30 March 2007

minimix: Hevy Things

In honor of JR's big day, some wedding music.

Download the mix

01 Today Is The Day -- Apollo Sunshine: Apollo Sunshine
02 I Was Made To Love Her -- Stevie Wonder: I Was Made To Love Her
03 Wedding Day -- Hot Buttered Rum String Band: Well-Oiled Machine
04 Young Bride -- Midlake: The Trials Of Van Occupanther
05 Oriental -- Together Again: Legends Of Bulgarian Wedding Music
06 She's So Heavy -- Either/Orchestra: Across The Omniverse

29 March 2007

Links: Greatest hits

In a bit of a rut here at OTW, but never fear, I'll be checking out a couple of shows in the next few days and will report back here... although I'll be on the road for another week, so posting may be light.

In the meantime, Liffy's got a blog... BOTWston style. Check out his Do Make Say Think review, I'm checking them out tonight and can't wait.

I have do think I've been pretty consistent getting some downloadable tunes up there (and should have another mix for tomorrow). I'm loving Mediafire, the files never expire and you can see how many time each has been snatched. Here's a top ten OTW download list in case you're interested in being a part of the mob:

  1. Reno 97 part 1 -- this link must have been posted elsewhere which is cool, always feel free to spread the word, check out the flashback.
  2. Best of 2006 disc 1 -- the post
  3. minimix 8dec06 -- The Long Play -- Live in 2006
  4. minimix 9feb07 -- F.Art.S. Vol 1 (Metzger)
  5. Best of 2006 disc 2 -- (see above)
  6. Arcade Fire 17Feb97 -- the post
  7. minimix 16feb07 -- F.Art.S. Vol 2 (Herring)
  8. Reno 97 part 2 -- (see above)
  9. minimix 16mar07 -- Comes Alive Vol. 2
  10. minimix 15dec06 -- Wait A Minute! This is New Music?
  11. (tie) minimix 2mar07 -- Jazzercise.2 (g)
Austin was good, mostly work, but ate a shitload of beef. They actually have red meat flowing through pipes in Texas, there was a tap in my hotel room. Didn't get to go BBQ-exploring too much, but had a damn tasty brisket lunch at a place called Rudy's, which is like the McDonald's of Texas barbecue, but satisfactory nonetheless. While you're waiting in line, they have a camera above the carving guy so you can just watch brisket getting sliced while-U-wait. Still wrapping my mind around that one.

They also have a grocery store chain called HEB. Wow! No comment. I will, though, relay the conversation between the guy in front of me in line there and the cashier:

Guy: I like your lightsaber.
Cashier: Thanks.
Guy: You find you have to use that often.
Cashier: You never know. You can't be too careful.
Guy: I hear you. Have a nice day.

[jump cut to me finally inching up enough to see that this guy (the pubescent twerp from the Simpsons incarnate) has a plastic toy light saber attached to his belt]

Keep Austin weird!

late add: just found out that Tonic is closing its doors for good. At least, that's the word. Can't say I'm surprised, but let me be the first to say: FUCK! Def. a top 5 room in the city for me. More to follow. This picture pretty much explains why. (that lil building that could at the lower right that's being swallowed by that big blue thing... that's Tonic.

28 March 2007

Review: Capsule 2007 CD's Vol. 2

In the absence of any shows over the past week or two, here's another review dump of some recent CD purchases. Volume 1 can be found here.

[Note: these are my initial impressions, not full-blown reviews, and Ned-O-Matic grades are based on a 5 being an average album in my collection with the caveat that I am an informed buyer these days, so everything I buy I'm probably going to like. Happy to review others if you want to send me free music!]

!!! - -Myth Takes
First of all, great album artwork. Seeing a lot of good covers lately. This thing is total bottom up dance music. Start with the beat, build up to the bass parts and everything else is almost afterthought. As such, it really grooves from top to bottom. But the bonus CD with some acoustic cuts of the same tunes reveal some damn good songs in there as well. Has the feel of dance club DJ music, but without any of the other trappings of electronica. I defy you not to enjoy this CD. Ned-O-Matic: 6

Air -- Pocket Symphony
It needs to be said that this album just sounds remarkable. Production values have to count for something and Air's latest has it in spades -- there is no doubt that this is exactly as the music sounded in these guys' head. As for that music -- it's good, darn good. I feel like every Air album is sort of a single point of a overall whole: a piece of the big puzzle. There are shades of all their previous work in here, older, wiser and maybe a little less adventurous. That deep pulsing electronic edge of "Moon Safari" lives on in subtle undertones and wicked beats. Dance music for the guy who doesn't want to move, let alone stand up. Ned-O-Matic: 6.5

Apostle of Hustle -- National Anthem of Nowhere
The amount of music swirling around the Broken Social Scene which is distinctively not BSS is, in a word, incredible. The quality of most of it is even better. This may be, in my opinion, the best of the lot. Andrew Whiteman's side project yielded one album that caught me by surprise with its subtle Latin intricacies and had me hooked on first listen. This new one will allow the Apostle to shed the "side project" moniker. This is fully developed, addictive, thoughtful, exhilarating.... That debut was the beta version, shielding the true force of songwriting, musicianship and je ne sais quoi deep in Whiteman's soul. A must own. Ned-O-Matic: 8

The Arcade Fire -- Neon Bible
There's probably a negative review of this album out there, some hit piece written by someone who enjoys telling 4 year olds that the Easter Bunny ain't real. Seriously, sometimes the hype is warranted. These guys aren't the second coming (they're not even my 3rd favorite band out of Canada), but damn, under the spotlight that's being beamed down on Arcade Fire, there ain't a pimple to be seen. It's your duty as a music lover to own this album. I've gotten lost in this CD multiple times -- a true album in an age built for downloadable singles. Oh, and the individual songs (Intervention, No Cars Go, My Body Is A Cage) are bloody brilliant as well. Ned-O-Matic: 7

Assembly of Dust -- Recollection
I never understand why one band can get the hype and another one doesn't, but to me, there's an alternate universe where Reid Genauer & Co. are big time stars. I think the rule at work here is "songwriting trumps all" -- great, great, great songs from top to bottom. These guys fall into that late 70's FM vibe that's enjoying a resurgence these days, along with Midlake and a whole host of others, with the AOD slant giving off a real Jackson Browne vibe to me. Irregardless of who they remind you of, the music is crisp acousto-electric yumminess. Don't let their jamband pedigree chase you away, this is good music pure and simple. Ned-O-Matic: 6.5

Do Make Say Think -- You, You're A History In Rust
Another Broken Social Scene cousin, although these guys aren't quite younger brother as second cousin once removed. If Whiteman gets at that pop song angle of BSS, DMST thrives in that monstrous orchestral instrumental aspect. Not songs so much as compositions, happenings. These guys have instrumentation, songwriting and orchestration interwoven perfectly but go even further than that. They use volume itself as a crucial aspect to the music -- each track spanning a chasm of sound, exploring the dynamic range of your ears themselves. Silence to cacophony, it's brilliant through and through. Ned-O-Matic: 8.5

Dr. Dog -- We All Belong
Gosh, do I just love everything? No, not even close, but here's another 2007 gem that I can wholeheartedly and unabashedly recommend. More great songs, great production and pitch-perfect performances from this Philly band. While a mashup of the Beatles and the Beach Boys might sound like the most cliche sound for a gestalt, Dr Dog pulls it off as something unique and refreshing and reveals about two dozen other influences along the way. It always seems to bring out the "this sounds like..." in me, and yet so, so right. Each track stands on its own as a powerful piece of songwriting. Each has the potential to be an "it" song: stuck in your head, stop you in a tracks screaming from the jukebox, make you hit "repeat" once, twice. This is the music of which the Stones sang: "it's only rock and roll but I like it." Ned-O-Matic: 7.5

JJ Grey & Mofro -- Country Ghetto
This is what I like to call an "archaeological dig" album -- the kind of music that might have been made in another musicological epoch and buried deep in strata only to be discovered in modern day. Grey is one of the few who exudes enough soul to pull off such a mish mash of swampy funk, dirty rock and old fashioned R&B. It's the little things that shine on these tunes: hand claps, the sudden blare of goseplesque back-up singers, swinging horn section bubbling up through the mix. There is a warm personality that shines through -- this is a cathartic breakthrough album, well worth your time... you may be surprised. Ned-O-Matic: 6

27 March 2007

Nedstalgia: 10 Years Ago

March gave me my 1st Phish and my 1st Duo, but perhaps my favorite March music of all time
was 10 years ago this week. Read on for one more rambling incoherent episode of Nedstalgia -- Widespread Panic 97.

