31 December 2006

Review: Widespread Panic

Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA 30 December 2006

Hard to believe it's been 6 years since our last Widespread Panic New Year's shows, but life happens and we were able to finally extract ourselves out of the woodwork and get down to Atlanta for a couple doses of Jimmy Herring and crew. I have no problem saying that -- it's both amazing and no surprise how Mr Herring has made quick work and claimed this band as his own

For Saturday's penultimate show, the crowd buzz was full of anticipation as usual. Of course, the first thing we notice is the stage decorations. A strange mishmash of images as a gigantic tie-dyed sun sits stage center behind Todd with a couple clouds threatening to eclipse it. As you move upwards there are pastel planets: Jupiter and Saturn (with the ring made of a circle of lighting rig) as well as a crescent moon with the Man in the Moon smiling down. Further up are two blue-green rhombuses pock-marked to look like asteroids, I guess, they kind of just look like cubes of junk. Then, floating between all these, are three cupid-like creatures pointing arrows down toward the stage.

Definitely a strange mix of imagery that sort of ties together, but it all makes sense when the band takes the stage and somewhat unexpectedly (for me, at least) launches the night with Conrad. So appropriate for so many reasons: this band has been reborn as a big-winged butterfly with Jimmy on lead guitar; not only that but they've actually found that "little room to fly" with him on board. No wonder they've surrounded the stage with interstellar objects -- the sky is the limit.

Still, as hot as Jimmy's guitar was from the get-go, the first couple songs were a little shaky. The sound wasn't totally synced up to my liking and the band wasn't quite jellin' for the first 30 minutes or so. The mix was really weird, every time Jojo or Sunny played a lick it sounded 10x louder than anything else -- well, this was either the mix or the fact that everything they were doing sounded so out of place. Jojo has regressed. There, I've said it. Even the Fishwater was pretty flat, with a lot of pedestrian percussion sections interlaced. Too soon in the show for the band to really take it. The first set was kind of throwaway up to Travelin' Man which is just not a very good song in my opinion: it's like the worst of Traveling Light and Ramblin' Man mashed together.

But (oh, there's always a "but") -- this is where the magic of Herring came into play, where those planets started to make sense. Jimmy brings a wonderful combination of naiveté and aggressiveness to the Panic repertoire: he doesn't really know what some of the material should do or where it should go, but he's not afraid to take the reins and lead it to where he thinks it should go. So there are moments where he taffy-pulls a regular number, slowing things down or speeding things up, stretching thin to the point of breaking and then pushing things back together. This only works because the band is so tight on its own and they can follow his lead without fear of the proverbial train wreck. This is particularly true of Dave and Todd who seem to be totally locked into everything Jimmy is trying to do.

And so it was, petering out of Travelin' Man that Jimmy laid claim to the outro jam and the audience was taken to those planets above them. Previous incarnations of Widespread were more about the Terra Firma -- the dirty and the gritty, but now the music has a new direction: ionosphere, stratosphere and beyond. This jam was a heavenly Phil-Lesh-Quintet-esque entity of its own, floating in the upper decks of Philips Arena. Gorgeous, full-band jamming (with John Keane bringing tasteful ethereality on the pedal steel) that had no geography or political orientation -- it belonged neither to the song before it or the song that would follow; it just was. Until that is, it ever so slowly made its way toward C. Brown. The segue was long, drawn out and nearly perfect, as good a segue I've seen from any band, let alone Widespread Panic, in many, many years. While later on in the night the second set would overshadow this moment, it was certainly the highlight of the night.

The first set ended with powerful combo of Walkin' > All Time Low and it was here that I remembered why I ditched the kids and hopped a flight to Atlanta. Setlist, music, jams, guests -- it's all well and good, but nothing -- absolutely nothing -- beats the one-brained energy of the crowd at a "big" Panic show. When 10,000+ people erupt as one at random points in a song, an ecstatic eruption of noise, it is a thing to behold. This last doublet of the set was punctuated by these moments, particularly during ATL which featured much fist-pumping and body shaking.

By the time the second set started up, the sound seemed to be dialed in and both the band and audience were totally lubricated and ready to go. The setlist on its face is not that important when considering this set, believe me, it was da heat. Timezones was decent, but the North featured a new level of energy with Herring and Schools leading a middle jam that I didn't know this song had in it. I thought they were going into something else, but they masterfully brought it back to North again. Dare I say it was the best North ever? (I could definitely have done without a second Jerry Joseph tune, though.) I can say that about Blackout as well, as Derek Trucks came out to shred all over this lump of shit. Greatness can be relative, and relative to a vanilla version, this thing was chocolate chip cookie dough. Derek took no fewer than 3 shreddy slide solos and Jimmy and JB each added their own... Blackout Blues became just an excuse for a good old fashioned guitar party.

Sure, I was disappointed when Derek left after just that song, but what followed made up for it plenty. Diner > Papa's Home can mean many things on a given night, but last night it meant nearly 30 minutes of some of the most intense guitar playing I've ever seen. Words can't really describe the relentless playing of Jimmy Herring during this mountain of music. He stuffed every second of time with as many notes as humanly possible like clowns getting crammed into a comically small automobile. Climax after climax after climax through this Diner -- I don't think I've made my body dance that hard in a long while. The band was totally on board as well and I haven't heard them as tight in too many years. When the jam out of Diner was bubbling over, I was sure they were going into drums for some relief, but instead they expertly laid down into another monster: Papa's Home. Panic was pulling the equivalent of 4-minute miles over a marathon, total high octane rock and roll.

Drums finally broke the tension, but not before a nice long outro jam with Dave leading Jimmy and the drummers along. Trivia alert: I didn't think it was humanly possible, but I believe Sunny and Todd played an exact note-for-note replica of Drums from 4/11/2000.

I've waited a long time to hear Panic play some Beatles and I finally got my wish when they busted into the second ever I Want You (She's So Heavy) during the post-drums cool down. I won't argue that there was anything sublime about this version, the band seemed a bit tentative around the edges of this one, like they weren't sure exactly what they wanted to do with it. JB seemed particularly tentative actually stopping the song before John Keane, who was on guitar at this point, coaxed him to go around a couple more times. Keane made the most of it, ripping into a very nice solo of his own. Jimmy was content to lay back and let John really take over and he did. Give was a nice way to end the show with some more of the old ass-shaking/fist-pumping combo the crowd had been working on all night.

At this point, I'd have rated the show "average" with some real bona fide highlights in there and bonus points for the fact that the second set was pretty darn long (not to mention brutally tiring). When I saw them setting up Derek's amp again for the encore, I knew we had a chance to put a little garnish on this one and make it a more special NYE warm-up. Sure enough, Derek came out, but he brought his better half with him and the octet launched into our second above-average cover breakout: Jimi Hendrix's Little Wing. Sweet sweet sweetness, this totally took that bad taste of the Blackout-and-done sit-in from earlier in the night. JB and Susan T took turns with the vocals turning Jimi's masterpiece into a beautiful duet. Derek and Jimmy did the same with the guitar leads and the whole collective flowed easily around the music. Although the show had, by this time, trespassed into the next day, the boys seemed to be resolved to empty their revolvers of any more ammo playing not one, not two, but three more songs. A nice soulful This Part of Town, where, yes I could see the sun from where I was standing and an old fashioned Take Out > Porch where the man in the moon was hanging right overhead, most certainly a musician and most certainly smiling.

