30 April 2008

Review: Scott Amendola Band

Jazz Standard, 25 April 2008

It was nearly 5 years ago to the night (plus or minus a month) that I got my first taste of both Jenny Scheinman and Nels Cline -- a night at (the old) Tonic I wrote about here. That was a short bit before Cline got picked up on waivers to turn Wilco into a live powerhouse. It was also the precise moment when I fell deeply and madly in love with Jennifer Scheinman. That night they were playing as part of Scott Amendola's band and pretty much blew me out of the water, so it was with little hesitation that I made it to the Jazz Standard last Friday when I saw that he was back with his "band" in tow. You can tell a lot about the quality of a musician you don't know by who they can convince to back them up and help them make their music. While I already know that Scott is a kick ass drummer and composer, it doesn't hurt to have the Scheinman/Cline combo working for you. Oh yeah, Friday night he had a special guest: Charlie Hunter. Sweet!

I made it just before the lights were set to go down and was directed to a set next to Terri who has the distinct privilege of informing you whether you were right or wrong about what show you picked to see just by merely being there. So I felt good about that. The lights went down and Scott announced he wouldn't be doing too much talking... and then they just got right into it. The first tune wasted no time getting deep funky with Charlie and Scott mixing it up and setting the tone for the rest of the night. The band kind of naturally segregated into two non-competitive teams: the Amendola/Hunter duo worked the groovy/funky, setting the tempo, holding down the low end and making everyone's toes tap under their table, hips swivel in their seats and heads bob through the air; the Cline/Scheinman pairing went straight for the soul, twisting and spiraling into wonderful emotional interactions. Each tune would feature this sort of rift -- a kinda right brain/left brain duality -- and then someone meet up in the middle for a serious stretch of all-out 4-on-the-floor playing that was sure to garner hoots from the crowd and spontaneous "that was awesome" applause taboot.

The second tune was called, I believe, "Street Beat" and featured an insanely good section in the middle. Of course it was lead by Jenny who kind of laid low for a little bit and let the game come to her. But midway through she took the reins and eased, just eased her way into the tune. Just a toe into a cold swimming pool, then up to the ankle, knee, thigh and then a big fat jump til the water was overhead. Slowly she worked her bow back and forth, feeling out the groove behind her and picking out just the right set of notes: two, three, maybe four. Then she just worked them over and over and over. It wasn't so much the melody she was playing, but the way she was forging her way through the tune with them, like a ship cutting through the water, opening up a wake behind her violin playing. The other three gladly filled in behind her wake like dolphins hopping in and out of the water. The riff picked up speed and momentum and exploded in several minutes of all four of them just flat out jamming. It was a highlight stretch of music, no doubt.

Nels and Jenny seem to have that certain chemistry that two musicians find in each other. When she was playing, he was dotting her "i"'s and crossing her "t"'s and when he took one of his many killer axe-shredders, she returned the favor. Amendola was the perfect bandleader, writing the tunes, recruiting the musicians, laying down the grooves, setting the tempo and then just sitting back and letting the talent take over. His songs range nicely over the funky to the cerebral to the lullaby just flat out rocking. Yes, the show was at a nice little jazz club, but in another setting the crowd might have been dancing their tushies off. There was a nice pairing of "Lullaby for Sasha" (nice!) into a tune called "Buffalo Bird Woman" that allowed everyone to flex their musical muscles and show off their range. The latter could have been an instrumental version of a Grateful Dead tune -- a jazzed-up Ramble On Rose -- and then flipped into an open ended jam section that had that same, slow-breathing rock feel of Cortez the Killer. Nels moved to a lap steel for this one which was just the perfect sound and meshed perfectly with Jenny.

Charlie was obviously a little less familiar with the material than the others, but did a nice job contributing. He was at his best when he was concentrating on the bass lines and translating Amendola's rhythms into bopping melodies. Occasionally he took a characteristically "Charlie Hunter" guitar solo, but for the most part was a complementary piece. I think I like him better in that role. I will say that the dual guitar sound was really nice. Somehow the Hunter & Cline tones fit together perfectly -- different but ideally suited to each other, like orange and blue. I would also be remiss if I didn't point out the crazy looks Charlie was giving Jenny. He seemed almost a little too impressed by her playing, but honestly, could I blame him? She does have a bewitching energy on stage that subsumes her music and presence. Somehow it's a little off, but by just the right amount and in just the right direction. Frankly, I can't get enough.

With all that greatness, it's no wonder Amendola had a big fat grin on his face from the moment he stepped on the stage to the last note. He guided the band expertly, the songs were, to a one, magnificent and he had a top notch ensemble behind him. You can throw a bunch of talented musicians together, but there's no guarantee that they'll click the way Scott had these 4 going Friday. If they happen to be playing again, I highly recommend it.

29 April 2008

Nedstalgia: 15 Years Ago

First of all, giant thanks to ScottyB from Hidden Track for kindly and quickly getting me both of these shows to listen to and helping to scrape the barnacles off the old hull between my ears... and which I will now be making available to you, my faithful readers. So download:

Phish
Montreal, 29 April 1993
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Hartford, 30 April 1993
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Anyone still listening?

So, where was I? Oh yeah, lots of Phish shows around, not much class to get to.

15 years ago it was a trip up across the border with a completely different group of folk. I've seen two shows in Montreal, and if I'm remembering correctly we were piled in the back of a van for a rather boring drive up through New England on an overcast and occasionally dreary late April midweek day... again, do I really need to be schlepping to Montreal? But of course, of course.

We got to town which was in the midst of NHL playoff fever and grabbed a Canada-strength beer before heading into Le Spectrum (translates to "The Spectrum"). I think looking back, that's the smallest room I've seen Phish in. A small rock club which I remember being about the size and type of Irving Plaza except with cool, curvy raised sections on the side where most of my group grabbed a table with the key waitress service. I, of course, went on up front to stake out some space, not that it was difficult. We were inside early and the crowd was sparse. Actually, Fishman was hanging out near the stage holding court with a bunch of addled adherents. I walked up and listened to him ramble on about some crazy idea for a tour with the Dude of Life that he/they were planning. He presented it like it was a silly lark, a total joke, but wouldn't you know it less than a year later the very thing he was describing materialized. Funny how things work out like that.

Listening back to the show today, I realize why I continue to write about as many of the shows I see today. Yes, the recordings live on, and I still have memories of the trip and the show and being utterly agog with how good it was. Even so, I wish I could go back and pick my brain right after the show, what stuck out to me then, what words I'd use to describe it, etc. In 15 years when I'm not seeing any music at all it will be instructive to look back and read and to see how desperately and pathetically I tried to keep hold of my youth. I guess that's part of what makes it a live experience -- intense but fleeting.

So what do I remember? The thing that sticks out most intensely was being up in the smoke during the Mike's > Weekapaug mess. In a room that small, everything was intensified: the band bunched in closer than normal, the crowd pressed in tighter to the stage, and that fog... the fog just seeping into every corner of the venue, mixing with the music to generate some new level of ready-made hallucinogen. We were in another world. During that Hydrogen, someone tossed a cowboy hat on stage. In a brilliant move of improvisation, Trey picked up the hat and positioned a microphone stand with a towel over it, putting the hat on top so that it almost looked like a human figure. The smoke was thick at this point and Kuroda took the cue to backlight the scene so the makeshift mannequin generated a silhouetted against the swirling fog. The band completed the scene by flipping into a kind of cowboy-inspired ditty before moving through with the prepare proceedings. Perfect. That energy persisted into the Weekapaug which did some neat here-and-there before flipping that into some intricate noodling that transformed into a Makisupa Policeman. It was my first and a rarity at the time -- or at least felt like it (noting that it was the first in 2.5 years, so I guess I am correct) -- not the kind of jammed out thing it later became, but rather something that would sublimate organically out of the jams at that moment. It was the kind of thing that made a really great Phish show something a little extra. Of course, almost every show of that spring probably had 6-10 of those moments, but that I will not forget.

When they went back into Weekapaug, Trey lit in with some nasty, nasty shit. The "he's feeling it" kind of playing. The smoke was still intense (I note Fishman commenting on the persistent smoke later in the show) and the crowd was loose and a bit manic after the previous meandering. Even though the venue was small and tight, there was still a lot of room to move and I remember one guy just being a little too animated. Next thing I knew he was on the stage for a quick stage dive. The rest of us in the crowd were way too into the jams to even pay him any mind but he didn't seem to care... I will never forget the guy jumping belly first off the stage flat onto the floor with nary a limb extended from either side to try and catch him. I'm sure at some point the next morning he was in a certain amount of pain.

Other memories include the Fee if only for the reason that it's rare that you're to be in Quebec when it's name-checked in a song. Goofy fun. I've got my setlist written that night and I've got an "!" next to Yamar, so I obviously thought highly of that and a big bracket around the Reba/Mike's/Makisupa/Weekapaug section. It's also interesting to note that I have the encore written here as My Friend My Friend/Sweet Adeline (both missing from the recording) and that the Sweet Adeline is not listed on this semi-official setlist. Cool, I found a bug! Great show.