[Download (SBD's) Reno Set II: (part 1 part 2) and the 3/29 show: (part 1 part 2 part 3) as well as click any live links below for individual tunes. If you prefer, you can open a new window and stream 3/29 courtesy of PanicStream.com or either of these two EC Podcasts featuring some snippets of the 3/27 show]

I remember when I graduated from college I was lamenting to a friend how going to grad school was the end of my die hard music-seeing days -- time to buckle down and get to work, right? My buddy scoffed at the idea: instead of road trips and crashing on random floorspace, he said, you'll hop a flight to this city or that, catch a couple Phish shows and head back. Of course, he was right, with most of those trips spent continent-hopping with Widespread Panic. The first of many of these was my first left-coast jaunt during the very first spring break of graduate school.

The plan was a quick 3 shows in Santa Cruz and San Francisco with a full day of farting around in the latter, having never been to California. This trip also marked one of those random internet hookups -- "Yankee seeks ride" -- where I was putting my faith in accommodations from a gang I had never met before in the pre-cell phone days of yore. Of course, that all worked out swimmingly, got picked up no problemo (save for some too-stoned/too-fast cruising by our driver along a densely-fogged PCH) at the airport in Frisco and headed along the coast to Santa Cruz.

The 3/26 Santa Cruz show could best be summed up as bizarre. It's actually a pretty famous, or maybe that's infamous, show. The venue was the "auditorium" but it had the feel of a small college gymnasium, complete with the hardwood floors and folded bleachers on the side. I don't remember too much about the show itself, in fact this might be one of the few times I've checked out the setlist in the last 10 years. To put it mildly, this show was a mess. If you know anything about Santa Cruz 97, you know that Sunny was out to lunch, out of his wits and out of control. Throughout the show he was completely off rhythm, swirling in his own head and shouting nonsense into his microphone... which was eventually shut off. This threw the entire band off, like they were trying to play baseball with their throwing arm tied behind their back. Mikey got lost on multiple occasions -- I distinctly remember the Diner where the entire band made a relatively standard change after a guitar solo and Houser just kept... right... on... going measure after measure. Got ugly on more than one occasion. Overall it was enjoyable merely on the level of spectacle: both the fragile balance and the incredible fortitude of Widespread Panic were on display that night in Santa Cruz.

After this show I hooked up with my ride but was also urged by BTan to change horses midstream and forgo my lazy day of cable cars and Golden Gate Bridges for a detour to Reno. The cards were on the table: I didn't have to worry about a ride, a ticket or a place to crash; get in the car; what could be bad? Was it fate, luck or just common sense? Really, there was no choice, I got into that crammed cruiser with a new set of mostly strangers -- Nevada bound!

It is a 24 hour stretch I'll never forget. There was much booze, much blackjack, zero sleep and, of course, Widespread fucking Panic. From the moment we got to the Hilton, I was playing blackjack. The Ballroom entry was at the end of the gambling hall, so I played some cards and then waltzed 50 feet to the venue. The room was a trippy lounge with seemingly no straight edges. The kind of spot where Wayne Newton might have held court decades ago or today even. Reno is a city that seemed perfectly suited to Widespread Panic: dirty, under-appreciated, unadulterated fun, fun, fun.

I snuggled up to the stage, right smack belly-up in the SchoolsZone. The dealer flipped a 6 and I split my aces. Yeah, the show was fucking hot. Go download that shit (setlist here). There are certain songs Panic only plays when they're feeling it and almost the entire Reno setlist was comprised of those tunes. It wasn't dirty, it was downright filthy and the boozy, anything-goes energy in the room, that wild, funky room, did nothing but add kerosene to the tire fire. You can pick out tunes one by one if you need to, that Ain't No Use > Chilly > drums > 4 Cornered Room > Jack > Chilly section is where I'd start, but really this was a cohesive spiraling mindfuck. Not so much a show as an experience. With the second set being one of those stretches where the dealer keeps busting over and over -- everyone's a winner!! The audience was that collective blackjack or craps table on a serious roll. I think I have so much trouble picking out memories of Santa Cruz because this was like the mind eraser show, the one that reset the bar for me. When the band finally sinks into that evil, swimming Four Cornered Room and JB is just a shade away from all-out howling you know you've stumbled into something special. Sometimes it's just the right place, the right night and the right stuff. And to think, I was all set to skip this thing.

Lucky ducky then. As JB howled "Good luck at your final destination!" we filed back out into the casino. I found may way to a table after the show and resumed my gambling, almost like the show didn't happen. But it did happen, it did. Just part of the stream, though, as I proceeded to have one of the more miraculous stretches of blackjack of my life. I was in such a zone amassing red, then green then black chips like a machine. At one point I was one-on-one with the dealer betting $100 a hand and within minutes of complete haze was up a couple grand and ready to walk away. Of course, on my way to the cashier, I couldn't help but throw down a chip at another table and continued on like that, cycling through in near-madness until the crew came down for breakfast. It's a good thing I'm poor enough and smart enough not to gamble too regularly, because I was an ugly disturbed card player in that early morning of 3/28/2007. I could have walked away with a couple rent checks in my pocket, but was happy enough to leave with enough to pay for my entire trip and eggs for me and BT before heading west once again. And to think, I was all set to skip this thing.

The Warfield is another experience -- there are rooms like it around the country, but there is nothing quite like it, is there? We were lucky enough to traipse around backstage pre-show which was another bonus round of WTF for me that weekend. The shows on the 28th and 29th, while maybe not legendary, per se, are quintessential Panic circa 1997 and well known due to their widespread availability as SBD's. The 29th in particular was nothing short of the perfect Panic show and stands up today as exemplar as it was to witness it in person. Several tracks from this show appear on the band's first live release, Light Fuse Get Away for good reason: maybe not the best versions of Diner et al, but quintessential ass-kicking WSP. For me, though, I will never forget the Pigeons. Even more than that, I remember not being able to shake it from my mind for days after the show, it wormed its way into my musical inner-self and sort of reset my balance. That's where Panic has always gotten me, when those songs you thought you knew, practically members of your own family surprise you, just turn around and smack you in the nose and before you can think "what the fuck!" you've got blood streaming down your face. Oh yeah, and the Porch Song and the jam coming out of it were pretty otherworldly. It goes without saying that it was totally expected but an absolutely perfect way to end the weekend with Cream Puff War -- a version that might have scared Jerry's ghost back into the rafters. To cap off the entire weekend, I snagged a super-snazzy poster on the way out into the seedy SF night... was pretty nifty because it listed all 4 shows I had seen, wouldn't have been as cool if I had skipped Reno. It still hangs proudly on my wall.

The next afternoon we got our lazy waltz around town and all we could talk about was how this band -- these 6 mortals -- had pistol-whipped our existence. It was almost painful, those moments trying to rearrange bearings, preparing for a hopefully soft landing back into reality. From note 1 I was a Panic fan, and there were moments along the way where this fan became a fanatic, where admiration became puppy love became deep adoration. But it was probably that weekend out west, those 4 days, that didn't cost me a penny where it became an obsession that I still can't shake, 10 years later.