I: Conrad > Climb To Safety, Fishwaer, Chest Fever*> Travelin Man* >> C. Brown** > Walkin* > All Time Low

Time Zones**, North > Pilgrims > Blackout***, Diner >> Jam > Papa's Home > Jam > Bust It Big > I Want You (She's So Heavy)* > Give*

E: Little Wing**** > This Part Of Town, The Take Out** > Porch Song**

* w/ John Keane on guitar
** w/ John Keane on pedal steel
*** w/ Derek Trucks on slide guitar
**** w/ Derek Trucks on slide guitarand Susan Tedeschi on vocals

Part two tonight...

30 December 2006

Nedstalgia: 10 Years Ago

[thanks to good man Ted at the Everyday Companion, you can listen to these shows (here, too) while your read]

Greetings from Atlanta! Feeling young again for a change and have a chance to reflect on our first foray into Panic New Years in Hot 'Lanta, exactly 10 years ago this week. After three years of Phish New Years celebrations, we decided in 95 to give Panic a try and set out for parts unknown with names like Spartanburg and Macon (a bit hard to believe I once spent New Year's Eve in Macon, GA, but there you have it). We liked what we tasted and when WSP announced they'd be be playing a super-duper special run of shows at the Fabulous Fox Theater the following year, we were on board from the get-go. Of course, this was augmented by the availability of super-duper special mail order which gave us the same seats every night, just a few rows back in the orchestra pit. It was on!!

Things never being quite simple, a couple weeks before we lubed up the Schwagon and hit the road for yet another my-parents-think-we're-nuts road trip, BT gives a call: official transmission received, need to reschedule ETD by one day for additional super-duper specialness -- Bombs & Butterflies release party; small intimate show in Athens. Can you say it: SICK! This was everything we had imagined, a nice warm-up close-in family-style affair where much of the crowd was actually sitting for most of the night... due both probably to the chill vibe in the air and the knowledge that our energy reserves would be tested the next three evenings once we got to Atlanta. The setlist for the Morton Theater show was nothing special, but the evening certainly was.

Of course, the real treats were in store at the Fox. Musically, for me at least, perhaps nothing came close to the magic of the opening night when David Blackmon and John Keane (then a semi-rare presence on the Panic stage) peppered themselves all over the setlist the highlight being a time-stopping Mercy which I still remember as my favorite version (you know how you have your favorite songs with your favorite versions by which you always compare all others, this is that for this song). Blackmon, Keane, Houser, Bell and Schools took a simple theme and through an intricate multileveled call-and-response wove sweet music midway through the jam. I remember it like it was yesterday.

But for all-and-0ut memories of a particular run of shows, it was the next night, the 30th, that was above all. Perhaps nothing will define the sort of upper-bounds on the craziness that could possibly ensue at a Widespread show the way this night did. Just look at that setlist, the level of asteriskness is beyond obscene. Guests flowing onto and off of the stage like ants swarming around a spilled dollop of ice cream or something. Attacking at the music and the audience: not a second to come up for breath, just completely suffocating... finally climaxing during the encore. "Obscene" doesn't quite capture what transpired during what was later dubbed the "Fab Fox 'Fess Jam" (after much lively discussion, deconstruction and decompression on the Spreadnet). The thing started innocently around a Professor Longhair groove, Jojo taking it from the start, but it quickly avalanched into a wild no-holds-barred jam that actually continued to make sense along the way. Of course, it was nearly impossible, in the moment, to absorb the music, to relish any portion of the jam -- we, the audience, who had at that point spent 4 straight soul-sering sets in the same seats, could only look, drunken lips agape at what we were watching. The closest I've come to this was a couple years later, some of the more out-there "power jams" at the old Wetlands, when a dozen or so musicians would flex for hours on end. But this was another planet, another galaxy from what you might get at a Panic show. Unfortunately, such a huge monument of music overshadows some other beautiful sections of that night, the near-perfect B of D > Sleepy Monkey > Holden > Genesis that made up much of the first set and the super jamming into, between and out of Driving Song. The memories make me long to get my old DAT decks working again and listen to these nights over and over.

As is often the case, the actual New Year's show is somewhat tamer, but only in relative terms. We were pretty sure we'd get a three-setter and something special on top of that. By now, we were all friends in that row in the pit and settling into our seats we were of like mind and body. The show was special. Vic Chestnutt joined the boys for a sit-down stretch of brute and Panic tunes. A nice little treat that we welcomed warmly. The rest of the show was essentially everything left over, which was still quite a bit. The much-loved-by-me Barstools to get things in a nasty mood for set two and the two-headed monsters of Papa's Home and Chilly Water, both with all the trimmings for the third. Double encores are a nice treat and, truthfully, anything more than an acoustic set with Chestnutt, the gorgeous environs of the Fox, the friends old and new, might have been too much.

It was certainly around the time of this New Years run that I truly felt like a part of the Panic family, that celebrating with the band and their fans was where I was meant to be during the last week of December. Very, very happy to be back in Atlanta for another go-around. The postscript from this run was the Where's Waldo photo of us in the inside jacket of the Light Fuse Get Away live release the next year, check it out... 10 years is a long time!

Full reports from the road to follow...

29 December 2006

maximix: 2006 recap

Last mix of the year, not necessarily the best songs of the year, maybe not even the best tracks from these albums, but some pretty good ones nonetheless, and hopefully an enjoyable listen for you this weekend. Maybe some repeats from the other mixes, all of which should still be available if you're interested.

Broken into 2 discs.



01 Love Train -- Wolfmother: Wolfmother
02 Atbash -- Rashanim: Shalosh
03 Powder -- The Benevento/Russo Duo: Play Pause Stop
04 City Of Love -- Persephone's Bees: Notes From The Underworld
05 Tabago Strut -- The Bamboos: Step It Up
06 Dirtywhirl -- TV On The Radio: Return To Cookie Mountain
07 Follow Me To Carthedge -- The Mammals: Departure
08 Willie -- Cat Power: The Greatest
09 Hang Me Up To Dry -- Cold War Kids: Up In Rags
10 Breathe -- Dan Bern: Breathe Easy
11 An Ecumenical Matter -- Loose Fur: Born Again In The USA
12 L.O.V.E. -- Frank Smith: Red On White
13 Canteen -- Pinetop Seven: Beneath The Confederate Lake
14 Sahib Teri Bandi-Maki Madni -- Derek Trucks Band: Songlines
15 The Big Guns -- Jenny Lewis With The Watson Twins: Rabbit Fur Coat
16 While My Guitar Gently Weeps -- The Beatles: Love