Somehow we made it back to Boston after the show... I do not recall doing any of the driving. Back to school, hooked up with a third set of chums and went to Hartford the next day. I'm still not sure how I manage this, but today's me thanks 1993's me for dealing with all that. Nice work, Lil' Neddy! The show was in a more field house type gym at University of Hartford which is technically in West Hartford which I learned is like the nice part of Hartford. This time we were there nice and early and I was able to secure not just a spot on the rail, but what I would later to refer to as the spot, home base, ground zero. There is nothing quite like the feeling like all the music has to go through you before hitting anyone else. And this show was one where it really hit me, broke through that wall, so to speak...

Unfortunately, the first set was easily my least favorite of the winter/spring 1993 shows I saw. Mostly I was coming to grips with the fact that when you see a bunch of shows from one band, you are bound to see a lot of repeats and the odds of these songs aggregating in a single set increase every time you buy a ticket. Looking at the setlist now, I think I was probably overreacting a little but what can I say? I actually heard Stash so much during those early years I groaned when they would start it up, which seems completely ridiculous if you think about it. Also need to note early that I feel lucky to have witnessed one of those rare serious judgments in error in the encore... "Something's Wrong with My Baby" -- worst repertoire choice ever? Short lived at least.

The band more than made up for it with the second set, though, opening with a high energy Wilson, and then ripping a Tweezer>Walkaway segue which was a true melt-in-your-mouth transformation from one tune to the next that blew me away. I just love going back and listening to these shows (thanks again, Scott). The playing is distinctively Phish, but there a different kind of energy than they'd grow up to have. You can hear the way everyone is pushing the other so clearly, the way Mike and Fishman enjoy as much of a leading-the-charge role as Page or Trey. In a way, it wasn't always as tight as it became when it was three guys filling in around a designated leader, but it was, to me, infinitely more interesting. Of course, I'm talking about different shades of awesomicity, so take that with a grain. Just grab this and listen to the Tweezer and maybe you'll catch my meaning. Awesome. Unfortunately they followed that sickness with Mound. Now, the today me doesn't mind Mound that much. The 19 year old in Hartford was unhappy to say that he did not. In fact, I remember hanging out with a friend a couple years after that listening to some shows and Mound came on and they said "isn't this the first song you hated?" That may be true. The funny thing about the Mound they played in Hartford was that they played it the fucking night before in Montreal! This really irked me at the time and when they were doing that "we're clapping over our heads" bit at the start of the tune I yelled "you played this last night!" at the band which seemed to get a caught with the proverbial pants down reaction from the players. The real take home message from that setlist choice was certainly "you're an idiot for driving to and from Montreal and then to Hartford the next day," but such are the trappings of youth.

Putting it together, this show blends nicely with the Canada hit. That was a small club which I remember as a murky pagan ritual. The Hartford show I remember as big and bright... in fact, in my mind I remember the show almost happening with the lights on. The meat of the set was a sweet Harry Hood/If I Only Had A Brain/You Enjoy Myself stretch that was a perfect representative of the type of sick, full-band, next level kind of playing the band was trotting out a nightly basis that spring. I was still deeply in love with Harry Hood to the point where it was worth the price of admission alone. And why not, if you can point out a less-than-stellar 93-brand Harry Hood, I'd like to hear it (and then quickly destroy the evidence). Brain was the second Fishman tune of the night, but a rarity that I was happy to catch so I didn't pay it no mind. The sandwiching of that tune with the two powerhouse jam vehicles was everything that was great about Phish.

Listening to these two shows brings back a lot of cool memories. These weren't just concerts, they were shows, Phish shows which was a category of its own. Yeah, I was sick of seeing Stash all the time, but it was still cool the way Trey and Mike did their choreographed stepping from one end of the stage to the other during the composed mid-section while the lights -- which were much more basic back then -- did their own thing that synched perfectly with their movements. When I hear Fishman break down in the fuzzy center of It's Ice from Montreal, ticking and tocking like a grandfather clock I can imagine Trey standing behind Mike as they would raise up their guitars and pretend the necks of their instruments were the minute and hour hand of some cosmic timepiece that somehow transported the whole crowd into another dimension. Tick tock tick tock... Or the way the barrier between the stage and crowd would break down in interesting ways, with the Big Ball Jam being the greatest example. We were actually playing the band -- an early precursor to Guitar Hero, I guess. At Hartford, I recall the band making their usual ring to collect the balls -- the audience would shoot them through the hoop made of Trey, Mike and Page's arms -- and a guy near me took the ball and shot it for a perfect "swish."

Still, it was those nutty jams that made all that driving and traveling worthwhile. I danced as hard during that Harry/YEM stretch than I had at any Phish show previous -- I remember sweating so much that the shirt I had tied around my waist bled onto my t shirt leaving an unsightly stain. A scar upon my wardrobe to remind me that even on a night when the band was drooping a bit, they still had the energy and wherewithal to bring it to that place where they had complete control of my mind and body. The thing about that is I still have that shirt, an old "classic" Phish shirt (yes, I wore a Phish shirt to a Phish show) that was the first one I had bought. The stain remains the same.

28 April 2008

Downloads of the Week

Jazzfest is here, but there's another festival that went down last week: Merle Fest. Never been, always wanted to go. Thankfully there are always the tapes to let us live vicariously. Here are a few great Merlefest downloads for you. One of these years I'll make it down.

As a bonus, check out the Panic show from 4/27/97 -- 11 years ago this week. For all you non-Panic fans, this is the show/recording you should have. If that doesn't do it for you, nothing will.

Enjoy!

David Grisman & Tony Rice
Merle Fest, Wilkesboro, NC 30 April 1995
Download: part 1 part 2
[Ned sez: Grisman & Rice doing tunes from their new-at-the-time release Tone Poems. Awesome!]

Tony Rice Unit
Merle Fest 1995
Download
[filler from the above set, Tony Rice had just stopped singing... sad when they say just 6 months]

Midnight Jam
Merle Fest, 25 April 1992
Download: part 1 part 2 part 3
[classic jam session with Rowan, Rice, Grisman, Fleck, Allison Krauss and more...setlist here]


Widespread Panic
Burlington, VT 27 April 1997
Download: part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 encore

27 April 2008

Shows of the Week

Hey, it ain't Jazzfest, but it's the best we can do... enjoy!

Click here for upcoming shows

Monday:
Josh Ritter @ Music Hall (Brooklyn)
Crowded House @ Fillmore
Les Paul @ Iridium (early/late)
*Meshell Ndegeocello @ Mercury Lounge (early)
Billy Martin/Dafnis Prieto @ Merkin Concert Hall
Matt Munisteri @ Banjo Jim's

Tuesday:
Feist @ Hammerstein Ballroom
*John Zorn Cobra @ Roulette (benefit)
Crowded House @ Fillmore
Hanson @ Starland Ballroom (Sayreville, NJ)

Wednesday:
Mark Olson, Jenny Scheinman @ Highline Ballroom
Madonna @ Roseland Ballroom
The Redwalls, Hymns et al @ Knitting Factory
*Feist @ Hammerstein Ballroom
Jean-Michel Pilc Trio @ 55 Bar (late)
Trevor Dunn's Proof Readers @ Barbes (Brooklyn) (late)
Crowded House @ Fillmore

Thursday:
Dolly Parton @ Radio City Music Hall
*Budos Band @ Music Hall (Brooklyn)
Doug Wamble @ Barbes (Brooklyn) (early)
I'm From Barcelona @ Brooklyn Masonic Temple
The Fringe @ Cornelia St. Cafe
Robbers on High Street @ R Bar
Antonio Sanchez @ 55 Bar (late)
Scout Niblett et al @ Tap Bar
The Kills @ Webster Hall
Was (Not Was) @ Blender Theater

Friday:
Nellie McKay @ Rubin Museum of Art
New Monsoon/The Mother Hips @ Mercury Lounge
Jay Z, Mary J Blige @ Madison Square Garden
*The Musical Box @ IMAC (Huntington, LI)
Perowsky/Courvoisier @ The Stone (early)
The Hold Steady et al @ Webster Hall
Brazilian Girls, Spank Rock @ Studio B (Brooklyn)
Antonio Sanchez @ 55 Bar (late)
RJD2 @ Bowery Ballroom
Mark O'Connor @ Symphony Space
New Monsoon, Mother Hips @ Mercury Lounge
Richie Havens @ Metropolitan Museum of Art

Saturday:
Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band @ Sullivan Hall
New Monsoon, Mother Hips @ Mercury Lounge
Groove Collective @ Drom
*Tony Rice Unit @ Mexicali Blues (Teaneck, NJ)
Klezmer Funk Remix @ Apollo Theater
Love Trio @ Nublu
Wolff @ Piano's (midnight)
Chris Byars @ Dizzy's (3pm)
Bryan Adams @ The Concert Hall

Sunday:
*Steve Winwood @ Blender Theater
Chris Thile @ Living Room (late)
Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Patti LaBelle, Chaka Khan @ Radio City Music Hall
Love Trio @ Nublu

Click here for upcoming shows

25 April 2008

Review: Tea Leaf Green

Highline Ballroom 18 April 2008

Yes, one week later, but still...