25 March 2007

Shows of the Week

It's back... did you miss me? Better sit down for this one, SOTW is
teeming with dates -- can't miss hits for this week and beyond into
the summer. Still probably missing plenty, so help us out...


Click here for upcoming shows

*Jason Crosby & Friends (w/ R. Randolph) @ Ace of Clubs
Snow Patrol, OK Go!, Silversun Pickups @ Theater at MSG
Tony Scherr/Jenny Scheinman @ Marion's Marquee
Allman Brothers Band @ Beacon Theater
Honeytribe @ Lion's Den (late night)
Jeff Gauthier w/ N. Cline, E. Friedlander et al @ Jazz Standard (early/late)

Allman Brothers Band @ Beacon Theater
*Scott Amendola w/ N. Cline & J. Scheinman @ Jazz Standard
Snow Patrol, OK Go!, Silversun Pickups @ Theater at MSG
Eastern Block @ Cutting Room (early)
Todd Sickafoose's Blood Orange @ Tonic (early)
Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3 @ Knitting Factory
Yossi Piamenta et al @ BB King's

Do Make Say Think @ Southpaw (Brooklyn)
Menomena @ Bowery Ballroom
*Warren Haynes & Friends @ Irving Plaza
Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3 @ Knitting Factory
Myra Melford @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
Chris Byars @ Joe's Pub
Henry Grimes Ensemble @ The Stone (late)

Edmar Castaneda @ Makor
*Do Make Say Think @ Bowery Ballroom
The Moog et al @ Rebel
BuzzUniverse, Licorice @ Ace of Clubs
Justin Timberlake @ Continental Arena (E. Rutherford, NJ)
Nels Cline & Friends @ Jazz Standard
The Head Set et al @ Mercury Lounge
Wayne Krantz @ 55 Bar (late/midnight)
Toots & The Maytals @ Manhattan Center Grand Ballroom
Allman Brothers Band @ Beacon Theater
Afroskull @ Bowery Poetry Club
Talat @ Makor
+/- et al @ Union Hall (Brooklyn)
Corn Mo et al @ Old Office
Andrew Hill Trio @ Trinity Church
Jimmy Vivino, Paul Shaffer et al @ BB King's

Bloc Party @ United Palace Theater
Allman Brothers Band @ Beacon Theater
Bonerama @ Lion's Den
Heaven & Hell @ Radio City Music Hall
Nels Cline & Friends @ Jazz Standard
+/- et al @ Mercury Lounge
McHenry/Iverson/Street @ Smalls
Citizen Cope @ Sin-E (early/late)
Tony Malaby w/ B. Monder, E. Opsvik, N. Waits @ Cornelia St Cafe
Honeytribe @ BB King's (late night)
Katy Pfaffl et al @ Living Room
*LCD Soundsystem @ Bowery Ballroom
Doc Watson @ BB King's

LCD Soundsystem @ Bowery Ballroom
Railroad Earth (Ollabelle opens) @ Irving Plaza
Bonerama @ Lion's Den
*Allman Brothers Band @ Beacon Theater
Bennie Maupin @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
John Digweed @ Pacha
The Dansettes, The Black Hollies @ Magnetic Field (Brooklyn)
Bloc Party @ United Palace Theater
Birdmonster @ Gramercy Theater
McHenry/Iverson/Street @ Smalls
Pharaoh's Daughter @ Mo Pitkin's
Tony Malaby w/ B. Monder, E. Opsvik, N. Waits @ Cornelia St Cafe
Karsh Kale/Gary Lucas @ Joe's Pub (late/midnight)
Next Tribe @ Caravan of Dreams
Mudville w/ Mike Mills et al @ Blue Note (late night)

April Fool's Day:
Benzos et al @ Knitting Factory
*Ben Goldberg w/ C. Kihlstedt, K. Wolleson et al @ The Stone (late)
Bennie Maupin @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
Talat @ Zebulon (Brooklyn)
Stephane Wrembel @ Barbes (Brooklyn)

Click here for upcoming shows

23 March 2007

minimix: more new music


Download the mix

01 Bend Over Beethoven -- !!!: Myth Takes
02 Exact To Me -- The Sea and Cake: Everybody
03 Justine, Beckoning -- Apostle of Hustle: The National Anthem of Nowhere
04 Mer Du Japon -- Air: Pocket Symphony
05 Satan Said Dance -- Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Some Loud Thunder
06 The Universe! -- Do Make Say Think: You, You're A History In Rust

Previous new music on minimix:
Comes Alive Vol. 2
Old & New

21 March 2007

Nedstalgia: I likey me some Joe Russo

Not going to go crazy with this one, but can't let the day passed without remarking that it was this evening 5 years ago that I first had a couple of young dudes blow my mind at the (old) Tap Bar. I had no idea that they'd become what they become to me or to anyone else. Just seemed like a jam session, another in a long line of whacky Joe Russo projects that I was somewhat obsessed with from the previous summer on... it started at the old Lanksy Lounge, moved to Tribeca Blues for a week or two then mutated and moved to Tagine amongst other places. I actually booked an early Duo-esque show with Jake S in the Old Office in October 2001, with Joe & Marco and a couple other dudes jamming out.

Obviously, Benevento & Russo have grown up. Thankfully, the internet exists and I can go back and survey my initial reactions, summed up quite ineloquently in a post to the Freaks list a couple days later. Here is, in almost its entirety that post -- for entertainment purposes only -- I'm happy to report that my feelings have changed not a smidge since that night 5 years ago:

Subject: Just call him "sir"

Posted to the NYC-Freaks list on 3/25/2002

I had the pleasure of checking out some of the Russo/Benevento thing goingon at the Knit Tap Bar on Thursdays late night post-Ryan Adams last week. Between Twilley's yammerings I was able to hear some of that seriously refreshing ear-hugging goodness that Joe Russo has been sloshing about for a while now. While I do not intend to convince any of you of anything because you are much too smart as a group to be tricked into seeing good music, I will
make my argument for you to take the time to check this out this Thursday: I don't think that there is one individual that sums up my vision of where live music should be than Joe Russo. No matter who he is playing with(they always seem to
be silly-talented, even if I've never heard of them or they play in some band that I don't find particularly appealing) or where he is playing (most often some out-of-the-way, cozy hidden treasure of a room) he is playing something that no one else is doing. Improvisation is one word for it, but his mantra seems to stem from something even more original than just "winging it." Everytime I hear him it seems to be just a little bit different and reaching just a little bit further, even if it is regressing towards something more familiar at times.This current
Thursday gig is just one example. A DUO with Marco Benevento on organ, the two people make more interesting music than most 3, 4, 5...pieces could hope for. The little-expectations, cheap-to-no-cover atmosphere of venues like the Tap Bar [unflattering aside about the Knitting Factory deleted] provide the perfect setting for exploratory visions of Russo and friend. I was plomb blown away as conversations ebb for 5-10 minutes of
unadulaterated audio bliss. This line-up features more song-like ventures and as is usually the case with Sir Joe, improvisation doesn't mean lack of cohesivity or direction. Quite the contrary. And in this stripped down, two-man show, the freedom means tightness and the constraints mean inhibition. Benevento is the perfect foil (as well as hot soprano sax player sittingin at points earl on). 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover > Just The Two of Us >50 Ways shows that good funk-based music isn't dead in the Soulive sewer, but being redefined and manipulated into refreshingly original building blocks. Rock and roll, dub electronica, jazz find their way into the stewthe way caramel swirls find their way into a pint of Ben and Jerry's.... maybe one of y'all can get them into your living room. You will not be disappointed. Check out good

Download: Arcade Fire

The 2/17 Judson Memorial Church show was available for download en masse from NPR. Sounds pretty good. I didn't see anywhere that it was split up into tracks, so I did it myself... I'm sure it's out there somewhere, but here's a Mediafire download if you're interested.