01 Go-Go Gadget Gospel -- Gnarls Barkley: St. Elsewhere
02 Yeah Yeah Yeah Song -- The Flaming Lips: At War With The Mystics
03 Right On -- Clarence Wheeler & The Enforcers: What It Is!: Funky Soul and Rare Grooves
04 Oceania -- Bobby Previte: The Coalition Of The Willing
05 Yeah I Love You -- Earl Greyhound: Soft Targets
06 Funny Little Frog -- Belle And Sebastian: The Life Pursuit
07 Margaret Vs. Pauline -- Neko Case: Fox Confessor Brings The Flood
08 Lillian, Egypt -- Josh Ritter: The Animal Years
09 Chicago (Multiple Personality Disorder version) -- Sufjan Stevens: The Avalanche
10 Even Rats -- The Slip: Eisenhower
11 Sandbox -- Michael Houser: Sandbox
12 Swamba Redux -- Charlie Hunter: Copperopolis
13 3 String George -- Gov't Mule: High & Mighty
14 Nostrand -- Ratatat: Classics
15 New Virginia Creeper -- Old Crow Medicine Show: Big Iron World
16 Roscoe -- Midlake: The Trials Of Van Occupanther

Review: Benevento/Russo Duo

Old Office, 27 December 2006

(this review can be found in much cooler form over at Hidden Track, so check it out).

Is 5 years a long time? When I think back on what my life was like 5 years ago, it feels like a geological epoch. I'm sure the same can be said for Joe Russo and Marco Benevento who have gone from a pair of who-dats playing for free every week in a quonset hut of a venue to becoming a critical darling of the scene.... not to mention play acting as the latter half of Phish this summer, amongst other adventures. So, yeah, 5 years seems like a good time to pause and reflect. It's also a good excuse to get shitty drunk in the dank underbelly of the Knitting Factory. And so it was: a 5th anniversary Duo party, not even in the Tap Bar, but all the way down to the Old Office.

I got there a bit early, not sure what kind of zoo the crowd would be. As it turns out, the audience size was utterly manageable and there was an incredibly friendly vibe from front to back. Unfortunately, the show started pretty late, all things considered, and standing around in a bar for 2 hours with a friendly crowd meant many, many, many whiskeys before the first notes were played. It's probably fitting that much of the crowd was deep in party mode all night long. When Joe & Marco played the Tap Bar on a weekly basis, laying down the cement foundation for what they've become today, it was as much a social event as musical masterpiece. That was what always drew me to the music: you could stand right on top of the stage and marvel at the music coming out of their 8 collective limbs, lose yourself in the chemistry, dance your ass off, or just hang back, sip your cocktail and chat it up with your pals while the greatest background music you could imagine filled the silence around you.

If you go to a Duo show today, you are in awe before they even begin. How can two musicians take up so much space on a stage? Filling up the volume of a Bowery Ballroom where other nights 4, 6, or even 10 people might fit comfortably. Enough gadgets, television monitors, laptops, kids toys and wires criss-crossing the stage you might think they were preparing a shuttle launch and not a rock and roll show. When they started though, "organ and drums" really meant organ and drums, so I was happy to see they had laid it out bare bones style on Wednesday night. Not accouterments to speak of (although, I don't believe they schlepped their own gear, I guess some things do change in 5 years).

And what of the music, you might ask? Does it even matter? If they physically take up a stage and a half, then musically they occupy the space of a hundred stout men. It was that way when it was just two guys and two instruments and it continues to be so with loops and samples and laptronics. Heck, how many ways can I say "brilliant" without appearing to be a paid shill? Getting that close, though, actually hovering over the band brings back that old perspective, that old love. I remember when I wrote this those many years ago, with just a shade of hyperbole. Well, I got an email from a guy telling me I was an idiot for fawning over Joe Russo the way I did -- I probably still have it tucked away in an old account somewhere. Well, I tell you, watching Joe Wednesday night made me realize, for the umpteenth time how very special a talent this guy is: blazing, flailing beauty. Early on in the first set, during possibly "Raindrops Whisper Words" (although don't quote me on any setlist items) he played some of the most entrancing drumming I've ever witnessed, a totally hypnotic stretch that left me agog, his limbs leaving circular trails in the air: fingerpainting with percussion. Marco reminded me about the times when it was all about that left hand -- the appendage with its own agenda, declaring independence from the groove.

There was a lot of that old school vibe, plenty of Zeppelin and other too-fun covers. We got our "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" -- the original signature Benevento Russo number -- with very little urging from the crowd. Each tune brought on waves of acknowledgment from the crowd, the memories we've all shared, many times as a collective, over the past half-decade laid out in real time. Drunken waves of nostaligia were upon me all night long: of Freaks Balls past, of Makers Marks past, of that late, drowsy evening at the now-departed Fez with maybe 10 of us watching on as Joe & Marco took Jay Rodriguez to Duo school, of the shows after the show when you felt like there was nothing going on anywhere in the world compared with what you were hearing come out of a simple organ and drum kit. I can only hope in 5 years we'll have the next anniversary party where Joe Russo and Marco Benevento will "slum" it and come back to play the Bowery Ballroom and we'll remember how great it was when they first played there, and then they'll take the party back to the Knit and it'll be a blur of precision and passion and then it will just be a blur.....

28 December 2006

2006: Recap... albums

While I didn't catch an inordinate amount of shows this year, I did manage to squeeze a very healthy number of 2006 release onto the old iPod. Of course, you can never listen to all of them, so I'll leave it to you to tell me what I've missed, so I know what to ask for for my birthday. I don't purport to list the best, but these are definitely my favorites... at least right now, they are. Who knows how I'll feel tomorrow.

These are studio albums, my favorite live album was, hands down, My Morning Jacket's Okonokos, with the Duo's live import, Raw Horse coming in second.

Here are the top 65 of the 80 or so I've heard this year, with comments for the top vote getters. I would have liked to put in some links, etc., but I just don't have the energy right now.

1 The Decemberists – The Crane Wife
These guys took the next step with this album, their quote/unquote "major label debut." It ain't hype, it's well-deserved praise.

2 Benevento Russo Duo – Play Pause Stop
As objectively as I can say this: totally amazing follow up to last year's barn-burner. The Duo is matching their live intensity with a separate-but-equal skill in the studio.

3 Rashanim – Shalosh
I love these guys. Power-trio, Jewish-tinged mind-tingling instrumental jazz-rock. Madof's guitar is right between Scott Metzger and Marc Ribot and the rest of the trio is tight, tight, tight.

4 Midlake – The Trials of Van Occupanther
Got this album about a month ago and am totally smitten with it. By the time I wear the thing out, it may prove to be the best thing released this year. This is dense, 70's-radio style pop music and totally mesmerizing from top to bottom.

5 The Beatles – Love
Surprisingly sick-ass, both in stereo and 5.1 surround. This is probably the must-have of the year. Can't wait for others to follow suit -- I can just imagine what a guy like David Byrne could do with the Talking Heads catalog.

6 Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
It would be easy to lump this with a few other excellent female country albums, but I think this, and Case, stands alone near the top. Haunting and gorgeous all at once.

