 tracks of vivid narration by one of the Wu-Tang Clans more reliable emcees. Also of note here is Ghost’s knack for selecting dope beats.
LA Leakers – Leaks That Collected Dust: The Audio-Biography of DJ Premier (mixtape)
Nothing new here as far as songs go but there’s dusty treasures from DJ Premier’s catalog mixed in with some of his well-known hits—Krumb Snatcha, KRS-One, Biggie, Rass Kass, and of course Gang Starr and Jeru the Damaja; it’s all in here. Everything’s tied together very nicely with interludes. As the beats run long between songs, Preemo tells stories of how they came to be and the situations surrounding them. Old-school heads and history-seeking yougins alike will dig it. And everyone will be mad they slept on that Group Home album.
Onyx – Wakedafucup (Mad Money)
Barring some films that have ranged from kind of OK to totally unwatchable, I honestly haven’t paid much attention to anything Onyx-related since their debut in 1993. So I was quite surprised to realize that not only has Onyx put out a new album but that it is actually one of the best of the year so far. A large part of that has to do with the contribution of the Snowgoons, who produced the album in its entirety. A$AP Ferg and Sean Price show up on “We Don’t Fuckin’ Care” which is D to the ope. I may get old but unrelenting boom-bap beats, record scratching, and grimy street raps never will.
Army of the Pharaohs – In Death Reborn (Enemy Soil / Babygrande / Demigodz)
Another one that took me by surprise. AOTP is one of those revolving door Demigodz crews that are so large it’s hard to keep track of who’s in and who’s out. This time around Vinnie Paz, Apathy, Celph Titled, Esoteric, Blastican, Crypt the Warchild, Des Deviuos, King Syze, Planetary, Demoz, Doap Nixon, King Magnetic, Block McCloud, Zilla, and Reef the Lost Cause are all in. Oof, you get all of that? As expected when names like Stu Bangas, C-Lance, and Vanderslice are behind the boards, the beats are hard-as-fuck boom-bap. Leaf Dog turns in a nice beat for “The Demon’s Blade”; as does Frank Grimes on “Azrael” and “Sumerians.” Someone is scratching all over this album, although I’m not sure who. This on some Golden Era idealism-type ish, and that’s A-OK with me.
And now for some personal propaghanda…
July is International Zine Month. And what better way to celebrate than by getting your snot nose-picking, resin-stained little fingers on some copies of my zines. Since the last time Too Many Rappers was around, my partner in crime and I have published a couple new issues. HotDogDayz is full of found items, hijacked emails, mail art, reader submissions, fan letters, crusty art, raw photography, rail monikers, graffiti, and jokes. The Soda Killers is a punk, rap, and graffiti ménage a trois, loaded with record & show reviews, graff flicks, sticker art, and reader-submitted content. They are available for free, trade (preferred) or, if you’re so inclined, donation. If you’re into any of it, get a hold of me via the contact links below.
All right, that’s all for now folks. Hope everyone is having a great summer. Pedal hard and wear a helmet!
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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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