Apologies for any tracking goofs.

20 March 2007

Light Syrup

Posting will be light this week as I'm on the road. What kind of asshole goes to Austin the day after SXSW ends? [points to self]

What can you do? If you have any to-do recs for Austin, let me know, this town is pretty dry musicwise as far as I can tell and I'm here all week. Hopefully I'll have an opportunity to explore some BBQ if time permits. I have been tempted with a trip to the rodeo... full reports if we make it.

In the meantime, it's the 15th anniversary of the 2nd (and better) of the shows described here, so go read about it and download some Phish.

I'll have another treat or two later in the week -- there will def. be new music on Friday.

16 March 2007

minimix: Comes Alive Vol. 2

Some recent live music for you this weekend. New songs, cool covers, a smattering of what's out there on the web. Of course, being live, of varying quality and volume, but all worth a listen fer shure.


Download the mix

01 SOS -- Earl Greyhound: Austin 14 Mar 2007
02 Children Of The Grounds -- Midlake: Dallas 24 Feb 2007
03 She's Not There -- Benevento, Dillon, Mathis: Philadelphia 11 Mar 2007
04 Lovesong of the Buzzard -- Iron & Wine: Milwaukee 8 Feb 2007
05 Intervention -- The Arcade Fire: NYC 17 Feb 2007
06 Crimson And Clover -- My Morning Jacket: Athens, GA 7 Mar 2007

14 March 2007

Links: Cuse-ified

Indulge me for a paragraph and I'll throw something decent and a lil' more LJ your way...

First day of the NCAA's and I can't let it slide without at least mentioning "The Snub" as we're calling it with a capital "S." The shit's been hashed over aplenty, with the best work again by Baxter and Waters over at Syracuse.com. My favorite thing about this has been watching Boeheim just all over the place pleading his case. I don't recall as heavy a PR blitz just laying into the selection committee quite like this. I liken it to a good coach working the refs early in the game on some questionable calls and then getting all of them to fall his way during crunch time... I just don't see how we get screwed again. Anyway, last Cuse post until next year unless we end up winning the NIT!

Check out Boeheim on PTI here
His press conference here
Jimmy on the radio making a pretty damn good case

We could go on... by the way, if you'd like to be in my NCAA pool, get in touch before noon on Thursday. Onto some more links...

Which leads us to the third chapter in the Conversations with LJ (previously here and here). Seems to be our most popular segment here at OTW (she's earned her own blog tag!), and I'm happy to oblige, although I can't force the magic. I think it might be all downhill after last week, but we'll see what we get. Luckily for you, the lil' one obliged from the back seat once again...

LJ: Is this on TV?
Dad: Wha?
LJ: Like, do you think people are watching us right now on TV.
Dad: No.
LJ: How do you know?
Dad: Well, uhh... where are the cameras?
LJ: Cameras?
Dad: ...
LJ: I want to be on TV.
Dad: Do you think people would want to watch this?
LJ: Yeah! Everyone in the world could watch me....
Dad: Mmmm
LJ: ...except the people who don't know me.

13 March 2007

Nedstalgia: 15 Years Ago

This is the newest edition of my quasi-monthly reminiscences of live shows past concentrating on events from 5, 10 and 15 years ago. Previous editions covered Panic New Year's at the Fox and Freaks Ball II. Today I step inside thewayback machine and give you the genesis of pretty much all the others. 15 years ago today I saw my first Phish show... first of many, many Phish shows (for better or worse, this feature will be dominated regularly by Phish and Widespread Panic -- two bands I saw over 100 times each, but I'll try to get in as many others as possible). I'll also hit on my second Phish show which was 15 years ago next week.

If you'd like to listen to the shows talked about here:
Roseland Ballroom, NYC 14 March 1992: Part I, Part II, Part III
Broome County Forum 20 March 1992: Part I, Part II, Part III

In addition, clicking some song titles will lead you to download those versions specifically. (Side note: if anyone knows a way to stream this stuff within the blog that isn't going to cost me anything beyond a nominal fee, please let me know).

Anyway, as far as back story goes, I first heard the band Phish as a cassette-obsessed Deadhead counselor at Jewcamp in the summer of 1991... the summer before my senior year of high school. I can remember the moment clear as a high note on the Languedoc , flipping through some Dead tapes with this fella 5 years my senior who I'd just met and gives me the "you should check out Phish" drop and pops in a cassette of Lawn Boy as a bunch of us start tossing afrisbee around. It was silly stuff to me at first but somewhere in the middle of Reba I went into a silent, frisbee -throwing trance and when the tape player started back into the "Bag it..." section I darn near got bopped in the head with that disc. "Is this all the same band?" I asked. The education was on. By the end of the summer I had a Phish tape or two and about 9 months of the clichedsenioritis to deal with. In those pre-internet days, what felt like an obsession was probably more like puppy love -- there was no conduit of information to feed the potential insanity. I was ravenous for something but with about 1.5 interested parties at school and nowhere to turn to for additional poop, I was stranded on a deserted island, a cassette or two to scrape by on and not much else. That fall my brother (one of the 1.5) spotted that Phish was playing in Ithaca that night and try as we might to figure out if there were tickets or how to get there -- I spent a good hour on the phone with a Ticketmaster person trying to explain that it wasn't School of Fish orFishbone I was looking for -- we ultimately failed in making it to the show. It wasn't until the winter that we somehow caught wind of a Phish show in Binghamton in March that we bought tickets -- my brother and I, the Big Squeeze (yes, we've been together that long) and a couple of friends. At long last, a Phish show!

But first things first, a senior in high school's gotta do what he's gotta do. I somehow finagled a solo road trip down to visit another friend on Long Island for a couple of Dead shows at Nassau Colesium in March. Sure, I didn't have tickets, but I had disposable income from my job slinging fro-yo and not a care in the world. I caught two shows and probably overpaid for tickets by 200% and had a great time. But something was lacking from the shows, no oomph. Not surprisingly, I remember almost nothing beyond getting ripped off for tickets about these two nights.

It was maybe driving home from one of these shows with friends of the friend when one of them let drop: we're going to see Phish tomorrow in the city. WHAT!?!?! Phish is playing here -- we've gotta go, we've gotta go, we've gotta go, we've gotta go.... Friend's mom none too happy about another night out seeing music, a trip into Manhattan nonetheless, but Neddy will not be denied. The next afternoon we head over to local Ticketmaster outlet and voila out pop two tickets -- not sold out, not even $20 -- holy shit! We're going to see Phish. Sure I had tickets for a show less than a week later, but really, would an astronaut say "you know I'm going to the moon next week, I can wait..." No fucking way, get me on that rocket ship immediately.

And going to the moon is exactly what it was. Sure we look at the moon from down here and we look at pictures, but do we even pretend that it's even the same piece of rock as when you're actually standing on the thing? Nyet. My first Phish show was a trip to the moon; an experience that surely and quite literally defined my life from that point forward. Pretty heavy stuff when you look at it from this distance. It was also my first live music experience in New York and if I've seen 125+ Phish shows since that day, multiply that by an integer or two and that other branch diverges plenty far as well.

So, the show was at Roseland Ballroom which is one of the least enjoyable venues in the city and yet one that I will always have a very soft place in my heart for -- like cuddling up at night with a carton of rotten milk, sure, but what can I say? We walked in and the immediate feeling was: what a buzz! It was one intoxicating moment after another. The energy in the room, even pre-show was so unlike a Dead show you couldn't help but get drunk on it. The crowd was young like me, 20 somethings who listened to good music but weren't submerged in patchouli -- college kids. The room seemed to bend and turn -- no corners, no edges, a big cozy couch. The band took the stage and suddenly I was alone and part of a collective all at once -- a single molecule of water in an wavefront of energy -- I hadn't felt anything like it in, like, well forever. What does it feel like to be born? Walk on the moon? There was a vibe at a Dead show -- a thing between the band and the audience that was special, I felt it at Nassau: a conversation between friends. But that conversation felt like a scripted reading and the shit going down at Roseland, within the first few moments of that Runaway Jim, was like improv, sketch comedy where the crowd was the straight man and Phish was... well, Phish.