7 Ratatat – Classics
If the Beatles came along in 2006 and were playing instrumental pop music, this is what it would sound like. Also reminds me of the original Slang release, which is to say I love it.

8 Wolfmother – Wolfmother
Should I feel guilty for loving something so incredibly derivative and unoriginal? Great rock and roll is hard to resist.

9 TV On The Radio – Return To Cookie Mountain
I'm not sure I've reached the minimum number of listens required to fully appreciate this album... although I've listened to it quite a bit. If Ratatat is some sort of newfangled Beatles, TVOTR are the Beach Boys in Brooklyn 40 years later.

10 Califone – [Roots & Crowns]
Like some minimalist folk art. Hypnotizing.

11 Earl Greyhound – Soft Targets
Sending out a memo: this is the band to watch in 2007. Vicious guitar-drums-bass rock and roll.

12 Joanna Newsom – Ys
This is either too high or too low, I'm not sure yet. Like absolutely nothing else I've ever heard.

13 Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere
This music just makes me smile, plain and simple.

14 Various Artists – What It Is! Funky Soul & Rare Grooves
This collection's name speaks for itself. Funky, funky, funky

15 Persephone’s Bees – Notes from the Underworld
Any two points define a line, and these guys are somewhere on the line between Edie Brickell and the Fiery Furnaces. Delicious pop.

16 The Fiery Furnaces – Bitter Tea
17 Loose Fur – Born Again In The USA
18 The Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldiers
19 Built To Spill – You In Reverse
20 Cat Power – The Greatest
21 Belle & Sebastian – The Life Pursuit
22 Beck – The Information
23 Jenny Lewis With the Watson Twins – Rabbit Fur Coat
24 The Flaming Lips -- At War With the Mystics
25 John Zorn – Filmworks XVIII: The Treatment

26 The Slip – Eisenhower
27 Pinetop Seven – Beneath the Confederate Lake
28 Derek Trucks Band – Songlines
29 Sufjan Stevens – The Avalanche
30 Bob Dylan – Modern Times
31 Junior Boys – So This Is Goodbye
32 Thom Yorke – The Eraser
33 Josh Ritter – The Animal Years
34 Damien Rice – 9
35 Michael Houser – Sandbox

36 Willie Nelson – Songbird
37 The Mammals – Departure
38 Uri Caine – Book of Angels Vol. 6 Moloch
39 Bobby Previte – The Coalition of the Willing
40 Gov’t Mule – High & Mighty
41 The Avett Brothers – Four Thieves Gone
42 Jack Johnson – Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies For the Film Curious George
43 The Bamboos – Step It Up
44 The Black Keys – Chulahoma
45 Ollabelle – Riverside Battle Songs

46 Charlie Hunter Trio – Copperopolis
47 Paul Simon – Surprise
48 Old Crow Medicine Show – Big Iron World
49 Spanky Wilson & The Quantic Soul Orchestra – I’m Thankful
50 Stanton Moore – III
51 Mates of State – Bring It Back
52 Eef Barzelay – Bitter Honey
53 The Wood Brothers – Ways Not To Lose
54 Frank Smith – Red On White
55 The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls In America

56 Widespread Panic – Earth To America
57 DJ Logic – Zen of Logic
58 Calexico – Garden Ruin
59 Tool – 10,000 Days
60 The Cracow Klezmer Band – Book of Angels Vol. 5 Balan
61 Bela Fleck & The Flecktones – The Hidden Land
62 Neil Young – Living With War
63 Buzz Universe – birdfishtree
64 Zorn/Douglas/Patton/Laswell – The Stone: Issue One
65 Pearl Jam – Pearl Jam

27 December 2006

2006: Recap... shows

(image of GRAB from PNC courtesy of Aiello)

wasn't too long ago I was catching close to 150 shows in a year's span, which is still hard to believe. While the quantity has certainly slipped with age, I'd like to think with my maturing palate, I've been able to pack as much quality live music into fewer trips into the depths of the NYC nightlife. By my count, I've got three more nights of music before the clock hits zero, and my suspicions are that all three of them would squeeze their way into the upper registers of the listing below. That being said, I'll do my best to review 'em and for now, here are my favorite shows of 2006 with some comments for the top 15 as well as links to reviews, etc. (although this blog got going too late to include all the actually-written reviews for most of these).


My Morning Jacket|The Slip|Benevento/Russo Duo @ Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA 1 December
Ned says: I've said enough about this show, read the review, download the set, look at some more photos. I'm not sure there was a better bill anywhere at any time in the past year.

2 Widespread Panic Radio City Music Hall 16 September
Ned says: Three words: Panic is back!! Three more: Jimmy Fucking Herring!!! Caught the first night with JH on the 14th which is also a top ten offering, but I'll just lump it here with the much more complete, drunken-ecstacy-fueled show from the 16th. Some samplings here and here, but you can just download the entire shows, hell the entire tour in pristine soundboard format.

3 GRAB, Duo, Phil & Friends PNC Bank Arts Center Holmdel, NJ 1 July
Ned says: Pinch me, I must be dreaming. Worlds collide and instead of the disaster Costanza predicted, musical bliss ensues. As above, I won't list the Jones Beach show separately, but this was the show. Hell, forget about the show, the entire day was, to a minute, picture perfect. 12+ hours of smiles all around (most from about the 2nd row).

4 Bill Frisell (The Moonlighters open) Prospect Park Bandshell Brooklyn 3 August
Ned says: Another bout of perfection, this time with visuals. Frisell and his trio play to short films and animation in one of the best outdoor venues out there. What's not to like? For free!

5 Iron & Wine Califone, Low McCarren Park Pool Brooklyn 17 August
Ned says: Another wonderful outdoor venue in Brooklyn, we'll see how long it lasts. This one wasn't free, but sublime nonetheless. I'm utterly smitten with Sam Beam, don't miss I&W next time they're in your neck of the woods -- and don't let the sensational-yet-soporific studio stuff scare you, the live shows are actually rocking multilayered textural masterpieces.

6 Medeski, Martin & Wood , Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings Hammerstein Ballroom 31 October
Ned says: See review.

7 Rana, Apollo Sunshine Knitting Factory 13 May
Ned says: Rana was in a strange place in 2006 for a variety of reasons. But with shredders like these, you take quality and not quantity. With Tribeca Rock Club gone for good, they ripped the Knit a new sphincter. Oh, and the double bill with Apollo Sunshine made me a Fan with a capital F, as in: rock your F'in Face off. Check 'em out, the band to see in 2007.

8 Broken Social Scene Webster Hall 27 January
Ned says: Who doesn't love the Broken Social Scene?? Their benefit show at the Bandshell over the summer left a bit to be desired, but this was a freakin' throwdown. I lurved this show and this band.

9 The Decemberists, Alisdair Roberts Hammerstein Ballroom 3 November
Ned says: See review.

10 Benevento/Russo Duo , Todd Hamilton's American Babies Bowery Ballroom 27 October
Ned says: Pretty much every time Joe & Marco take the stage it's a top show of the year for me. That's the way I roll. So, lump tonight's show in with this one for a top ten slot (not to mention the 4/28 Bowery hit). They melt the walls of the Bowery just like they did at the TRC, Tobacco Road and, of course, the Tap Bar.