Seems like I'm gonna be lucky to get out or have the energy to go out once a week from here on out, so guess it's time to make 'em count. So why Tea Leaf Green? Well, why not? I've seen the band once or twice and thought they were a "nice" time, certainly. But not sure they had grabbed me completely. Enough people I know and respect seem to get their rocks off on these guys, though, that I felt they deserved at least one more shot to sink their teeth in. When I got an offer I couldn't refuse from the Gadfather (image cred above to his iPhone) to rock out with our proverbial schlongs out in all our pre-Pesach glory... well, I couldn't refuse.

You know what? I think maybe I got it, or at least some of it. It took a lot of whiskey and crowd brimming with glorious energy, but I had a fucking blast. I do think it was the audience inside the Highline that really did done it for me. I got there midway through the opening set from Hot Buttered Rum (String Band). They were a bit slick for me, but still a decent bluegrass set. Trevor Garrod from TLG sat in for a couple tunes including a nice take on Dylan's "Don't Think Twice." But as I grabbed a drink at the bar, I was kind of caught in the ebb of the people in the room. Beyond a thin partition of standers, there was a river of bobbing heads flowing back and forth in front of the stage. What's that? People dancing? I forgot such a thing was possible at a live music show, but I quickly remembered that it was once commonplace to see such behavior wherever I went. It struck me that possibly I had changed my musical migration habits more than the feet of those out and about suddenly becoming leaden... but I'm not sure. Maybe I'm just old? Yeah, that's probably it. Anyhoo, from that point I could kind of feel it was going to be a good night as the sleepiness of the week wore off with a few sips of whiskey and a smile of recognition came across my face: "Oh yeah, I remember what it's like to dance at a show. That used to be me." Things were in synch -- the fiddle player for the band was (anachronistically) wearing a, I believe, Thierry Henry soccer jersey, so that every time he turned around I could see the name "Henry." It was The Boy's birthday on Friday. Excellent.

After a short changeover, the lights went down and Tea Leaf Green took the stage. I can't speak to song titles or whatnot, although the setlist was easily found over at their website. The set started similarly to the other time or times I've seen them. Kind of a song-oriented 4-piece lead by Trevor on mostly an electric keyboard, occasionally ripping guitar solo, etc. In some ways, they remind me of Rana -- like the West Coast version, except instead of a deep kind of Talking Heads undercurrent to the music, they give me a Bruce Hornsby feel. But about 2 or 3 songs in, things got a little louder, a little nastier and a little more involved. It was around that point that I felt something move, like George Costanza after pigging out on some fresh mango.

Somewhere in there they transformed from a nice little rock band to something with a little more meat. Basically, they started jamming. Not wanky noodling, but good old fashioned flesh-eating-guitar rocking out. Garrod spent ample time on a more Rhodes-y electric piano that brought out a little more life in the music and Josh Clark brought things to another level on his axe. While the big disappointment for me Friday night was learning that Reed Mathis would not be playing bass (and I stress big, that could have brought things next level for me), the fill in was Steve Adams from ALO who did just fine.

From there on out, it was all pretty raging and just felt good. Was it wasn't some sort of mind-bending, life-changing experience? Would I use any word ending in "-est" to describe any part of the show? No and no. But the night hit me where it counts and that's all that matters. Like I said, I had a fucking blast. Around an hour into it I had to ask the more indoctrinated "they're playing two sets, right?" Good. Shortly thereafter they busted into The Band's "Ophelia" with the Henry-jersey wearing goofball on fiddle joining in. That was sweet. These guys are well-suited to play covers by The Band, no doubt about that and this version probably bettered the one Panic does which I've never been 100% enamored of.

Second set seemed a lot dirtier and messier and a whole lot more fun. That could be some sort of direct correlation with my bar tab, but I think that's the way these things are supposed to work. We got another appearance by that fiddle player, but mostly things just got a whole loopier and stretched out. There weren't crazy prog jams, just well-played, tight-knit build-and-release jobbies that the crowd surfed and crashed with again and again.

Up to a point, I was doing a pretty good job getting absorbed by the music and playing socialite which is a necessity when you barely see the people you always used to see. But at some point something snapped in my brain and I felt like I was 19 again. I cruised my way through the popcorn popper that was the crowd in front of the stage and the next thing I knew I was happily planted DFC just a man off the "rail." Not sure what possessed me, but old habits die hard and these guys had a little of that old school magnetism in them. Of course, good old fashioned jamming gold always shines brighter in close proximity, some sort of inverse square law, so while maybe Tea Leaf Green was holding steady, it seemed exponentially sweeter from in close. From there it was easy to gauge the interaction and the smiles and the reactions to each phrase and lick. Better yet was catching a wave of something as it built and then riding it to fist-pumping glory. Man, fun fun fun. The crowd was a joy to be immersed in. Just taking it all in, anticipating the climaxes and pulsing as they got there. You can take all your technical proficiency and Berklee-level composition (and you know me, I do and I do), but that's what makes live music live, ain't it?

So, seder notwithstanding, I didn't feel inclined to return the next night [although I note they covered "Green Eyed Lady" which I'd like to see them play]. One night of Tea Leaf Green was plenty. But rest assured, I will go out of my way to catch them next time through town... hopefully with Mathis in tow (no offense intended). I'd recommend the same.

24 April 2008

minimix: Americana Is Beautiful.6 You Da Mandolin

Set of music sort of featuring the mandolin... sorta. Any favorites I missed?

Enjoy!

Download the mix

01 The Fox -- Nickel Creek: Rockygrass Festival 29 July 2001
02 Black Jack County Chain -- The Del McCoury Band: 14 June 1997 Grass Valley
03 Sailin' Shoes -- Strength In Numbers: 2 September 1990
04 Contrapunctus XIII -- Meyer/Fleck/Marshall: Uncommon Ritual (1997)
05 On The Run -- Yonder Mountain String Band: 9 February 2008
06 God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen -- David Grisman Quintet: DGQ-20 (1996)
07 Subterranean Homesick Blues > Super Mario Brothers > The Fox Reprise -- Nickel Creek:29 July 2001

Previously in minimix:
Lovely Ladies
Down the Slide
Relatively New
Schoolin' Banjos
Feellin' Steely

23 April 2008

Nedstalgia: 15 Years Ago

That's right, it's Nedstalgia time, been a while. Time to get shockingly unedited stream-of-conscious on your ass. But hey, even Hidden Track has stolen my idea, so may as well keep it going. Springtime means lots of good shows on which to reminisce.

Download Phish 4/23/93 Colgate here:
part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4

15 years ago today I had my entrey into what may very well have been my favorite stretch of Phish shows. The spring tour of 1993 -- which was essentially just the end of the winter tour of 1993 -- was kind of where I went from being a huge Phish fan to being a crazy, Phish freak. After these shows I'd literally get stopped in the streets of Boston with a "I see you in the front row of every Phish show I go to" comment, which was kinda cool, but more, in retrospect, scary. What a dweeb I was.

Anyway, the scary thing is thinking of how much more Phish I might have seen had I actually owned a car at school during the 2nd semester of my freshman year. For a little backstory: I was taking 4 classes in the spring, but one of them was a physics course that I probably wasn't qualified to take, but I signed up any way because the professor had taught me previously and I had liked him enough and trusted him enough to help me pick up the slack. As fate would have it, he ended up passing away during that semester. Not only a major downer, but pretty much killing any chance I had of surviving the rest of the term. It was early enough for me to drop the class but too late to add anything in its stead. So, as fate would have it, when April and May rolled around with a nutty docket of Phish shows in the area, I was sitting in my dorm room with only 3 classes to worry about: no finals during finals week and just rides to and from the shows to shore up. Excellent.

The first show to hit that was remotely close enough to convince someone to either drive me or lend me their car was Colgate on 4/23. There would be many Phish shows over the years that I had no business going to -- snow storms too massive, locations too remote, etc. -- and this was certainly one of them. Come the morning of the 23rd, I was sick as a dog. Cough, congestion, general weariness, it was bad any way you looked at it. But, we had plans. My roommate and I had convinced a friend to lend us her truck and we had student-purchased (ie cheap as hell) tickets and a friend on campus crash with. Plus I knew a zillion upstate-NY'ers who'd be there. No way I was calling in sick. Andrew took the wheel, I nuzzled in the passenger seat with a bottle of cough syrup and we were off.

There's that scary moment for an incoming freshman when they first meet up with their roommate. For me it was over the phone at the end of the summer. I remember the conversation quite well. One of those defining moments in who I was in college and therefore who I am today. Chatting a bit and then I get the "what kind of music do you like?" drop. "Oh, uh, all kinds. You?" "Well, I like all music except rap. My favorite band is the Grateful Dead." "Nice." So, it wasn't too long before I had him singing along to Reba (although in the end, it was the Panic that grabbed his leg).

Seeing as I was at the medicine bottle with nearly a chug, I was nothing short of addled for much of the show, everything being pretty fuzzy around the edges. On top of that, there was a weird and occasionally disconcerting mixture of people from various stages of my life, past, present and future, in attendance that I was bumping into that kept me off-balance for most of the night. Long story short, the music was kind of an afterthought.

The room was just a gym, plain and simple. Everything was right angles and built for athletics, not music. The crowd kind of just was in constant motion like billiards balls bouncing from one end of the room to the other. Bleachers folded up on one side, basketball hoops overhead -- not the ideal situation for seeing music. On the other hand, the place felt 3/4 full and was pretty small. It was easy to get to the front and back and take it in from any angle you'd like. Ah, the good old days as they say. So, I spent some of the show in close, but eventually had to drift toward the back. As the energy in the room was of a college kegger on one of those spring-is-here Fridays, the band seemed loose as I recall. Hell, just look at the pix (stolen from Phish.com).