I knew most of the songs they played that night (setlist here) from my months of listening, if there was a greatest hits show for the band in the early nineties, this was it, perhaps the most timid show they've played in NYC. Frankly what a perfect primer for the newb I was. I felt like I fit right in, singing along, anticipating the climaxes and as such, I was able to concentrate on the ancillary kinetics around me. The way the four musicians filled up the stage with their presence, the way the lights were both incredibly simplistic (in those days they were) and yet complicated and intricate -- they actually followed the music in a fascinating choreography. Three large lucite panels with strange phosphorescent stripes were hung behind the band like the stage itself was some ultra-modern art gallery. The panels pulsed with the lights and therefore with the music. I had landed on the moon and it was inhabited... take me to your leader.

Perhaps if I hadn't come straight from two nights of Jerry & Co I wouldn't have noticed some of the things I did, particularly the crowd. They didn't stop moving. And there was no space in between them, they filled every gap so that you were in constant contact with the guy next to you. It would seem that the room was incredibly oversold, but the fact of the matter is, as I soon learned, it was because everyone was pulled -- musical gravitation -- toward the stage and self-assembled in some hexagonally-packed way to maximize their proximity to the stage. The combination of the crowd geometry and the rocket fuel propulsion dictated by the music resulted in an exhilarating verticality: people could not help but dance... upward. Phish fans were literally bouncing around the room. It was a lesson I learned quickly and continue to heed to this day: go up young man.

There were musical moments I remember very clearly as well, of course, there always are. The angular prog of Stash and the way the music, the lights and Trey and Mike all moved in an insanely coordinated fashion. Of course, my first real Phish song, Reba, letting me know that this was my home -- the studio version, the one or two live versions I had on tape... they were but artificial flavoring, scratch and sniff stickers of the real essence. Reba -- my favorite Phish song on 3/14/1992 and my favorite Phish song on 3/14/2007. The way Trey implored the audience to do some ballroom dancing for Take the A Train since we were in a ballroom. Bands I had seen and listened to didn't do those kinds of things, nor did they flood the entire room with smoke -- that candy sweet fog -- during Mike's Song while the nutty guitarist and "something's off about that guy" bassist hopped giddily on trampolines. How can you describe this scene in words or photographs even? The fact that this single moment, the squealing guitars, the deep thumping bass, whirling organs, the smoke, the strobe lights, the fact that all this fit together and fucking rocked and jammed -- it surpassed the sum of every moment in every Dead show I had seen or even listened to up to that point. How could things not change?

My favorite musical memory from the night was the Harry Hood, the way Trey slyly dropped in "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" vamps in the closing section, it still gives me the chills to listen to it and I felt nothing if not cool-as-hell for having caught them at the time. Sweet, blissful Harry Hood, has it really been that long? Hard to warp my head around the fact that LJ is now closer in age to the doofus at that Roseland show than the guy writing this is.

Of course, the absolute highlight of the night was the encore. During the set closing Possum (where Trey dropped plenty of Secret Language that was so far over my head... don't know how a self-confessed Simpsons fanatic at the time missed that one) I noticed one large fellow sitting on stage behind Fishman's drum riser, pretending to play a trombone along with the jam. I had only the Blues Traveler CD to guide me, but somehow I got the notion that it was John Popper -- don't ask me how. Sure enough, during the encore, Trey brings up Popper who absolutely wails on the Sleeping Monkey > Good Times, Bad Times encore. It was the kind of "howdya like dem apples" metaphorical kick to the groin after I was already in a heap having my reality cold-cocked all night long. Sleeping Monkey was a tune that was brand new and the little "Let It Be" riff into the Popper solo was beyond anything that I could have imagined when I hopped in my car to drive down for the weekend. Looking back at this moment, I was also pretty high on Blues Traveler and I was (almost) equally as excited to see those guys live at the time... and yet, since that night I've probably seen them less than the number of fingers on my left hand if I took away the pinkie and thumb. Strange the way these things work.

I left the old me there on the floor of Roseland Ballroom, but did make sure to remember to get my coat from the coat check. I remember the buzzed conversations between everyone getting their jackets, standing like a geeky slack-jaw as a guy went on and on about Phish playing at his fraternity "back in the day." I simultaneously was in awe and loathing of this guy and a decade and a half later, I pretty much am that guy. Douche bag.

Into the NYC night, we went down into the subway stop to get back to Penn Station. It was down there that I had a complete epiphany. There was a hippie-looking dude and a couple other heady types waiting down there. We started chatting it up with the guy, completely intoxicated with 100% pure Phish show -- "hey man, how did you like the Phish show?" "Who's Phish? We came from the Allman Brothers." The Allmans were in town for one of the early incarnations of their annual Beacon Theater mega-runs. That's when it struck me -- Grateful Dead, Allmans, Phish, all in the same town, all in one weekend. New York City immediately became New York fucking City -- "the city that never sleeps" went from cliche to mantra for me in a single instant and it's no surprise that I find myself heading back into town week after week. Still chasing that high. By the way, that guy, white beard and glasses, gnome-like in every way, is still out at shows, if you've been out in NYC, you know who I'm talking about.

Hard to believe that I saw my first two shows in a matter of a week, but it was the following weekend that a carload of us headed down to Binghamton. It wasn't the first one for me (although it was for the Squeeze and my Bro), but it remains one of my all time favorites. Chances are, if you've listened to a decent number of Phish shows, you've heard Binghamton 3/20/92. It was that good and we knew it at the time. The setting this time was the Broome County Forum, one of those old fashioned theaters with lifeworn seat cushions, ornate ceiling and walls and a big orchestra pit in front of the stage. Still, the energy in there was equal if not greater to that down in the city. We quickly learned that a seat assignment meant very little and that the close-packing, vertical-dancing phenomenon was equally in play in theaters as it was in clubs. But the music, oh that music. The Roseland show had been landing on the moon, a new perspective, a new world, but with the Earth still in sight... but this one was across the event horizon. From the opening bleat of Wilson -- this was back when the crowd barely knew the tune, let alone how to sing the opening section -- the mood was dark and otherworldly. The entire first set runs together like a novel, or maybe a screed -- a call to arms, join the cult, to kill live music as we knew it and create something new. It was all new to me, the way Wilson dropped into another sweet Reba, the way Maze came out of nowhere, a completely different sound than anything I had heard on Junta or Lawn Boy. The energy from the stage wasn't quite the bubbly, friendly happy vibe of Roseland , but more of a manic, explosive rage... still bordering on the absurd, as when Trey turned the orchestra pit into an alligator pit for Brother.

They had rewritten the rules the previous week and already they were breaking those 6 nights later (full setlist here). The Mike's > Hydrogen > Groove section was a dark howl of distortion, bass and guitar losing each other in that fog which took on new shapes in the high-ceiling theater. Sanity, Sloth, Glide -- the music bordered on evil. Was this even the same band? And which one did I love more? And then, just like that, Uncle Pen provided a bizarre respite, the crowd went from physical flailing against each other and the fold-down seats to twirling square-dance style in the large openings near the doors -- the Grateful swirlers had nothing on these dudes. Once again, the big memory, the musical highlight, was Harry Hood, but it was a much different take. I remember looking out at the stage, halfway back on the left side, whiffs of smoke swirling around green and red lights, the mood was not a happy one and the opening section reflected it. Deep, hypnotic, intergalactic, the introduction went on and on and on, I remember reveling in how the payoff kept getting pushed further and further down the tunnel. The lights perfectly synchronized to the thoughts swirling in my head -- was this even Harry Hood any more? I feel good.