12 Herring, Rodgers, Sipe Mexicali Blues Teaneck, NJ 10 August
Ned says: Right around the time when word was out that Jimmy was Panic-bound, we were lucky enough to see him at his day job -- tweaking neurons to unsuspecting freaks. This was some old school ARU-level brain-rearranging.

13 Medeski, Martin & Wood (Soulive opened) Planting Fields Arboretum Oyster Bay, LI 13 August
Ned says: MMW has totally reestablished themselves as major players on the soundtrack of my dreams. They do it in so many ways from so many angles in so many different places. I saw them three times in completely different settings and each time they perfectly conformed to the situation. This was the wine-and-cheese set in posh Nassau County and they done brung it good.

14 Coxygen,Metzgerville, Sec't Government Coda 21 January
Ned says: Freaks Ball VI with all the usual suspects on and off stage. Definitely the most fun I had with live music this year, and I suspect #7 will be the same. Get involved.

15 The Bad Plus Joe's Pub 20 January
Ned says: While my continuing jazz education seems to be on sabbatical these days, I'll always have the Bad Plus. Caught them a couple times. Same old [insert synonym for sick-ass] stuff.

Rest of the top 40 presented without comment:

16 Gov't Mule, Wolfmother McCarren Park Pool Brooklyn 9 September
17 Ryan Adams Bowery Ballroom 24 June
18 GRAB , Duo, Phil & Friends Jones Beach Wantagh, LI 7 July
19 The Bad Plus Jason Moran & The Bandwagon Blue Note 13 September
20 Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins The Blow, Will Sheff Stubb's Austin, TX 23 October
21 Strike 55 Bar 29 September
22 Bill Frisell Quintet Village Vanguard 28 April
23 Benevento/Mathis/Chamberlain Tonic 29 November
24 Dave Douglas Quintet Jazz Standard 6 December
25 Marco Benevento solo Tonic 15 November
26 Guttman Tonic 1 November
27 Rana CBGB's NYC, NY 13 September
28 Steve Earle , Laura Cantrell, Allison Moorer, Tim Easton Southpaw Brooklyn 1 November
29 Sufjan Stevens, My Brightest Diamond Town Hall 29 September
30 Fiona Apple Damien Rice Jones Beach Wantagh, LI 22 July
31 Earl Greyhound The Annex 7 October
32 Medeski, Martin & Wood IMAC Huntington 8 April
33 EST Jazz Standard 20 January
34 Broken Social Scene, Hidden Cameras Prospect Park Bandshell Brooklyn 6 July
35 Rana (trio) Chris Harford Half Moon Cruise Ship 19 August
36 The Budos Band B.P.M. Brooklyn 9 September
37 Stanton Moore Knitting Factory 7 October
38 Baby Loves Jazz Joe's Pub 9 September
39 Coalition of the Willing Tonic 25 May
40 Adam Levy Barbes Brooklyn 25 July

26 December 2006

2006: Recap... movies

The year is coming to a finish and instead of some big whopper of a send-off to 2006, I feel like we're just kinda petering out. Looking back, this year was, well... boring. We didn't even have some end-of-days level natural catastrophe or national event. 2006 just was. Kids are a year older and that much closer to being smarter, cooler and better looking than their pops. There was plenty to digest, particularly on the music front. I finally got an iPod back in January after much resistance. Yeah, I love the thing and it's changing the way I listen to music, but I'm not sure I'm 100% happy about it -- everything I feared about it has come true.

Other than that, I'm happy to report I lost like 30+ pounds this year, despite ingesting an enormous amount of BBQ and bacon. Three cheers to regular exercise!!

Anyhoo, this week at OTW I'll be doing a rundown of the past year, with "Ned's favorite" listings of albums & shows as well as a special 2006-roundup maxi-mix on Friday.

Today, my list of the best 2006 movies I saw this year. It's a rare thing for me to get to the theaters, but somehow I did it more than once... with two of those instances coming in the last week, thank Jesus. Of course, half the movies I saw were for kids, but that doesn't make me an old fart, does it? Thanks to the miracle of Netflix and digital technology, I don't feel too far behind.

My list follows... if you've got some 2006 movies I should have seen, particularly something that might not be on my radar, let me know.

1 Little Miss Sunshine
If you're willing to discard the importance of plot to a film, this is pretty much a perfect movie.

2 Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
I found every minute detail in this to be frickin' hilarious. This was the most stinging indictment of this country since the 2004 election.

3 Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
I am a sucker for postmodernist claptrap and this does it to a tee. Very, very funny and it probably helps if you've never even heard of the book.

4/5 The Prestige/The Illusionist
Somehow The Big Squeeze and I got out and saw two movies about magicians in a span of a couple weeks. Not quite the Bug's Life/Ants Dilemma of '98, but still. I can't really decide which one was better -- I'd highly recommend them both. Yes, they are very different, but at the heart they are both very creative, well-made, well-acted spins on the old fashioned con movie.

Pursuit of Happyness
Somehow this movie makes you feel both happy for everything you have and vaguely disappointed for what you don't in one fell swoop. Yeah, it's a predictable tearjerker, but a darn good one.

7 Akeelah & The Bee
Speaking of predictable tearjerkers, at least this one makes no claims to be inspired by a true story. One question: how did spelling get to be so film-friendly?

8 For Your Consideration
Not Guest's best. Plenty entertaining, but if you want to see a movie about making a movie, see Tristram Shandy.

9 Stranger than Fiction
Will Ferrell makes me laugh. This wasn't even really a comedy, either. Anyone else and this would have crept toward suckitude. Still: enjoy it on cable.

Curious George
Holy shit, I can't find 10 worthy adult movies that I saw this year. Not sure what that means. (Yeah, some day I'll see Borat, but I think it's too late to appreciate it the way I should.) Anyway, this is actually the movie I've seen the most this year and it's actually pretty darn good (and amazingly makes this a Ferrell-threefer, which is weird). As surely as I've grown to appreciate the kindie rock, so have I learned what makes a kid's movie special. Basically, anything not by Miyazaki is crap by default, although every once in a while there are exceptions. The little monkey fits the bill. Cars, Happy Feet, Ice Age: The Meltdown... all were decent, but lacking in some way. We are actually going to see Charlotte's Web today, despite my perpetual yearning to stick an ice pick through Dakota Fanning's skull.

Not Scottish and crap:
The DaVinci Code
The Devil Wears Prada
Keeping Up With The Steins
V For Vendetta

24 December 2006

Shows of the Week

Last week of 2006... and it's a doozy! See y'all in 2007!!