The cool memory for me of what they played was definitely The Ballad of Curtis Loew. It was well-done, sure, but mostly because it was a song I never thought about seeing and then there it is. I could probably go and dig up how many times the band has played it and I'm sure it is a small number, so it's kind of special in that regard and felt that way at the time for sure. You see enough Phish shows over 10 years and you're going to see your share of random songs. The number of songs the band has played that I haven't seen is actually quite small and it's those "being at Colgate when you really shouldn't be" kind of nights that helps to fill in all the gaps. The second notable moment was the first time I saw Mimi Fishman come out on stage and play vacuum during Lengthwise. Seemed like during this time you'd see at least one thing a show that you never thought you'd see. You'd think the band had done everything it could possibly pull off and the next thing you know there's this tiny, over-matched woman on stage with her mouth wrapped around an Electrolux. Really? C'mon.
But really, for this show, that's neither here or there. You can download this whole show and enjoy the band playing in one of their more exciting periods, and they'll be more where that came from, sure. Really, all you have to concern yourself with, though, is this Weekapaug Groove. I've already offered it up here and I'll go on record as saying it's one of the best, or at least features a mid-section that is some of the silliest guitar playing you could ask for. There is a section in the middle that is the greatest Trey-is-wigging-out playing you can imagine. Please check it out and tell me I'm nuts, but yes, it's that good. I can say for sure I enjoyed it when it was going on but was in too much of a daze to realize just how fucking top shelf amazing it was at the time. Too bad, but perhaps it would have sent me over the edge. I was already teetering there as it was.

Actually, listening to the whole thing, this is one of those under appreciated gems from the era. Solid setlist, great playing, high energy, goes just far enough in the jams. It may have been the haze I was operating under that night, but I remember a sort of mist of human perspiration in the air: wild energy bottled in a near prison cell environment. Mmmm... can't beat it. Really a classic 1993 show. The acoustic guitar at the outset of My Friend My Friend, the visual silliness in the middle of It's Ice, and the way it wasn't quite totally Trey's band yet. You can kind of feel it's one of those nights in these tracks, and they actually sound pretty good considering what the taper probably had to contend with.

As you might imagine I wasn't too much better the next morning after sleeping on someone's couch in my sweaty t-shirt. Still, we made our way back through Massachusetts in the morning. My roomie was a big proponent of massive water intake at all times and of going exponential when you're not feeling well. So the whole trip back I was guzzling water... which was a bit of an effort in the pre-Poland Spring days. Anyway, we stopped at a Friendly's for a bite and I probably drank about 10 glasses of water while he ate. We got back on the road and as you might have guessed I had to piss pretty badly. Typically, no where to stop for a long, long time. Finally, I had all I could stands and I could stands no more so he pulled over and I proceeded to urinate for longer than I ever had before and ever have since. This is by far my most vivid memory of 4/24/1993, I can still feel the orgasmic release of pee on the side of the road. After what may have been a minute or an hour, I made my way back into the car only to find Andrew keeled over the wheel in laughter and amazement.

Ah Phish, making kids do stupid shit for 20 years. More healthier spring 93 Nedstalgia to come...

20 April 2008

Shows of the Week

Enjoy!

Click here for upcoming shows


Monday:
*She & Him @ Hiro Ballroom
Jay Reatard @ Bowery Ballroom
Peter Moren, Luke Temple @ Mercury Lounge
Kevn Kinney @ The National Underground
Michael Daves w/ C. Thile @ Living Room
Les Paul @ Iridium (early/late)
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin et al @ Union Hall (Brooklyn)
Tokyo Police Club @ Music Hall (Brooklyn)

D'earth Day:
Bill Frisell Quintet @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
She & Him @ Hiro Ballroom
*The Cinematic Orchestra @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
Mum @ Blender Theater
Tokyo Police Club @ Bowery Ballroom
Megadeth et al @ Hammerstein Ballroom
Pat Benetar @ BB King's
Destroyer @ Music Hall (Brooklyn)
McFerrin/Corea/DeJohnette @ Bergen PAC (Englewood, NJ)
Ted Reichman Two Trios @ The Stone (early)
Stanley Clarke Trio @ Blue Note (early/late)
Lucy Wainwright Roche et al @ Union Hall (Brooklyn)
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Spanish Prisoners @ Mercury Lounge
Omer Klein/Anat Cohen/Avishai Cohen @ Cornelia St. Cafe
The Hounds et al @ Banjo Jim's

Wednesday:
Jerry Douglas @ BB King's
Kate Nash @ Webster Hall
Nels Cline/Alex Cline Duo @ Jazz Standard (late)
Bill Frisell Quintet @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
Stanley Clarke Trio @ Blue Note (early/late)
*Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog @ Sullivan Hall
Ra Ra Riot @ Maxwell's (Hoboken)
Adam Levy et al @ Banjo Jim's
Mamie Minch et al @ Union Hall (Brooklyn)
Jeff Gauthier Goatette @ Jazz Standard (early)
Licorice/Buzz Universe @ Knitting Factory
Sam Champion et al @ Mercury Lounge
Mum @ Brooklyn Masonic Temple (Brooklyn)
Cinematic Orchestra @ Music Hall (Brooklyn)
Megadeth et al @ Hammerstein Ballroom
She & Him @ NYU
Destroyer @ Bowery Ballroom
McFerrin/DeJohnette/Corea @ Carnegie Hall

Thursday:
The Nels Cline Singers @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
Ginger of the Wildhearts, American Babies,Big Yes & small no @ Piano's
Ben Perowsky Quartet @ The Stone (late)
Howard Fishman @ Barbes (Brooklyn) (late)
Stanley Clarke Trio @ Blue Note (early/late)
Kate Nash @ Webster Hall
*Bill Frisell Quintet @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
Pharaoh's Daughter @ Joe's Pub (late)
Benedek Band @ Barbes (Brooklyn) (early)
Ches Smith & These Arches @ The Stone (early)

Friday:
John Zorn Improv Night @ THe Stone (eaarly/late)
Perpetual Groove @ Highline Ballroom
Stanley Clarke Trio @ Blue Note (early/late)
I'm From Barcelona @ Maxwell's (Hoboken)
Bill Frisell Quintet @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
*Scott Amendola Band @ Jazz Standard (early)
Reid Genauer @ Sullivan Hall
Michael Attias Group @ Cornelia St. Cafe
The Nels Cline Singers @ Jazz Standard (late/midnight)
Poi Dog Pondering @ Bowery Ballroom
Karsh Kale @ Joe's Pub (midnight)

Saturday:
*Fiery Furnaces @ Southpaw (Brooklyn)
Stir Fried w/ Buddy Cage @ Mexicali Blues (Teaneck, NJ) (late)
Bill Frisell Quintet @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
Railroad Earth @ IMAC (Huntington, LI)
Elbow @ Webster Hall
Nellie McKay @ Blend Bar (Ridgewood, NJ)
Ben Goldberg/Myra Melford Quartet @ Jazz Standard (early)
Stanley Clarke Trio @ Blue Note (early/late)
Reed Foehl et al @ Rockwood Music Hall
Whoopie Pie @ The Stone (late)
Van Hayride, Brooklyn Boogaloo Blowout et al @ Banjo Jim's
Jesse Malin @ Bowery Ballroom
Bennie Maupin Ensemble @ Jazz Standard (late/midnight)

Sunday:
*Josh Ritter @ Music Hall (Brooklyn)
Bennie Maupin Ensemble @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
Jackie Greene @ Highline Ballroom
The Hounds @ Banjo Jim's (late)
Bill Frisell Quintet @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
Stanley Clarke Trio @ Blue Note (early/late)
Stephane Wrembel @ Barbes (brooklyn) (late)


Click here for upcoming shows

17 April 2008

minimix: HB2TB

The little guy turns 4 today. Last year it was trains... now quickly forgotten. This year Spidey leads off a quickie mix. Enjoy The Boy-centric six pack (with gratuitous Marco inclusion just to see how many of these I can squeeze him in on).

Download the mix

01 Spider Man
02 Boisa-bis-o-boisa -- Jens Lekman
03 Cat Creeps -- Medeski, Martin & Wood
04 What I Want Is A Proper Cup Of Coffee -- Trout Fishing In America
05 Old MacDonald -- Baby Loves Jazz
06 Birthday Boy -- Marco Benevento & Scott Metzger

Previously in minimix:
All Aboard!

Downloads of the Week

I haven't forgotten about you...

First off -- I recently realized that a bunch of the shows/mixes I have up have randomly disappeared from Mediafire. If you're looking for something that's gotta a dead link, let me know and I will re-up.

Today was the first springlike day of the year around here, so here's a little sunshine for you.... Sunshine Herring that is. A nice old Jazz is Dead show w/ Derek Trucks and Vassar Clements sitting in and a PLQ show... both from the 3rd week of April in years past. Enjoy!

Jazz Is Dead
Fox Theater, Boulder, CO
12 April 1999
Download: part 1 part 2 part 3 encore

Phil Lesh & Friends
Asheville Civic Center, Asheville, NC
19 April 2001
Download: part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 part 5

13 April 2008

Shows of the Week

Enjoy!