Moments, moments, memories... I can pinpoint so many, they all make up that certain it. Fishman plugging his vacuum into a bagpipe (!) for Terrapin. How about Trey, breaking down during the intro to Possum -- you guys know the language? I feel the vibe in this room tonight, let's teach the language. Holy shit, I couldn't even wrap my head around it as Trey went into a rambling soliloquy about this secret language and "special this" and "codes that" -- I exaggerate only a little when I say that Mr Anastasio could have instructed me to go out and start shooting pedestrians at that point and I would have considered it. Was there anything cooler than this band playing like they were in some secret club and then teaching you the handshake? "Don't tell anyone, but you're my best friend." "I love you, too, Phish." Impressionable teenager or not, I was smitten.

Twas the week that rocked Neddy's world, ground zero (are we allowed to use that phrase?)... still remember the tasty McDonald's we had on our way out of Binghamton, when they locked the doors right after we got in and watched many a Big Mac Attack denied as we chowed down. No, it really didn't get any better than that. Probably still a top ten Phish show for me, although there were plenty more sublime nights to follow. It brings a smile to my face to listen to this show and remember everything that I can still remember and to know that with everything that precipitated from that week of music, I regret nothing.

Hopefully you've made it this far and have enjoyed the swim. 15 fucking years! Comments, suggestions, stories of your first show, Phish or otherwise, please leave a note.

(n.b. I've got two more March anniversaries, one from 10 years and one from 5 that were also big ones for me, so they'll be an extra dollop of whipped cream on this bloated blog in the near future.)

12 March 2007

Review: Nederado

Masada/Cecil Taylor's AHA 3 Trio @ Rose Theater
Benevento/Mathis/Dillon @ Tap Bar
Anders Osborne @ Lion's Den

9 March 2007

I spent months trying to crunch the proverbial numbers, trying to work some feasible way for the family to travel to Langerado this year. I really wanted to make it happen, but alas, it was not meant to be (LangeradNO), the magic 8 ball read: all signs point to NO, wasn't in cards, no luck. But the live music gods weren't playing cruel tricks on me. Not at all -- in fact, maybe they were doing me a favor. While I was busy feeling sorry for myself missing some of my favorites like Widespread Panic, My Morning Jacket, Medeski, Martin & Wood and Apollo Sunshine (amongst others), good old New York City was coming through with its own heavy slate of can't-miss shows for the same weekend... like it seems to do every other week of the year; don't know why I was ever worried. Suddenly I looked up and my problem was more of the early-May-in-NOLA variety conundrum about what I was going to have to skip and not the opposite.

Of course, if I could help it, I wasn't going to miss anything... that's why they call it "can't miss." Well, one thing I wasn't going to miss was Masada (original, acoustic version) at Jazz @ Lincoln Center. Not after it was billed as essentially the last stretch of shows for this band evah (just building up cachet for the inevitable reunion shows in a couple of years, as every aging boomer musician knows, that's where the big bucks are!) and not after a semi-secret 50% discount popped up for John Zorn fans, and certainly not after I was able to get (relatively) cheap seats right on top of the frickin' stage.... no way, no how. The show was actually a double bill with Cecil Taylor's AHA3 Trio, but who are we kidding? I was schlepping up into no-man's land for Zorn & Co. and few others. I should flashback to earlier in the evening when I underestimated the traffic to the train station and got there about 10 minutes after the targeted train should have left (leaving me to take a later train and a serious hustle to make it to the venue on time). As fate would have it, though, as I pulled into the parking lot glumly I noticed a train arriving that was pointed westward -- this kind of thing never happens to me, but I was 10 minutes late and the train was 11 minutes late, with the strong wind of the music gods guiding me, I sprinted up the stairs and just made it through the closing doors. Maybe it was luck, maybe it was something deeper. The $6 surcharge for buying my ticket on the train was an acceptable tithe to set off the evening that followed.

Rose Theater and the rest of the Jazz at Lincoln Center is part of the brand new Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle and is essentially like seeing top flight jazz in a shopping mall. At the same time, the venue was quite immaculate with 3 levels of box seats hugging the stage and orchestra sections quite cozily. We were literally the first box from the stage on the lower level -- I don't think we would have been better off dead center front row, they were that perfectly situated. Did I mention I had gotten these tickets less than 2 weeks earlier and somehow they were in the cheapest flight of available options? I didn't know the Deity of Good Seats ever made things happen for guys like me, but thank you very much.

A few minutes after 8, the band was announced and took the stage. The contrast between the band and the posh digs surrounding us, the uptown address and the blazers and ties on the techs was glaring. But, for perhaps the first time that I can recall, John Zorn was in HIGH spirits: joked around with the audience beforehand with some rare self-depreciation and seemed genuinely psyched to be there. It's weird, but the last three times (including Friday night) I've seen Zorn/Masada was at the 92nd St Y, Town Hall and now Lincoln Center. Anyone that knows anything about John Zorn can appreciate how this seems to fly in the face of his modus operandi -- we're talking about a guy who keeps moving lower and more eastern into the Lower East Side. From the Knitting Factory to Tonic to The Stone, somehow seeking purity by proximity to the East River, the mecca of the avant garde. But maybe he's softened, made amends with the Lords of Jazz. I won't speculate (but will add that the show was brought to me by the good people at Samsung and Cadillac, which may be more like the Devil Spawn of Jazz, but who's keeping track?), I was just happy to see him with such a grin on his face and a hop in his step. After his introductory remarks (it's rare to get any kind of banter from him, so you know he was feeling it) he turned to Dave Douglas, gave him a Don Corleone-to-Michael style smooch on the cheek and said "now let's have some fun!" One advantage of our slight perch above the stage was getting every nuance, breath and motion in high definition right before our eyes.

On a hearty quick count by their fearless leader, the quartet broke into one of their signature numbers like an explosive running back hitting a gaping hole untouched for a big gain. This band has played together off and on for well over a decade and when they are on they are the jazz elite like few others. Dave Douglas, Greg Cohen, Joey Baron -- that's the modern day dream team -- and of course, Zorn himself. He's a lot of things for sure -- a composer, a band leader, a label executive, a talent scout, a producer, the most recognizable figure of an underground musical movement.... it's easy to forget that the guy is also an impressive musician in his own right. This came back to me within seconds of the opening number as he and Douglas played overlapping solos that poured out of them like sweet, sticky sap from a maple. You could almost see the musical staff and notes taking shape in the air between them as they spat out minutes upon minutes of beautiful, soulful top-notch horn playing. But these notes weren't just black splotches on white paper, but breathing creatures that took on a life in the air they occupied. When they finally finished the piece, I felt I could have left right then and have been more than satisfied. Undoubtedly the best music I have seen these four play, and I've seen them play plenty of awe-inspiring stuff.

The rest of the set didn't wane too much from that. While recent shows have been heavy on the new Book of Angels compositions, this set was closer to the old standard, solid, material Masada fans fell in love with. On top of that, Zorn, encouraged by the setting ("there are more young faces in here tonight than they've ever had!") actually fell back on more conventional jazz protocol. Before several numbers he would say "this one features Joey Baron on drums" or Cohen or Douglas and allow the spotlight to shine on these guys that are, in some cases and some way, bigger stars than he is. The mood was certainly infectious and from our vantage point, it was easy to zone in on each master individually or take it all in en masse. The rhythm section seemed particularly on it Friday night, just completely controlling the flow the whole way. Greg Cohen is like a one-man scenery, prop master and set decorator; without his playing, everything else would come off as line recitation on a blank stage. With each number he brings the music to life, transporting the players to mountaintops, wind-swept deserts, dank jazz clubs, bitter shtetls, vast palaces, maybe even Masada itself. Sometimes Cohen holds a chord for measure after measure and builds tension in his repetition, hypnotizing the audience whose ears interpret this static note as a dynamic blur. This counters perfectly with Baron who is undoubtedly the most melodic drummer I have ever seen. He gets as many notes and chords out of his drum kit as most pianists get out of their 88 keys. Frankly, I could have just watched Joey all night, he's that good... in my opinion, he is the direct antecedent to my favorite drummer, Joe Russo. (Russo is like the rhythmic love child of Baron & Bonham). There is always a sexual component to music, but Baron's playing, the way he caresses and coaxes his drum kit is almost pornographic, in the best ways possible, of course.