Click here for upcoming shows


*Fab Faux (White Album) @ Webster Hall
Danzig @ Starland Ballroom (Sayreville, NJ)

*Benevento/Russo Duo @ Old Office
Jason Crosby Band @ Ace of Clubs
Preservation Hall Jazz Band @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
Fab Faux (White Album) @ Webster Hall
Ed Palmero Big Band plays Zappa @ Cutting Room
Peck Allmond Kalimba Kollective @ Barbes (Brooklyn)
Kazutoki Umezu Pandora Quartet w/ J. Madof, S. Blumenkranz @ The Stone (late)

Tea Leaf Green @ Mexicali Blues (Teaneck, NJ)
Soulive, Talib Kweli @ Nokia Theater
Jake Ezra @ 55 Bar (early)
Fishbone @ Knitting Factory
Jessica Lurie @ Tea Lounge (Brooklyn)
Jonah Smith, Ryan Montbleau @ Canal Room
Buzz Universe @ Piano's
Preservation Hall Jazz Band @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
Nels Cline & Zeena Parkins (acoustic/electric) @ The Stone
*Chris Thile @ Living Room (early/late)
IDR @ Issue Project Space (Brooklyn)

Gov't Mule (Los Lobos opens) @ Beacon Theater
*Greyboy All Stars, DJ ?uestlove @ Nokia Theater
Railroad Earth @ Southpaw (Brooklyn)
Patti Smith @ Bowery Ballroom
Preservation Hall Jazz Band @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
Rana (trio format) @ Knitting Factory
Brazilian Girls w/ Kudu et al @ Irving Plaza
Hopewell et al @ Piano's
Jessica Lurie @ Rockwood Music Hall (6pm)
Donny McCaslin w/ Uri Caine, G. Hutchinson et al @ 55 Bar (early/late)
Vernon Reid et al @ Tonic
Golia, Cline, Filiano @ The Stone (early/late)
Project/Object, Crescent Moon @ Mexicali Blues (Teaneck, NJ)
Sam Kininger Band @ Blue Note (late night)
Adam Deitch Project @ Mercury Lounge

moe. @ Irving Plaza
*Gov't Mule (NMAS opens) @ Beacon Theater
Rebirth Brass Band @ BB King's (late)
John Zorn All-Star Improv @ The Stone
Spoon @ Webster Hall
James Hunter @ BB King's (early)
Patti Smith @ Bowery Ballroom
Milo-Z @ Lion's Den
Preservation Hall Jazz Band @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
Sam Kininger Band @ Blue Note (late night)
The Bridge @ Knitting Factory
Burnt Sugar @ Tonic (midnight)

New Year's Eve:
The Slip (Meowskers opens) @ Northsix
Gregg Allman & Friends @ North Fork Theater (Westbury, LI)
moe. @ Radio City Music Hall
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (Bob Mould opens) @ Hammerstein Ballroom
Mates of State @ Knitting Factory (early/late)
John Brown's Body @ Southpaw (Brooklyn)
Gov't Mule @ Beacon Theater
Preservation Hall Jazz Band @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
Robert Randolph & The Family Band @ Starland Ballroom (Sayreville, NJ)
UMelt @ Knitting Factory (late night)
The Electric Six, The Dansettes @ Maxwell's (Hoboken, NJ)
Zorn/Licata/Laswell et al @ Tonic (early)
Steven Bernstein's Millenial Territory Orchestra @ Tonic (late)
Pattii Smith @ Bowery Ballroom
Brazilian Girls @ Irving Plaza
The Samples @ Lion's Den
Brothers Past @ BB King's (late night)
Fishbone @ Fastlane
Uncle Leon & The Alibis et al @ Ace of Clubs
Amayo's FU-Arkist-Ra @ Amayo's Afrospot Temple (Brooklyn)
The Wollesons @ 55 Bar (late)
Dr John et al @ First Night Montclair (Montclair, NJ)
James Brown @ BB King's (early/late)

Click here for upcoming shows

21 December 2006

minimix: LJ Special

I'll get back into new music all next week with some "favorites of 2006" lists and a maxi-year-end mix next Friday (if I can sort everything out by then).

Until then, in honor of my lil' girl turning five today (send her an email, I assure you she'll reply and tell you she loves you) and perhaps more importantly my surviving five freakin' years of fatherhood, a little children's music for you that hopefully is equally worthy of your discerning adult ears. Kid's music grows increasingly intriguing to me as time goes on -- the ultimate in kiddie music is the same in any other genre, but boiled down to the basics -- the ultimate hook. Here's a nice set that somehow teaches you counting, colors, geography, nursery rhymes and the dangers of gluttony. If you've got some favorite "kindie rock," please share...

As always, feel free to pass on.

Download the mix

"Then he ate ten twinkies, some ice cream and some oreos
And Slow Mo Joe wasn't so slow no more..."

01 Mahnamahna -- The Muppets
02 Alphabet of Nations -- They Might Be Giants
03 Slo Mo Joe -- David Weinstone: Music For Aardvarks And Other Mammals 7
04 West Indian Counting Song -- Dan Zanes, Aggie Decaul & Courin Gibbs: House Party
05 Upside Down -- Jack Johnson: Sing-A-Longs & Lullabies For The Film Curious George
06 Jenny Jenkins -- Jerry Garcia & David Grisman: Not For Kids Only
07 The Window -- Trout Fishing In America: Big Trouble

Link: Justice Served

Terrell Grey gets max sentence.

Why I care.

Merry Christmas.

An interesting facet to this is the fact that a Newsday article like that one comes with its own forum now. We're now allowed to leave feedback for general news stories at the "source." Slightly bizarre to read the 20+ post thread that resulted from the short article about the sentencing. Welcome to the era of instant messages -- democracy here we come!!

On a lighter, shall we say, more uplifting note, SuperDee points us in the direction of the Big O for tomorrow, so if you were looking for an excuse, do your part to make this a better world.

20 December 2006

(P)review: Freaks Ball Se7en


(Apollo Sunshine photos pilfered from Beatrice Evangelista)

No review this week, instead of looking backwards, let's look forward to what will certainly be one of the throwdowns of 2007, the 7th installment of the freak-out known as the Freaks Ball.

Unbelievably, it's been seven years of the ole bump and hustle and this year we have a tremendous "tastemakers special" line-up, and you are cordially invited to join us in partying down.

The details:

Freaks Ball VII
Brooklyn, NY
27 January 2007

Apollo Sunshine

Chris Harford & The Band of Changes

The Dansettes

Tickets are a mere $20 for what will certainly be a long, dirty, drunken evening. Ticket availability is never guaranteed, so do yourself a favor and get yours now here. (They make great Kwanzaa gifts!)

I could go on about each band individually, how freakin' SICK it's all gonna be, etc., but you're better off just listening for yourself, so we've put together a little download mix to get an idea of what kind of fun we'll be having. So download these tunes buy your tickets and get ready to roll.

Of course, it's gonna be freakin' sick, party of the year... get involved!

19 December 2006

Photo: Hanu-Q

Happy Hanukkah!!