Click here for upcoming shows

Monday:

Etta James w/ L. Nocentelli et al @ BB King's
*Eivind Opsvik's Overseas/Jim Carney Quartet @ Tap Bar
Donny McCaslin @ 55 Bar (late)
Les Paul @ Iridium (early/late)
Oz Noy Trio @ Bitter End

Tuedsay:
Joe Jackson @ Apollo Theater
*Bill Frisell 858 Quartet @ Village Vanguard
H-Alpha @ The Stone (early)
Etta James w/ L. Nocentelli et al @ BB King's
Uri Caine @ The Stone (late)
Ron Carter/Russell Malone Duo @ Blue Note (early/late)
Bobby Previte/Jamie Saft @ Swing Space

Wednesday:
Bill Frisell 858 Quartet @ Village Vanguard
Joe Jackson @ Town Hall
Colin Meloy @ Music Hall (Brooklyn)
Wu Tang Clan @ Fillmore
FREE The Moonlighters @ St. Margaret's House (4pm)
Bobby Previte/Mike Pride @ Swing Space
Jason Collett @ Luna Lounge (Brooklyn)
Banjo fest w/ T. Trischka, E. Smith, M. Munisteri et al @ Banjo Jim's
Laura Cantrell @ Joe's Pub (early)
Etta James w/ L. Nocentelli et al @ BB King's
Ron Carter/Russell Malone Duo @ Blue Note (early/late)
*A Big Yes and a small no @ Rockwood Music Hall
Colin Hay @ Canal Room

Thursday:
*Colin Meloy @ Music Hall (Brooklyn)
Umphrey's McGee @ Starland Ballroom (Sayreville, NJ)
Charlie Hunter Trio @ Sullivan Hall
Greyboy Allstars @ Highline Ballroom
Bill Frisell 858 Quartet @ Village Vanguard
OMNI Ensemble w/ Benevento Russo Duo et al @ College of Staten Island
Colin Hay @ Canal Room
Brad Shepik Trio @ The Stone (early)
Ginger of the Wildhearts and friends @ Piano's
Mandolin fest w/ B. Mitteroff, M. Daves et al @ Banjo Jim's
The Headhunters @ Iridium (early/late)
Christian McBride @ Tribeca Performing Arts Center
Roy Ayers @ SOB's
Jonah Smith @ Rockwood Music Hall (midnight)
Slash, Tom Morello, Perry Farrell et al @ Nokia Theater (benefit)
Matt Munisteri @ Barbes (Brooklyn) (late)
Ron Carter/Russell Malone Duo @ Blue Note (early/late)
Bobby Previte/Ikue Mori @ Swing Space
Crescent Moon et al @ Ace of Clubs

Friday:
Tea Leaf Green (Hot Buttered Rum opens) @ Highline Ballroom
Jerry Douglas @ IMAC (Huntington, LI)
Leo Kottke @ Tarrytown Music Hall (Tarrytown, NY)
Tapes N Tapes @ Fillmore
RAQ @ Blender Theater
Bobby Previte/Briggan Krauss @ Swing Space
Chris Byars @ Rubin Museum of Art
*The Sweet Devines @ Union Hall (Brooklyn)
The Headhunters @ Iridium (early/late)
Ron Carter/Russell Malone Duo @ Blue Note (early/late)
OMNI Ensemble w/ Benevento Russo Duo et al @ Brooklyn Conservatory (Brooklyn)
Bill Frisell 858 Quartet @ Village Vanguard
Josh Rouse @ Zankel Hall
The Delfonics @ BB King's
Spiraling et al @ Maxwell's (Hoboken)

Saturday:
RAQ @ Blender Theater
Tea Leaf Green (Moonalice opens) @ Highline Ballroom
*Anders Osborne @ Sullivan Hall
Chris Thile @ Living Room
The Headhunters @ Iridium (early/late)
Corn Mo & The .357 Lover et al @ Luna Lounge (Brooklyn)
Bill Frisell 858 Quartet @ Village Vanguard
Bobby Previte/DJ Olive @ Swing Space
Chris Thile @ Living Room (late)
Tapes N Tapes @ Music Hall (Brooklyn)
The Moonlighters @ Barbes (brooklyn) (late)
Ron Carter/Russell Malone Duo @ Blue Note (early/late)
Prisoners of 2nd Avenue @ Mexicali Blues (Teaneck, NJ)
The Head Set et al @ The Annex

Sunday:
Surprise Me Mr Davis @ Sullivan Hall
Bill Frisell 858 Quartet @ Village Vanguard
*Garaj Mahal @ Knitting Factory
Ron Carter/Russell Malone Duo @ Blue Note (early/late)
The Headhunters @ Iridium (early/late)
FREE Ricky Skaggs, Vusi Mahlasela, Big Head Todd et al @ Central Park
They Might Be Giants @ Town Hall (1pm/4:30pm)
Pat Benetar @ BB King's

Click here for upcoming shows

10 April 2008

minimix: DoubleCovered.4

The Bad Plus knows how to cover, so without further ado...

Download the mix

01 Smells Like Teen Spirit -- The Bad Plus: Somerville, MA, 23 July 2004
02 Human Behavior -- The Decemberists: Interpreting Bjork
03 Life On Mars -- The Bad Plus: Prog (2007)
04 Life On Mars -- Phish: Clifford Ball 16 August 1996
05 Human Behavior -- The Bad Plus: Salt Lake City 6 April 2006
06 Smells Like Teen Spirit -- Benevento/Russo Duo: 23 May 2002

Previously in minimix:
DoubleCovered.3 (Rolling Stones)
DoubleCovered.2 (Benevento)
DoubleCovered.1 (gospeditional)

09 April 2008

Review: Stephen Malkmus/John Vanderslice

Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 2 April 2008

(go here for link to download a similar show from a few days earlier and listen along!)

Yes, I went out two nights in a row! Wednesday was the highly anticipated Malkmus show in Brooklyn. His recently released "Real Emotional Trash" will certainly be on my year-end list and that last time I saw the Jicks they knocked my socks off, although it's been much too long.

Got there early enough for John Vanderslice who I saw last year briefly and have been enjoying immensely. John is a wonderful live act from top to bottom. His songs are great, his band is perfectly suited to the music, and he's got a fantastic stage presence which carries over into everything else. Wednesday night it was all on display. The crowd was pretty healthy for an opening act and he didn't even give off a "warm up" vibe at all -- asking the crowd right off how they were doing and launching right into his stuff with the authority of a headliner. One of the great things about John is his voice. There's an attitude in the way he sings that segues from his between-song banter in a way that makes you feel like he's either talking to you when he's singing or that he's singing to you when he's talking. And that style is so crystal clear that you catch every lyric and every witty aside he mutters which is good, because most of the words are well-worth hearing. While playing and while chatting, he would play off his bandmates -- a guy on bass or violin, keyboardist and drummer -- that brought out the best in his banter and his music.

The music is one of those pop rock blends that defies tagging and adjectives. What kind of music does John Vanderslice play? John Vanderslice music, of course! While there is a songwriter background to the songs, there is a lot of depth: darker rock and roll and keys-and-bass funkiness that give it more edge than you might be expecting when he starts. They opened with "White Dove" and the band was pitch-perfect from the get-go. Frankly, while I do listen to them, I was surprised at the large percentage of the songs that I knew or recognized. "Exodus Damage," one of my favorites, was early on in the set and didn't disappoint. At one point he mentioned how the previous night (semi-surprise gig @ Piano's) he had been talking about prog-rock and his affinity for the music when he was growing up, which I could certainly relate to. While this was mostly a set up for a joke, it struck me thereafter how this little admission fleshed out a lot of the origins of the Vanderslice sound. His songs don't twist and turn in vast, orchestrated sections like Gabriel-era Genesis, but you can sense how this kind of background guides certain pieces. Weird to think about, but it shone a whole new light on the rest of the set for me. Besides the great music, John Vanderslice just strikes me as a good person: intelligent, kind and witty, the kind of person that you'd love to just hang out with and get to know. Other highlights: "Time Travel Is Lonely," "Tablespoon of Codeine," "Numbered Lithograph" and the fabulously groovy "Underneath the Leaves." The final tune of the set had the band hop down into the crowd unplugged for one of those wonderfully uplifting songs about death... a song I hadn't heard before but somehow balanced great depth with some cheeky humor all while being performed in the middle of the now crowded floor. Anyway, great set and a perfect warm up for the main event.

The show was sold out and by the time Malkmus and the Jicks took the stage, the Music Hall was apparently at capacity. Yet it still was 100% comfortable, not even close to sardines you might have expected. The Music Hall of Williamsburg may very well prove to be the best mid-sized room in the city before too long. I haven't figured out what's wrong with it yet... except for the semi-confusing layout that even Malkmus joked about shortly after arriving on stage.

As was to be expected, the set leaned heavily on the new material and for the most part was better for it. The word that might best describe the 90 minute set would be "ragged." A comfortable pair of jeans that have been worn too many times and are starting to show signs of stringy threads of cotton in undesirable places. Of course, there are all sorts of ways that could be construed. For someone hoping to hear the songs like they exist on the album, in all their glory, that rough-around the edges vibe can be a little awkward. But for the most part, I think the crowd knows what to expect and can roll with the idiosyncrasies of the Jicks without it being an issue.