As usual, there was plenty of weirdness -- fluttering squeaks from the saxophone occasionally fought for space with trumpet flatulence, but it was more of a deconstructive counterpoint to the sheer beauty of the bulk of the set; a natural extension of the music at hand and not an end unto itself, which it sometimes can become when Zorn is in a more aggressive mood... or just plain ornery. There are plenty more details, plenty of gooey adjectives to try and describe the too-quick 60 minutes of music Masada treated us to. It was a treat, musical ambrosia -- the food of the gods. Not much more to say.

The second set was Cecil Taylor's AHA 3 with Taylor joined by Henry Grimes on bass (and violin) and Pheeroan akLaff on drums. I wasn't sure how long I'd stay for this one, I decided to let fate decide for me as the set wore on... and as it did, I found it more and more difficult to leave. I don't know what I was expecting, something more traditional than Masada, for sure. If anything it was way more untraditional and I'm not sure if I can describe it that well. The band was introduced again over the PA and the guy says that Cecil asked him to announce the tunes they would play. He proceeds to read about 10 phrases which sounded like they were generated by some random word selector: Banana Leaves on Mars or something equally ridiculous. I didn't know if it was a joke or not. The band comes out and their appearance is equally as random: each is wearing a different hat or headgear (Grimes wearing a headband) and Taylor wearing a silk print shirt untucked with baggy black pants stuffed into mammoth beige tube socks pulled up past his knee. Weee-erd!! He proceeds to read some scatter-shot beat poetry that started off either in another language or (more likey) some made up silly talk -- this is like an 80 year old man doing what can best be described as baby talk that eventually made its way into more randomness. Eventually the language became recognizable as English but was stilol plenty random (I'm pretty sure I heard him recite Avagadro's Number at one point). While this was going down the drummer was, of course, playing the bongos. How could I leave now?

This kind of melted away and akLaff started banging away at his drums.... and didn't stop... at all... for like an hour. The "music" that followed can best be summed up as a nonstop crescendo, the unending climax to a song that doesn't exist. Just crazy intense energy, wig-flipping drumming at full-tilt with accompanying banging away at the piano and humming bass underneath. It was utterly anti-melodic and yet haunting and beautiful and mesmerizing nonetheless. There were a couple of breaks, like every 10 minutes or so and large swaths of people got up and, as politely as possible, left for the evening during them. I kept thinking "next break I'm out of here" and yet the God of Crazy Fascination kept me glued to my seat a good 30 minutes longer than I intended. I know it sounds pretty awful, some wild experimental noise, but it wasn't at all... at least to me, it wasn't. After a while, melodic shapes took shape in the morass of sound coming from the stage -- like staring at clouds and seeing everyday objects as clear as day. Spellbinding stuff. After an hour the music had gone absolutely nowhere and yet, was completely stimulating and satisfying. I can describe it no better. I finally broke myself free of the trance and made my way out. Walking out behind me, I heard a guy murmur to his friend, describing the proceeding hour as "torture" amongst other things. I can't say I disagree with where he was coming from and yet, it was anything but for me. It was like a deep, painful massage on my ears, a thorough loosening of my live music muscles and I left as enlivened as ever. Those Music Gods know what they're doing, don't they?

I gave myself plenty of time for the next leg of my trip, but I made a quick detour to grab a bite to eat and by the time I got into the subway flow again, I thought maybe I would be late. My ambitions wouldn't be as worthwhile if I didn't make it to the Knitting Factory right when the music started and I was about 45 minutes late when I walked into the Tap Bar. Of course, I shouldn't have been worried, the music had just started, I had missed less than a song. Now it was Marco Benevento, Mike Dillon and Reed Mathis playing keyboards, drums and bass respectively. Well, on the face of it, that's what they were playing, but in reality they were real-time redefining each of those instruments on the Tap Bar stage. While the room has changed a bit since way back when, the Tap Bar is where Marco and the aforementioned Joe Russo turned the silly notion of an organ-and-drums duo into a capital D DUO and did some redefining of their own. The magic of those Thursday nights was in full effect this weekend as these three brought the acetylene torch to my sanity once again. Marco is reinventing himself as a full-fledged brand and this group is sort of an outcrop of his Tonic residency a few months back -- in fact, the gig was supposed to feature Matt Chamberlain on drums repeating that trio from back then. Personally, I am thankful that Dillon was filling in -- it was weird to see him playing behind a drum kit, or at least his mutated version of a drum kit, but he absolutely brought the energy to some impossible places. While you might expect this to be some sort of one-off freeform jam session, that couldn't have been further from the reality. The gods brought these guys together, no doubt, and they played like a band, a well-polished vehicle, a transportation device bringing minds and bodies through the universe of good music. There were a few originals, new material that Marco debuted at Tonic that has been through the wash a few times and seems to fit these three like a well-worn pair of jeans. There's one of these in particular that is a sort of instant classic, a melodic masterpiece that could easily lodge itself in my ear canal for months on end. The kind of brilliance that Benevento brings to his Duo compositions with a little more maturity and depth. With songs like that one, the set started off slow and pensive with a weird crowd that was half seated on the floor and half penned up standing behind them like a river stopped up by some fallen branches. The music poked and prodded at the audience with some seriously dark, evil grooving (the kind that just don't quit til you get off your ass) until finally cracks in the damn formed and then a bearded jackass hopped up front and WHOOSH, dancers overtook the sitters and the whole place was flooded with the pulsing energy of a dance party. Immediately the music filled the room with a different flavor, a liquid that conforms to the space available to it. Never looked back.

In this new setting, the originals made way for some sweet cover selections. Actually, it was a brilliant take on Pink Floyd's "Fearless" (a staple of all the various incarnations of Marco's residency) that was the final straw in the sitters vs. the dancers. The way they just became one with the song, like they were having a two way conversation with a piece that was written 4 decades ago, sucking DNA out of it's amberized fossil and bringing it to life Jurassic Park style. That residency was a wonderful stretch of shows and a successful undertaking by any measure -- they're releasing the choice picks from the run as a CD set which I'm sure will be a must-buy the day it comes out. And yet, I'm not sure that the release as an entity will be anywhere near as unbelievably thrilling as the first set Friday night. These three guys were like a choice cocktail, three distinct flavors whisked together over ice and generating a completely unique and discrete flavor with a bite and a kick that is hidden behind its undeniable deliciousness. Can I say anything about Marco that I haven't said before? Maybe, but the fact that he continues to exhibit such otherworldly connections with musicians beyond his one-mindedness with his better half, JoRu, continues to blow me away. He was deep in the zone Friday night, barely looking up at his band mates or the occasionally delirious audience crowding over him. He had one big electric Yamaha, kind of like a mini-baby-Grand that played vanilla piano tones as well as those thick, meaty distorted sounds that send many an electric guitarist home to sacrifice their Fenders to the Shredder Gods. On top of that he had a mini little synth which seemed to afford him all the range he would need for this gig, and that's it (oh, and a laptop wired in there and a bunch of cracked toys (Bob the Builder would be aghast to see what was done to one of his buddies!) and everything else short of the soldering gun used to fuse it all together strewn about on top). It seems that whatever set of keyboards Marco needs, whatever sounds he needs at any particular moment no matter who or where he's playing, he's dialed in. Reed was, to but it bluntly, bad ass the whole set. It's like between him and Benevento they had their keys and their bass and they also had two or three guitar players folded up inside their instruments. Mathis channels the music through his whole body, a quivering antenna that receives and transmits the grooves in the air. As with Marco, he knows exactly what noise he needs at each moment and hits a pedal or a combination of pedals and sends wild, low end howls into the mix at will. Dillon's strengths aren't necessarily those of a straight-up drummer, he's a percussionist extraordinaire and if there's a guy who plays the vibraphone like he does, I have yet to see it, but he looks kind of awkward behind the kit. And yet, that being said, I don't think there was a drummer in the room (a room that had both Russo and Bobby Previte checking out the music (a good measure of a band's greatness is the greatness of the musicians who come to see the musicians)) I'd have rather had playing. What Dillon lacks in straight ahead chops he more than makes up for with utter energy and pure creativity. Even his drum kit screams "I'M MIKE D!" with it's awkward set-up and too-tall/too-skinny marching-band style bass drum that didn't quite thud as completely reverberate for full seconds each time it was struck. That's not to mention the occasional foray on the tablas and the rest of the whatnot that Dillon exudes. Who are we to question the trio the God of All-Star Lineups have provided for us?