What goes better with latkes and family than one tastycake, slow-cooked brisket? In what must have been a Hanukkah miracle, the confluence of weather, timing, smoke and spices made this slab quite possibly the tastiest thing I've made to date. The trick to the Macabbean-strength brisket is to simultaneously smoke ribs on top. This serves the purpose of constantly basting your beef with pork drippings as well as giving you a rack of ribs or two to stuff your maw with. For all you Bulleteers out there, this is the only way to go, I mean, just look at that thing. The real miracle would have been if it had lasted for 8 days, but alas, both sides of the family were in town and made quick work of this masterpiece.

18 December 2006

Shows of the Week

Tis the season... enjoy!!

Click here for upcoming shows


*Earl Greyhound @ The Canal Room
Smokey Hormel's Western Combo @ Barbes (Brooklyn)
Oz Noy Trio @ Bitter End

Sean Lennon @ Bowery Ballroom
Matisyahu (John Brown's Body opens) @ Hammerstein Ballroom
Scott Holcomb @ Common Ground
Adam Levy Trio @ Rockwood Music Hall (midnight)
*Lonnie Smith @ Dizzy's Coca-Cola (early/late)
Kaki King et al @ Living Room

J Dimenna et al @ Mercury Lounge
Lonnie Smith @ Dizzy's Coca-Cola (early/late)
Liberty Ellman @ 55 Bar (early/late)
*Michael Moore w/ J. Saft, T. Dunn, K. Wolleson @ The Stone (early/late)
Jen Clapp & Adam Levy @ Banjo Jim's

The Bogmen @ Webster Hall
Gogol Bordello @ Irving Plaza
Lonnie Smith @ Dizzy's Coca-Cola (early/late)
*Sex Mob @ Tonic (early/late)
M. Wainwright, N. Casal, T. Thompson et al @ Living Room (benefit)
Maurice Brown @ Nublu
Wayne Krantz @ 55 Bar (late/midnight)
Matt Munisteri @ Barbes (Brooklyn)

Jerry Joseph @ Living Room
Dub Is A Weapon @ Lin's Den
Lonnie Smith @ Dizzy's Coca-Cola (early/late)
The Bogmen @ Bowery Ballroom
Lynne Timmes w/ K. Carlock & T. Lefebvre @ The Bitter End
Nas @ Nokia Theater (early/late)
The Mooney Suzuki et al @ Maxwell's (Hoboken)
Crescent Moon Trio @ Issue Project Space (Brooklyn)
*F Train @ 55 Bar (early/late)
Mike Clark, Donald Harrison @ Blue Note (late night)
Tractenburg Family Slideshow Players et al @ Knitting Factory
Twisted Sister et al @ Starland Ballroom (Sayreville, NJ)

Topaz, Licorice, Doc Ellis @ Fontana's
*Garage A Benevento, Stanton Moore Trio @ BB King's (midnight)
Lonnie Smith @ Dizzy's Coca-Cola (early/late)
Jessica Lurie @ Brecht Forum
The Bogmen @ Bowery Ballroom
Haitian Music Fest @ Irving Plaza
Dave Kolker @ Bitter End
BT/Thomas Dolby @ Canal Room
Tim Fite et al @ Southpaw (Brooklyn)
John Ginty Band w/ Gibb Droll @ Ace of Clubs
Mike Clark, Donald Harrison @ Blue Note (late night)

'stmas Eve:
Get yer nog on...

Click here for upcoming shows

14 December 2006

minimix: Wait a minute! This is new music?

Welcome to the from the/to the grave episode of the minimix. Old is the new new. Some of this is genuinely new music from some old fogies, some is new of the from-the-vault-and-repackaged variety and some is busy redefining just what "new music" means here as 2006 draws to a quick close.


Click to download the mix (Mediafire)

01 Thunder On The Mountain -- Bob Dylan: Modern Times

02 Rubin And Cherise -- Jerry Garcia: The Very Best Of Jerry Garcia

03 Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!/I Want You (She's So Heavy)/Helter Skelter -- The Beatles: Love

04 (Don't Worry) If There's Hell Below We're All Going To Go -- Curtis Mayfield: What It Is!: Funky Soul and Rare Grooves

05 Everything About It Is A Love Song -- Paul Simon: Surprise

06 Amazing Grace -- Willie Nelson: Songbird

Links: Mediafire Madness

I'll try to cut down on the circular self-referential posts for a while, but here's a little MPfree-a-thon in the spirit of giving. A few of the shows I've reviewed recently zipped up for download from Mediafire.

Hammerstein Ballroom, 31 October 2006 (read the review)

Guttman, Tonic, 1 November 2006: Download the show (read the review)

My Morning Jacket, Electric Factory, 1 December 2006: Download the show (read the review)


Something a little different as well....

The Bad Plus is one bad ass piano trio, but they're also a pretty geeky bunch, especially Ethan Iverson, the piano player. The band blog, Do The Math, which is primarily kept up by Iverson, is a wonderful addendum to his live-show-schtick, a real feel for what makes the guy tick. Presently, Iverson is "interviewing" a wide range of jazz musicians with a template questionnaire to get feedback on their musical influences et al. Makes for some interesting reading from both the musicians you know and those you don't. Start off here and here with the Bad Plus musicians themselves and then move on to Brad Mehldau and Jason Moran's answers
and then keep on scrolling up with this, this, this and this. Seems like they've got a neverending trove of jazzers to keep them (and us) occupied for a while.

13 December 2006

Review: Ollabelle

Union Hall, Brooklyn, 12 December 2006

Made it to Union Hall for the first time last night for one of the unsung heroes of the NYC music scene: Ollabelle. It's rooms like these that make me weep for not living in Brooklyn any more and just getting old in general. It's the kind of room you could probably go to every night irregardless of who's playing. The venue is actually the basement for a too-hip-to-be-true bar which is set up like an old study or library... the kind of place where the men of yore would retire for cognac and cigars and plans for world domination after dinner. Bookshelves and cushy chairs are the norm here, except that this bar has a jukebox that is painfully Pitchfork-ready and indoor bocce courts in the back. The downstairs room is, in a word, intimate. The ceilings are a bit low and the sightlines are a bit obscured by the columns supporting all that boozing Brooklyn bourgeoisie upstairs and yet, still, there isn't much not to like about it. The throw-way-way-back vibe of the bar persists in the basement with a scolding portrait of a rather ugly woman (think female Robin Williams) oversees the stage which is at floor level.

In reality, there could be no more perfect venue for Ollabelle. Although the band came up in the East Village and did their penance in cozy rooms like The Living Room and what is now Banjo Jim's before that, Park Slope lives for bands like Ollabelle and vice versa. For the uninitiated, Ollabelle plays "roots" music. There really isn't a more apt term for what they do than that -- everything they play is rooted in the tradition of American music and is like a history of rock and roll. Their set leans heavily on gospel and spirituals as well as blues and country. Probably the most cited songwriter in the history of recorded music is "Traditional" and whether the songs are 100-year-old classics or, in fact Ollabelle originals, their entire set sounds like it was written by Mr Tradition. And yet, this music is never as alive as when this quintet is on stage. There is something wonderfully ergonomic about these guys, something unbelievably comfortable and natural about the way things fit together around them.