And idiosyncratic he is! While it was going on, I likened Stephen, the band and the set they were playing to a lovable drunk. The guy who is incoherently babbling in your ear for an hour occasionally hilarious, occasionally making no sense whatsoever, occasionally spilling all over himself and then, every once in a while, spewing forth the most lucid and perfectly formed ideas you have ever heard. Malkmus was in rare form, taking nearly every song break to expound on some of the more ridiculous things you could imagine. That mood permeated into the band and the music giving it a wild energy that was fun from beginning to end, but provided some rough moments as well. But, on several occasions all the blurry weirdness coalesced into some of the most ass-kicking, rollicking, nearly-jamming music you could have imagined.

The highlights really were the "big" songs from the new album: "Real Emotional Trash" was just sublime, stretching off in an hypnotic rage that seemed to go nowhere and yet went there in the most interesting, drawn out way imaginable; "Elmo Delmo" featured some raging rocking out that may have actually gotten some movement out of the couldn't-be-bothered-to-move crowd; "Hopscotch Willie" may have been the absolute highlight -- and quite possibly the song of the year so far for me -- with that sweet tempo shift and real tightness from the whole band; "Baltimore" was the closer of the encore and seemed to sum up the whole night and make sure everyone left with a wide shit-eater on their face.

There is something utterly refreshing about this band, just four musicians who let their thing hang out and rock face. There is no gimmick in there, no multi-instrumentalist distraction, no digitalia interference, no winks at the audience. Just four dudes/dudettes who go out and play their shit. Stephen seems to play as if sneering at the need for all those orchestral trappings and electronic embellishment -- like, why would you need anything more than guitar, drums, bass and a little keyboards? Of course, it helps if your band kicks butt, which the Jicks certainly do. You might think the all-chick rhythm section of Joanne Bolme on bass and Janet Weiss on drums is some sort of gimmick in of itself, but there is lady in these two. Fierce power and a strict adherence to the task at hand. In all honesty, the band begins and ends with this pair as they reigned in the manic energy from Malkmus and drove each tune forward. There is a feeling like the band is jamming in nearly every song and it pulses from the bass and drums entirely. On top of that you've got Mike Clark on both keys and 2nd guitar who plays the ego to the SM id, controlling the chaos from within. The best moments of the night were when he was on guitar and kind of sherpa'd Malkmus' guitar raging with his own, giving it sense and form while allowing it to just go.

The freedom in the music makes the album of the listen-over-and-over again variety. The same quality gives the live show some chili hot spiciness. It's funny how the songs would feel like they were each broaching 10 minutes long or beyond, but in reality even the longest tune probably didn't hit double digits. There is a similar feeling at a My Morning Jacket show. The music is loose and dense and seems to just jam with a purpose. Here we see the difference between jamming and improvising: the freedom doesn't lead to weird discovery, it leads to head-bangin', fist raging rocking out... of course it could if you weren't deep in a cage in the hipster zoo, where you settle for a head bob and occasional yelp of approval. It ain't post-jam, it's post-indie with Malkmus the anti-hipster leading the charge. Well, whatever you wanna call it, just check it out... some of the best shit going right now.

08 April 2008

Review: Rashanim|Marco Benevento

Still working my way back through the last few shows starting with the more recent... next up:

Stanton Street Shul, 3 April 2008

Rashanim is one of those bands I am constantly missing for one reason or another. Every time they have a gig around town, I've got something else on my plate and regrettably must miss it. Regrettably, because these guys are flat out one of the more exciting bands out there right now, if I can speak truthfully. So, I can't tell you how happy I was that I was able to convince the Big Squeeze to sacrifice her normal Thursday mom's night so I could trek into town to check out the second of what is looking to be a regular, intimate gig in the Lower East Side. What makes these shows special besides the music is that they take place at the Stanton Street Shul, which is, as you might have guessed, not a music venue proper but a plain old, no-frills house of worship.

The crowd Thursday was maybe 10-15 people strong and we huddled around the center of the room where the band was set up like we were there for a bible study or communal pow wow. It was a warm, family vibe despite the chill in the air and the none-too-comfy pews we were sitting in. In reality, what this was was a gathering of people who love music and don't need the conventions of a rock theater or jazz club to get our fix. Which isn't to say there wasn't a bar -- Rabbi Yossi was happy to sell you a beer or a shot of Jack Daniels... although it wasn't clear if the intent was to get people drunk, make a few bucks or just to clear out the booze from the synagogue before Passover begins later this month.

Yes, Rashanim's music is Jewish in its flavor and origins; in fact all of their new material takes their song titles from names of prophets (which gave us treats like "Elijah" and such). But really, it's just really great music, heavenly at times, but also brutally rocking, swinging with grooves or just flat out jamming. The band consists of Jon Madof on guitar, Shanir Blumenkranz on bass and Matthias Kunzli on drums and percussion -- just your run-of-the-mill power trio. The first set Thursday was acoustic and was a perfect way to set the vibe of the evening. Starting around 8:30 to the cozy crowd, they wasted no time digging deep with some gorgeous melodies. The sound was perfect and the music was a perfect mix of cerebral complexity and sheer accessibility. This was jazz/rock fusion that your bubbe and zayde could get jiggy with. Madof is the de facto leader of the group and his compositions have a maturity and freshness that seem a bit incongruous with his youth and jokey stage demeanor. He led the trio through some tight composed sections and let them loose with individual solos and plenty of wonderfully improvised sections. The music was loose, but it always had a groove to latch onto.

They took a very brief break to set up for an electric second set and gave us another hour or so of rip-snorting rocking out. Blumenkranz really seemed to take off after switching from stand up to his Fender electric bass. There were some jaw dropping, intensely dark passages both on guitar and bass -- nasty, effects-laden stuff that may not have been entirely appropriate to unleash in a holy place. I do not exaggerate when I say that Jon and Shanir are the best guitar and bass players you probably haven't heard yet. It's not every band that can successfully blow your mind with some beautiful acoustic music and then open things up with some far-reaching electric jams. Kunzli may have been a bit off from professed jet lag, but still showed some remarkable creativity in the million-and-one ways you can keep a beat. I especially loved it when he played melodic rhythm using just his handclaps... another level. Overall, the whole of it was incredibly tight from top to bottom, just intense jaw-dropping stuff. It was one of those shows where you feel lucky that you're there, that you know, and yet at the same time lament that there are so many people out there that would be blown away right there with you who are regrettably absent but for their own ignorance of the talent. Hopefully the gig will continue and grow and you'll take a chance. I think I have a pretty good track record with these things, so check it out. Next Stanton Street gig is on 5/22. Get involved. And looky here, embedded videos from the acoustic set (maybe the audio will make it this way in the near future):






Rockwood Music Hall, 3 April 2008

From there, C-Dawg and I made our way to Rockwood Music Hall for Marco Benevento's midnight solo show. Just a few short blocks away and in a room almost equally as intimate. It was that kind of evening, where you felt like someone gave you the password and you were on right side of exclusivity. Of course, the show there was free and open to everyone, and yet, again, there were just a few of us there. Rockwood is one of the smallest music venues in Manhattan, I'd reckon. Any more than 50 patrons, and it's a bit tight. That's about where we found the room when we got there as we went to the annex bar for a beverage while the earlier set finished up. We moved in for the 11pm set and lucked into some I-can-rest-my-feet-on-the-stage seats, which was nice. Always good to be sitting, and sitting close in. The set was Aaron Dugan who is part of Matisyahu's band, making it a full-fledged Chosen Peeps twofer. He was playing guitar and had another guitar player, an upright bass player and a female vocalist on stage... there was also a drummer, but the stage wasn't big enough to accommodate, so he was off to the side. I didn't know what to expect but was pleasantly surprised with some very enjoyable, occasionally dreamy music. Of course, I was exhausted at the time, and the music had a very nice soporific effect on me. There were some extended instrumental passages with some off-kilter vocal interludes in between. Nothing brain-bending, but also not bad at all.

After that, Marco came in and the house piano was set up with his own brung-from-home modifications to give it that special Benevento je ne sais quoi. Around 12:30 he got rolling with a slow-developing cover of Led Zeppelin's "Friends." Marco was in high spirits and in an adventurous mood, cutting and pasting his normal repertoire like a 3 year old with a pair of scissors and a tub of Elmer's, so that songs veered into other ones on whims while others got sandwiched in between either as teases or full-blown sandwiches. His mood matched the setting and the crowd perfectly as he called for requests and babbled affably with the audience of Marco aficionados. There were a few selections off the brilliant new "Invisible Baby" album like Bus Ride and the grooving Real Morning Party. The latter brought out an audience participation request to keep the beat which sounded easier than it proved to be for the late night we-so-white crowd. Eventually Marco just took over and sunk into some fantastic soloing which squeezed its way through the tube into "Fearless." Marco tore up the keys on the Monk tune "Bye-Ya" and then succumbed to an audience request for "Mephisto." That one showed some promise of going somewhere and delivered reaching out into the late night balminess and then flipping over into the Duo's "Soba." Benevento never ceases to amaze, whether playing with a bunch of who dats, making sweet duolove with Joey R., leading an all star jam session or just sitting alone at a piano.