So they played some sweet stuff, but there was a stretch of music in there, a three song cover medley that was as brilliant as anything you'll see anywhere. Another good litmus test of a band's greatness is often in its choices for cover songs -- if you don't understand what's going to sound good when you're playing it, chances are you're failing on a more fundamental level. On this count, the Benevento/Mathis/Dillon trio (name, please!) may be one of the best bands ever. The thing is kind of a blur, so I may even be getting the order of it all confused, but I believe it started off with The Zombies' classic "She's Not There." It began almost as a goof, a traditional take, a throwback to another generation, reaching back even further than Pink Floyd... further than most modernists can stretch without being ironic. But it didn't take long for the crowd to succumb to the trio's version, to buy into the hidden grooves and nasty undercurrent of the music. Each verse seemed to climb one more rung of the ladder until it had no choice but to go through the ceiling. It did, it did, in some improvisational derring-do, bringing the tune to places you didn't know it had... maybe that the entire era from which it sprung had. This was three guys with chemistry, guys who were meant to play together just totally getting it on to the nth degree. It was one of those quintessential, "holy shit, tell me someone's taping this!" moments. And despite the "I hope this never ends" vibe in the room, it did come to a landing, but as the vessel came in and the ground was in site, Marco gently swerved the crew to other worlds unknown. The tips of our fingers just barely brushing against the treetops as the quietness never quite got to silence and Marco slowly and surely injected a new melody, something undoubtedly Radiohead. What was nearly the end of one masterpiece unfolded perfectly into the beginning of a new one, with Marco getting intimate with "2+2=5" (another oft-played tune from the Tonic residency). If Joey Baron's playing is porno, XXX isn't strong enough to describe Marco's masterful domination of this material. This song was Benevento's bitch, he brought it to its knees and it did his bidding. Weaving in and out of the opening progression he brought the composition in and out of focus with his own fuzzy blurring of the themes. It was a thing of beauty and Mathis and Dillon patiently waited -- they did not need to go to Marco, he brought it to them and they took the thing and just exploded. Reed, in particular, was right on Marco's tail, perfectly infusing some next-level bass playing everywhere it was needed. I've been oft-impressed with Mathis on a few occasions, but I was really feeling him Friday. And for that, I give thanks, Deep Thunder Bass God. If I've never heard Radiohead covered quite that well before, that was nothing to prepare me for what came out of an awkward stop-start out of 2+2=5. It wasn't a true segue like the previous pairing, but close enough as they did a She's Not There >> 2+2=5 > wait, that's the Beatles... that's... [half the room is singing "Saw Her Standing There"]. Ain't nothing like a Beatles tune and this one was another kind of unpredictably perfect selection for the set. A surprise that started off with a giggle and then somersaulted into something a bit more grandiose and certainly more groovalicious. The set waxed and waned after that wallop of a song trio, but it was a moment within a moment that I didn't expect to be reproduced. The stars had aligned perfectly on three musicians playing three songs with the crowd buying into what they were selling -- the kind of astrological event that only the music gods could orchestrate.

The set ended with a technical malfunction and the decision needed to be made -- stick around for the second set (could they top the Houdini-level magic of the first?) or bolt for potentially greener pastures. I raised my sail and let the wisdom of the group mind push me in the direction it (or fate) had mapped out and within the blink of an eye my bow was aiming toward the Village... we were Lion's Den bound. Sure, there was a chance that the show there was already deep in the second set, that we'd get there just as things were winding down, or worse that we'd walk in on mediocrity and abandon the sure thing of the Tap Bar's offerings. You know where this is headed right? Was it all predestined from before Langerado was even a glimmer in the universe's eyes? Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't, but I really don't care. When the God of Decisions, Decisions, Decisions actually graces you with the right choice, you don't quibble with what might have been... you just shake your ass, as hard as you can, repeatedly, stopping only to imbibe (gotta appease the Deity of Hard Boozin'!).

Sure things are sure things and then there's Anders Osborne. We walked in just as he was working out sound kinks in anticipation of the second set. The place was crawling with faces that were more than just friendly, they were infested with big, fat (the term is "shit eating") grins. Buy that man a drink, let's get it on!! Praise be thee!! A beer and a whiskey later I was drowning in good times: my cheeks hurt from smiling, my body was pulling a John "Cougar" Mellencamp and hurting so good and my cup overfloweth with nasty, nasty Nawlins party music. Anders was on fire: a brilliant, perfect mix of Van Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The room was aswelter in the heat he was giving off -- I can't recall being in a room in the city where everyone, I mean everyone was smiling and dancing their asses off. Every once in a while the spirit of New Orleans, the sweaty, dank funkfest of 2am NOLA escapes to the northern climes. Early Saturday morning, Osborne, with Kirk Joseph, Eric Bolivar and Tim Green marching lockstep in the parade, was spraying that spirit on the faithful at the Lion's Den. It's one thing to have that New Orleans vibe t, but it's another to have it while being so fucking talented and Anders is nothing if not a blisteringly good guitar player. Shredder through and through. He sang song after sweet sweet song about his home town, about rains in the Crescent City, partying til dawn and everything else and we just kept on dancing. For much of the set a trumpet player sort of camped out just offstage, trying to get in there to jam. Finally, Anders, who had no idea who this guy was, invited him up and he blew some mediocre horn -- it was a quintessential NOLA moment, the spirit of interaction of the jam session of just showing up to play. It's rare around these parts, but Osborne didn't hesitate and didn't try to force the guy off after a solo or another one or another one. He certainly overstayed his welcome, but despite that, did nothing to slow the momentum. If anything, it spurred the other guys to bring it up a notch, to overwhelm his "eh" playing with a sustained ass-kicking. That summed up the set perfectly. The gods were maybe testing Anders & Co -- let's see what you really got!! Great people, great music, is there anything else that needs to be said?

That aural massage from Cecil Taylor was paying off dividends at this point, I could have boogied my way across the scummy Lion's Den dance floor until the sun came up, but the gods know what's best for me: the set ended right at the last possible moment for me to have time to get in my good-byes to the bug-eyed late-night faithful, hop in a cab up to Penn Station, buy my return ticket and easily make that 2:55 train home, getting me a good hour or two extra sleep in the process. Oh, Sleeping One Off God, what did I do to deserve your kindness?

With both Marco et al and Anders playing follow-up shows on Saturday night, the only question left was whether I should tempt fate and go back for seconds... may as well leave that one up to the big guys on Mount LiveMusiclympia... the Ouija board spelled it out for me in no uncertain terms: Don't press your luck!