The simplest way to put it would be that they've got great harmony. Yes, their strength is undoubtedly their ability to sing in 2, 3, 4 and even 5-part harmonies. Each member of the group is a powerful vocalist in their own right and when they start joining up in this permutation or that, watch out! The second set of the night began with each song being lead by a different person on vocals, although , of course, everyone else joined in at some point and the whole show kind of moved on from there. So yeah, these guys can throw down with their voices, particularly the two ladies in front: Amy Helm (yes, that Helm) and Fiona McBain. These two could sing lyrics from "Joy of Cooking" and I'd call it a masterpiece, they're that good.

But the harmony comes from a lot more than just their singing. Aside from the occasional whirl from Glenn Patscha on the occasional keyboard solo (which were, as it so happens, the highlights of the show), there isn't a lot of shredding, per se, going on. Instead, the band makes takes a cue from their vocals and play their instruments like their voices, adding pieces to the whole, each guitar strum, drum beat and bass lick a lone ingredient added to the batter. As such, the sound energy emanating from the stage last night was intense. Songs would build so slowly and subtly that you wouldn't even notice that a slow, moving blues was growing into something much more powerful.

The whole show was utter harmonic convergence. The voices mesh perfectly with this "wall of sound" coming from the instruments. The sum of vocals and playing were totally aligned with the material, not to mention the room and the healthy early-weekday crowd. You've heard a lot of these songs before, either in Sunday School or covered by other bands. "Down By the Riverside" starts off in church and ends up cascading pure rock and roll over your ears. "John The Revelator" is a tight-knit mesh of sound rumbling over fantastic keyboards and bass guitar. Perhaps you've thought you've heard pretty darn good versions of "Nobody's Fault But Mine" before, but I assure you nothing could compare to the absolute preaching going on with Helm leading the charge.

That verge of piety and sexiness, of raw emotional energy and purity of soul -- that is where Ollabelle does its best work. Americana has never sounded so kick ass before -- this is the roots of rock and roll as well as rock and roll itself. Perhaps most suprisingly, this band can really groove when it wants to. Songs tend to flip over and allow the backbone of Patscha, Tony Leone on drums and Byron Isaacs on bass to take over. It's a dark kind of funky that gets you moving and yet, the music always seems to be uplifting: not dark and evil, dark and positive energy, if that's even possible.

Despite all these great harmonies top to bottom, I wouldn't necessarily categorize Ollabelle as tight. Thankfully, this translates into a wonderful looseness that kind of gives them some open-ended energy and a sort of fuzziness around the edges. It ain't perfect, but it works well in their own context. Everyone switches up on instruments with Helm mostly singing, but occasionally picking up a mandolin to plug some holes in that wall of sound. McBain plays guitars both acoustic and electric as well as bass as well as that wonderful, "more please!" voice. Perhaps the most appealing instrumentalist is Isaacs who plays mostly bass and then occasionally guitar and lap steel. It's that lap steel that really gets the double take. You know those guitars that are, like, double guitars? Well, Isaacs has a double-necked pedal steel: one for guitar playing and one for bass. I don't think I've ever seen a pedal steel bass before, but, lemme tell you something, it's awesome. It makes a quick appearance in my top 10 coolest instruments and will make it my mission to get more people playing one, so spread the word!!

Ollabelle is always all over town and so I'd urge you to check 'em out. This was the kind of show where you want to leave with CD's and t-shirts and whatever else you can to make sure these guys keep playing music. So, I picked up their newest release and will be sure to share when the time comes. For now, I'll give you a small taste of live Ollabelle and share this video taken of the awesome Tony Leone and handclap-driven "Before This Time"

11 December 2006

Photos (+ review): Dave Douglas Quintet at Jazz Standard... neat!

Jazz Standard, 6 December 2006

The question of "which BBQ joint in NYC is the best" couldn't be a more subjective one, and I'm willing to hear arguments for a good handful of 'em, not to mention my own backyard. That being said, there is only one that I know of that serves up a mean plate of ribs with a side of world-class jazz. Or is that a mean plate of a sick-ass jazz with a side of pulled pork? Semantics aside, we are, of course, talking about Jazz Standard, which is essentially a top notch jazz club or the basement of Blue Smoke, depending on your point of view. In a few short years, this room has won a special place in my heart, not the least of reasons the fact that they have their own freakin' small-batch bourbon... which is quite, quite tasty OTR or neat. Nugget-rich calendar of A+ jazz, top flight booze selection and tasty, tasty cue.... what could be bad? PLUS, the ingenuity of no drink or food minimums -- it's like they're actually daring you to make it through a set without eating or drinking a thing. Plenty of room, great sightlines and sound, and we haven't even gotten to dessert yet.

I don't get out as often as I used to and getting to a HQ jazz show is even tougher, but Dave Douglas with his nasty quintet of Uri Caine, James Genus, Clarence Penn and Donny McCaslin was enough to get me in for the early set last Wednesday. At the same time, we recently got a new camera as the old one was on its last legs (apparently 5-year-old digital cameras age are more obsolete than 8-track players at this point). So I lugged the thing along and hopefully wasn't too obnoxious as I finally got to play "that guy" at a show, playing with the settings and maybe grabbing something that is bandwidth-worthy in the process.

Douglas is definitely one of those "you've got to see him at least once" kind of cats. As with nearly every jazz trumpet (or coronet) player out there, his sound is haunted by the presence of Miles Davis. Instead of running from that concept, though, he embraces it in a unique way. As was evident in his opening "Penelope" he is an astute student of Davis and finds inspiration in his sound. But he seems to go deeper than just imitation, he seems to find a song or maybe even just a lick and expounds until he's built an entire frame of reference around maybe just one Miles passage. "Penelope" is reminiscent of some of the slower, groovy "In A Silent Way" passages and then flips back and forth into something altogether funky.

This whole thing is supported tremendously by the presence of Uri Caine who is just a monstrous Rhodes player. Douglas is obviously the brains and spearhead of the band, but Caine is the linchpin, the hip that connects the torso of Dave and Donny to the rhythm section legs that make the music move. Uri is equally comfortably comping behind the horn players and then just taking off into stratospheric solos. He's equally adept on the piano, in the solo setting and with his own band, but perhaps my favorite Uri is the gentle groover on the Rhodes behind Dave Douglas. See below for a short snippet of ole Man Hands at his best (my first YouTube upload, btw, videos came out better than I would have expected, the other one I have of McCaslin is too big to upload here, sorry).

The whole set was fantastic. Dave's family was in the audience so there was a tune for his wife Susanna ("Painter's Way"), which did for "Oh Susanna" what "Penelope" did for Miles Davis; as well as a tune for who I would guess is his son, "Skeeterism." Anyway, I won't go on... just wanted to share. The final thing which I've already pointed out earlier this week is that Douglas uploaded all the sets from his week at the Standard for download. Only $7 for a nice set of music the next day. Seems like a no brainer to me, and I figure we'll be seeing a lot more musicians going this route in the near future. Of course, a whole bunch are already there. Hit Greenleaf Music (Dave's own label) if you're interested in checking any of these out. A little preview was in Friday's mix if you want a taste.