I realize that this marks the 8th time I've seen Marco in some incarnation this calendar year, a measurable percentage of the times I've left my house. Maybe a bit obsessive, yes, and certainly a tad embarrassing considering my inability to do anything but fawn. Still, it just seems to be getting better and better. The music remains fresher than ever even after hearing the same tunes over and over and the enthusiasm he imparts from the stage seems to be getting more infectious with each new look. Until he makes me feel otherwise, I'm gonna keep on going. It's been easy money thus far.

Which is all just a way of warning you that there may be a Duo review in your future... more to come.

07 April 2008

Review: Widespread Panic

United Palace Theater, 5 April 2008

...in which I attempt to get through a Panic review without mentioning Michael Houser... I mean, uh... fuck, that didn't last long. Well, then, taking a mulligan and startinnnnng... now!


Widespread Panic has moved on... for me. Well, actually, I can safely say that I've moved on. It's a happy place, because there they can do no wrong. It used to be that I could sit around and discuss Panic online or in person for hours or days or weeks on end without exhausting the things to parse, the jams to dissect or the arguments to foment. It used to be that tour dates were matched up against a calendar and the bank account and frequent flier miles and a certain amount of calculus was required, derivatives and such, to determine how many shows I'd go see and which ones and what phones calls would need to be made in terms of rides and crash space and which state lines would be necessarily crossed in search of the show... or shows, plural, if I was lucky -- the show where everything came together: the band, the songs, the jams, the crowd, the venue, the booze, the triangulation of all those things with respect to where I was standing and who exactly was standing next to and in front of me. Cause every once in a while those things did come together in some magically whiskey-spilt way and that was some good shit. It's kind of embarrassing if you think about it, that that used to be the way for me, but those are the facts.

Now? Now things are a bit different. Sure, I can still hold my own and wax philosophic about the ins and outs of the Panic minutiae when required and I still get excited about going to see the old farts. But my life doesn't revolve around it... by necessity mostly, but still. In a reverse of the old "don't call us, we'll call you" adage, I don't seek out Panic any more, don't go chasing them around the 48 contiguous like a puppy yapping at its master's heels with big, innocent eyes waiting for a pat on the head or, heaven help us, a rub of the belly. No, I wait for Panic to come to me. And every once in a while they do and even though I could twist and turn the state of things to make 2 or 3 or even 4 shows if things align correctly, it's usually the case that just one show will do. Sometimes one set will do. This time around, that's the way things went -- I got to one show this spring and could have left happily and fully satisfied after the first set. Was it the best Panic ever? Far from it. But it brought me back to a happy place that still exists deep in my soul and will carry me over until the next time.

So, it was Saturday night way, way uptown in Harlem at the beautiful, semi-recent add to the NYC venue mix: the United Palace. It's about 100 blocks due uptown from the Beacon which is already nosebleed territory for the high-number-averse like me and infinitely more nice and more special feeling than the Beacon. Frankly, it makes that place look like a pile of poop. I will say, quickly, though, that the security there was annoying. Not annoying in a strict way (I easily sneaked in a bottle of Makers), but annoying in a "turn off your cell phone, it's the house rules" way. WTF? Weird, I couldn't even send text messages without getting hassled by the man, let alone let my foot drift into the aisle. Enough ranting, though...

The show was a lotta fun from top to bottom. The opening "Big Wooly Mammoth" was kinda strange way to start, but still a good uptempo ease-in for the evening. "North" was next and is one of those songs that Herring has just embraced as his own. It's interesting to see where Jimmy has made himself felt in terms of putting his own stamp on the sound and other places where he sticks to the convention. The past two or three times I've seen "North" it's been unbelievably good -- just raging, raging guitar work in there. "Angels on High" was the 1st of 2 new ones which I am utterly oblivious to. I will say for the two of them ("Three Candles" was the second) that I truly, honestly dug them for a first listen and am looking forward to hearing more of them... but will reserve full judgment until I do. Still, it's great knowing that this band is still vital, has no intention of becoming a nostalgia act (even when it is inevitable that they will to some extent). With the way Jimmy has nestled himself into the band and is generating a new sound from within, they could easily redefine themselves with a wealth of new material going forward if they've got it in them to produce it.

Angels segued slightly into the real powerhouse portion of the night. The Little Lilly > Rock > Hatfield was an old school Panic-style trifecta that was easily the highlight of the night for me. Lilly was one of those other spots where Jimmy seemed to redefine the song. He played a few stretches in there that defied my ability to comprehend what he was doing. Frankly, he sounded like Duane Allman with a slide doing Indian scales and made the song completely different and completely his own. Just pure sickness. JB seemed to respond by singing the last couple sections in a completely different slowed-down manner. It was way cool... something I'll need to hear again. Maybe that's the way they always do it now; I honestly don't know and don't care to know. The segue into Rock was true and Schools-driven. It was around this spot that Dave kind of took over the show, I thought. It's amazing to me that I've been listening to Schools in awe for over 15 years now and haven't tired of him at all. It's amazing because I'm not sure he's gotten any better over that period of time, which is to say that he hasn't needed to: he was then and remains to be one of the best in the business and one of my favorite bassists and musicians out there. It's been a while since I've seen him take over a show like he did Saturday night, though and it began in the Rock> Hatfield section. My ears were just glued down to the low end, listening to Dave rip shit up both in several nasty solos as well as feeding and feeding off of Jimmy's guitar playing. Somehow Dave and Jimmy get each other in a fundamental way... sometimes maybe to the detriment of the rest of the band being a part of it. Frankly, I couldn't care less. This is as good a chance as any to say that I felt that Sunny was completely useless the entire show. There was not a moment the entire night where I felt he was making the music better in any way. It's the kind of going-through-the-motions display that I felt the rest of the band used to lapse into during the "George years." Dead weight.

Hatfield was awesome. I feel like I haven't seen that one in a long time (which may or may not be true), but I thought they crushed it. Such a great song. Hope In A Hopeless World was kind of strangely placed there especially because it didn't end the set but gave way for an always-monstrous Conrad. It felt like they maybe were one intense ladder-climbing climax short in this set-closer, but Jimmy still left a footprint on my face as he repeatedly stomped my cranium with his killer playing. Really, Jimmy Herring is in Widespread Panic? Really? I still can't get over this. The set ended with a nice whoosh of air. It wasn't even in the conversation of greatest sets ever, but it was solid, fun and completely satisfying. What more can you hope? Is Panic a sure thing? Pretty close to it.

Set break at NYC Panic shows are a treat. Lots of familiar faces abound. Also, by the time second set arrived I had just about 0.75L of Maker's Mark down my gullet and was ready for just about anything (and also causes me to express caveat that everything that follows may be complete bullshit, not that you care). "From the Cradle" made it a perfect 1.000 average for off-the-mark set openers at a Saturday night New York Panic event. C'mon, bring it up a notch, couldn't you? See, that's the kind of thing I might have bugged about in my previous incarnation as an idiot. The new me, which is coincidentally the old me, just smiles and waits for the next tune... which happened to be Bowlegged Woman. Is anyone every upset to hear that one? Here Jimmy and Dave both zoned in even deeper on each other and also opened up to the full band, bringing in the rest of the group -- well, minus one -- and grouping up for the long set ahead. Bowlegged always smokes and I'd say this version was average in that way.

Turns out this was just a warm-up, as the fringes of Bowlegged melted away into Papa's Home. Yeehaw! And thus began an epic sandwich, Papa's was perfectly played with several of those JB is standing in Jimmy's face trying to keep up and doing just fine moments. Dave played his ass off (figuratively, of course) acting like the undertow sucking the jam out from shore again and agai before submerging it completely. All this finally made its way to the new tune "Three Candles." This one seemed to be engineered fully with Jimmy Herring in mind... I really liked it. But that was just the lettuce and tomato on this sandwich, the vegetables that bring the semblance of health where really there is nothing of substance other than meat, meat, meat. And the meat in Harlem that night was Airplane. That was some juicy, not-too-fat, not-too-lean meaty shit: a two-handed pastramiesque masterpiece.

It's mind-boggling to think that they do this every night with the energy and professionalism that they do. To rip through a setlist, each one completely unique, giving it their all and producing mind-numbing jam after mind-numbing jam; making each night something special for all those in attendance. It's something I can only appreciate fully now seeing them just once in a while. The distance makes things less sharp and distinct and the fuzziness around the edges makes things glow. Widespread Panic positively glows. This Airplane solidified the greatness in a whole new way. The realization is that this is just a pedestrian song on a random Saturday night and yet the playing, the way the guitar and the bass swirl around each other like chocolate and vanilla filling the sugar cone of drums and clavinet and JB's one-of-a-kind guitar playing, is enough to make grown men and women wail and scream and do ungraceful things with their bodies in attempts to translate the pure joy the music is making them feel. Utterly inspiring. It was just an Airplane with a big fat jam tacked on the end, not the best and not the worst they'll ever play. And yet it was, in the moment they were playing it, the greatest thing ever.

Which makes it unfortunate that it had to end and that it had to end by going to drums. Worst drums ever? Holy shit, kill me now. Papa's ended with a bang and seemed to leave enough room for more set which was filled with a Henry Parsons Died. Nice. It may be me, but I'm of the opinion that you can never have too much Lily and Henry in your life. Encored with Let's Get the Show on the Road which seemed a bit more raging than what I'm used to. Always a treat, although my cup had indeed overfloweth with the raging from middle set and all the rest of the goodiness that had come before. Which made my disappointment with the Blackout that followed fleeting.

I left the venue entirely convinced I would be driving up to Albany the next day. That day being Sunday and a day I needed to actually go into work for a few hours, I knew it was a stupid idea to begin with. When the hangover settled in and I wasn't quite as productive as I'd have hoped (fancy that!) I knew that Monday couldn't start with me still awake with my ears ringing and in a car on I-87 babbling about the good old days, so the plan died. Of course, if the old me knew how quickly I folded, he would have given a smirk and shook his head. To make up for it, I tried to go see Explosions in the Sky down the street Sunday night, but it was sold out and so I went home and went to bed. Just as well, I guess.

Thanks again, Mr. WSP, come back soon...

Downloads of the Week

Three great shows for your listening pleasure this week. Enjoy and remember you can always check out the updated OTW master list of available shows for download here.

First up is a postscript to the tracked-NPR motherlode from back a couple weeks... here's a recently offered Stephen Malkmus show from DC. Good shit. I caught Malkmus last week and will have a review up shortly. Second is another I-saw-this-show-in-a-different-city offering, by request, The Dreamers from Philly. My review of the Brooklyn show(s) here, but I can sum it up by saying, really, really, really good shit... like best ever. Last, from the DAT collection is a 10-years-ago this week offering of a Fareed Haque hit from Chicago. I saw Fareed in Chi-town a couple months after this one when I was in town for a work thing. I dragged my sister-in-law and her friend to the gig which may have been a mistake because it was out there... but they still dug it. You should dig this one, it's way more accessible and Fareed is a true master... and was much more enjoyable (I think) in his pre-Garaj-Mahal days.

Enjoy!

Stephen Malkmus
9:30 Club, Washington DC
28 March 2008
Download it!

The Dreamers
International House, Philadelphia, PA
2 March 2008
Download it!

Fareed Haque
Martyr's, Chicago, IL
11 April 1998
Download it!

06 April 2008

Shows of the Week

Enjoy!

Click here for upcoming shows


Monday:
*Jason Miles/DJ Logic & Friends @ Highline Ballroom
Nina Nastasia & Jim White @ Bowery Ballroom
Les Paul @ Iridium (early/late)

Tuesday:
*Explosions in the Sky @ Terminal 5
Santana (Derek Trucks Band opens) @ Madison Square Garden
Ray Davies @ Beacon Theater
Adam Rogers Quintet @ Village Vanguard (early/late)

Wednesday:
Jason Collett @ Mercury Lounge (early)
Kaki King @ Bowery Ballroom
*Spoon @ Terminal 5
Adam Rogers Quintet @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
Rihanna @ Highline Ballroom
Elton John et al @ Radio City Music Hall
Nick Lowe, Robyn Hitchcock @ Manhattan Center
Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott @ Webster Hall

Thursday:
Gnarls Barkley @ Highline Ballroom
Adam Rogers Quintet @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
Man Man @ Bowery Ballroom
David Grisman Quintet @ Mexicali Blues (Teaneck, NJ)
Dave Douglas & Keystone @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
*Jason Collett, Tony Scherr @ Mercury Lounge
Ginger of the Wildhearts @ Piano's
Walton/Jackson/McBride/Cobb @ Iridium (early/late)
Dunn/Burgon @ The Stone (early)
Tristan Prettyman @ Blender Theater
Bobby McFerrin, Yo Yo Ma @ Carnegie Hall
Tower of Power @ BB King's (early/late)
Mike Doughty @ Music Hall (Brooklyn)

Friday:
Dr. John w/ Rebirth Brass Band @ Blender Theater
Nada Surf @ Terminal 5
Papa Grows Funk @ Highline Ballroom
*Benevento/Bernstein/Krauss/Previte/Krasno @ Sullivan Hall

Adam Rogers Quintet @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
Walton/Jackson/McBride/Cobb @ Iridium (early/late)
Antibalas @ Southpaw (Brooklyn)
The Dirtbombs (Care Bears on Fire open) @ Bowery Ballroom
Jaik Miller Band, David Kolker Band @ Bitter End
Brooklyn Qawwali Party @ Barbes (Brooklyn) (late)
The Disco Biscuits @ Nokia Theater
Ambulance LTD @ Mercury Lounge (early/late)
Railroad Earth @ Warsaw (Brooklyn)
Eskelin/Gibbs/Black @ The Stone (late)
Man Man @ Brooklyn Masonic Temple
Gutbucket et al @ Fontana's
Dave Douglas & Keystone @ Jazz Standard (early/late)

Saturday:
*The Felice Brothers @ Bowery Ballroom
Rogue Wave @ Fillmore
Antibalas @ Southpaw (Brooklyn)
Adam Rogers Quintet @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
The New Mellow Edwards @ The Stone (early)
Benevento/Bernstein/Krauss/Previte/Krasno @ Sullivan Hall
Dave Douglas & Keystone @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
Dr. John w/ Rebirth Brass Band @ Blender Theater
The Disco Biscuits @ Nokia Theater
Walton/Jackson/McBride/Cobb @ Iridium (early/late)

Sunday:
*Dave Douglas & Keystone @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
Bloodcount @ The Stone (early/late)
Walton/Jackson/McBride/Cobb @ Iridium (early/late)
Adam Rogers Quintet @ Village Vanguard (early/late)

Click here for upcoming shows

04 April 2008

Nedstalgia: 10 Years Ago

Not going to make a big to-do out of it or nothing, no uploads or digging up ticket stubs... but, I can't let the 10 year anniversary of the Phish Island Tour slip by without saying something. I guess the something I want to say is: best Phish ever. These four shows were, in my opinion, the Continental Divide of Phishtory: it was the summit, the culmination of the insanity of the Fall and winter of 1997 and it was all downhill from there. You've heard of Peak Oil and it scares the crap outta you, well this quartet of nasties from the nasty quartet was Peak Phish and it was scary good. If you were there, you know, it was the summit. I was at all four of 'em (making it an aren't-you-supposed-to-be-in-grad-school 9 out of the last 10 shows they played), lucky and/or skillful enough to be on the rail in "the spot" for 3 of them and chances are you were at least one of them yourself.

There's a reason Live Phish has released all of them for purchase, and you'd do right by picking these up (and I just saw that they're on sale to commemorate). Over the course of these four shows, Phish did it all almost to perfection. I'm not sure any band at any time was clicking the way these guys were that first week in April 1998. Everything anyone had ever loved about the band was on display: of course, the jams were sick and the funk was deep, but it was more than that. The band was getting restless in the studio/album mode they had spent that winter and so hastily threw together a quick four night run. The minute I saw the news about the shows I had that weird sensation start growing in the pit of my gut. I'm sure everyone felt that way -- the band was basically breaking down to their fans, saying "We miss you!" and we all responded with "we miss you, too!" The anticipation was through the roof, the energy was monumental and like it's always been with those guys, Phish fed on that and delivered.

A show-by-show analysis is useless, a list of highlights too close to just writing out the setlist with lots of exclamation points to be of any interest. Besides, hopefully you already know. Just listen to these shows. All four of 'em in a row... the banter in between songs; the silly way a mid-song stage intruder turned an "Antelope" into a goof and then fed a nasty "Carini" encore; four guys spontaneously generating art of the highest caliber; "Birds of a Feather" premiering like a burst of fireworks and then, by the second running, exploding in a full band jam that still gives me the chills; close your eyes and meditate yourself into a fugue state with the 2nd set from 4/4, quite possibly the bees knees of the whole Phish shebang; watch the Neddy-request-granted Reba from Nassau and marvel at the fact that this was already 10 years ago...





Looking back, I can only say "thank you." Thanks to the band for coming back out of hibernation to make this music, like they seemed predestined to do. Thanks even more to the music gods for putting me in the right place at the right time to witness it. Thanks to those who generated the technology that gives me the ability to watch, listen, remember and share.

Thanks for listening... enjoy!

03 April 2008

minimix: Comes Alive Vol.8

I guess if you were recording a live album back then, the place to do it was undoubtedly the Fillmore East, because there sure are a lot of 'em. Here's a taste, a full 100MB of the hippie-dippie goods.

Enjoy!

Download the mix

01 In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed -- The Allman Brothers Band: The Fillmore Concerts
02 The Lee Shore -- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: 4 Way Street
03 California -- John Mayall: The Turning Point
04 Voodoo Child (Slight Return) -- Jimi Hendrix: Live At The Filmore East
05 Willie The Pimp pt. 1 -- Frank Zappa: Fillmore East, June 1971
06 Cowgirl In The Sand -- Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Live At The Fillmore East
07 Morning Dew -- Grateful Dead: Ladies And Gentlemen, Fillmore East, NYC

Previously in minimix:
Comes Alive Vol. 7
Comes Alive Vol.6
Comes Alive Vol. 5
Comes Alive Vol. 4
Comes Alive Vol 3
Comes Alive Vol. 2

Links of the Week

Just a couple this week...