Archive | September, 2011

What a Long, Strange Trip it’s Been: Journeying with Jam Bands

29 Sep

Jam bands are special to me.  Any music I listen to, I try to find a live version.  There’s something about knowing a band can recreate their music and actually seeing a band perform that’s so exciting.  My favorite part about Jam Bands is that each and every night they create, for one fleeting moment, music that will never again exist in the same form.

Nothing says jam band like playing over three thousand shows, but never in the same way for the same set list, and the granddaddy of them all never played the same show twice.  Go to The Live Music Archive (a great website for getting free live shows for hundreds of bands) to listen just a few thousand of the Dead shows they offer.  Born from the psychedelic movement in San Fransisco during the 1960’s, the Grateful Dead created flowing jams that fused their psychedelic core with folk, blues, jazz and other American roots music.  Listening to the Dead, while always enjoyable, can be best described by the men themselves, “What a long strange trip its been.”

If you think record sales and radio airplay indicate popularity, you’ve never been to Dave Matthews Band concert.  I just was watching my sister’s Dave videos from the postponed Governor’s Island shows and it was nuts just how crazy the crowds were, not to mention the band was as good as ever.  The diverse instrumentation (electric violin, acoustic and electric guitars, and a horns section) coupled with Dave’s crazy personality and always fascinating lyrics makes this band one of my favorites.

There’s no I in team, but there is an I in Dispatch, which is weird because they’re the ultimate team.  Most songs feature all three members singing, with each one singing lead at different points and all three switching instruments like it’s their job (which it is of course).  In addition to singing harmonies, all three individuals play guitar, bass and some type of percussion.  Their most popular song is “The General,” but all the songs they play live are really good, especially the following entitled Mission.

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Enjoy Every Sandwich – Warren Zevon and his Werewolves of London

28 Sep

In yesterday’s post, Aaron mentioned Warren Zevon and included an embedded video of Zevon’s most well known song, “Werewolves of London.” The sardonic and hilarious song was released on Zevon’s breakout album Excitable Boy in 1978 and it reached the #21 spot on the American Top 40 charts in mid-1978. “Werewolves of London” was Zevon’s only appearance on the chart, but let’s ignore popularity charts and just discuss the wonder that was Warren Zevon and the utmost joy that others will always have when they listen to “Werewolves of London” and any of his other lyrical masterpieces.

Zevon’s grasp on lyrics was strikingly apt and vivid. David Letterman, who was Zevon’s good friend before Zevon died of cancer in 2003, described his music as “evocative,” and I think that is a good adjective to use. Zevon’s folk was not classic, but edgy. His lyrics were unconventional and enjoyably morose. He also had the ability to turn off the playful and upbeat hits and bathe listeners with soft melody and heartbreaking lyrics. The man truly had it all and his talent is often overlooked. And it is a shame that Zevon had a life-long aversion to doctors. He died at the young age of 56.

“Enjoy every sandwich” comes from Zevon’s last appearance on Letterman. Like I mentioned, he developed a close relationship with Letterman and band-leader Paul Shaffer. So much so, that Zevon would often fill in for Shaffer when Shaffer was unable to perform during the show. On Zevon’s last appearance on Letterman, when his sure-death prognosis was already known, Letterman asked him if he knew more about life and death now that he practically knew that death was an immediate certainty. Zevon said, “enjoy every sandwich,” a simple, but profound response that fit his character well. Zevon was Letterman’s only guest for the full hour and he performed several songs. The day after Zevon’s death (months later), Letterman annouced the sad news to the national audience:

I’ve written about Zevon before on this blog. The Wind, the last album he recorded prior to his death, is a tour de force. Zevon performances are invigorating and “Keep me in your Heart” is a tear-jerker. But, since I have already written about those songs before, I want to feature “Werewolves of London,” a song that has a “surprising fact.”

The song has been covered SEVERAL times, but that is not the surprising fact. Accompanying Zevon on the song is bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac fame. I always thought that was an interesting tidbit of knowledge. To finish off this Zevon post, I am going to include a cover of “Werewolves of London.” Take it away Adam Sandler:

Better Not Let Him In: Singer Songwriters

27 Sep

Mentioning singer songwriters conjures images of a single player sitting down behind a piano or strumming an acoustic guitar.  I think of James Taylor singing “Fire and Rain” or Jackson Browne on “These Days” or even Ray Charles behind his piano on “Georgia on My Mind“.  Often stripped down to barest bones, deeply personal and even slightly narcissistic, traditional singer songwriters seemed to be one man (or woman) bands.  But let’s say you’re in the mood for some singer songwriters that bring some more instrumentation to the table.  Well prepare to be amazed.

Sometimes it’s hard to separate where Bruce Springsteen ends and his E Street band begin.  Sure there was that one forgettable period in the 90s when Springsteen disbanded the group to try it solo, but it seems like that period is in the past.  Listen to Born to Run and learn why Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band is an American institution.

If you really want an in depth look at Warren Zevon, I’m not the one to give it.  I’ve only be listening to the guy for less than a week.  But the guy has impressive singer songwriter chops.  Like really impressive because not only does he get up close and personal (in Don’t Let Us Get Sick), but also he has a sense of humor.

Here’s a guy who I wasn’t sure where to put.  Jeff Buckley’s music certainly contains elements of, for lack of a better term,  singer songerwriter-ness. That being said, he doesn’t really fit into folk or any other category for that matter.  His only album before his untimely death, Grace, was a masterpiece, including the best version of the classic Hallelujah ever  but I’m going to go with his “Lover You Should Have Come Over” to showcase Buckley’s own songwriting talents.

Pretty Lights

25 Sep

Tired, I had reached the stands and took a seat. The cookie slowly wearing off and the alcohol long gone, I now was overlooking the area were I had been dancing just before. The massive crowd of people pulsated like a giant dark blob which had entrapped dozens of glow sticks and now was showing them off. And for everyone making up this blob, the bass was going over all of their heads, literally. Sitting in my seat I felt like the bass was an invisible entity floating in front of me, yelling. At least it was in sync with the pretty lights.  Not long after I had sat down, the main stage emitted a thick cloud of fog, followed by lasers of quickly alternating color to illuminate it, creating probably the most memorable image of the night. As if an album cover had found its place in real life, this was literally a rainbow cloud.

This past Thursday, the electronic Musician named Pretty Lights came to Binghamton. The resulting concert was probably one of the best live events I have ever been to. He DJ’d all his music in amazing fashion, while his sound and lights guys made sure that the show was absolutely spectacular. Also, there was a ton of people and the venue was amazing.

Pretty Lights made sure to stress during the show something which I already knew. All of his music is Free. You can find it all on his beautifully designed website. That’s very generous of him considering its quality. I guess he is in it for the shows. Let me show you some of his music. He describes it as Electronic, hip-hop, soul. I’d say that’s pretty accurate, but you can be the judge too.

“Finally Moving” starts out with a guitar riff, but it is quickly evident that the song is electronic. Piano and even violin are accompanied by synths, sampled vocals, and electronic drums. The vocals definitely put the soul into the genre. The song is slow and relaxing, yet all the different parts of it create a wonderful atmosphere which easily transports you into some sort of imagination. The song is long and rightly justified in being so.

“Total Fascination” is the first song of Pretty Light’s which I was exposed to, and let me tell that not only was I hooked but completely fascinated. The song is definitely a single of sorts as it stands out heavily from the rest of his music. Again the gospel-esque vocals build an interesting beat up until synths are introduced and the song takes on an intense change for the better.

Dance music which makes you completely rock out is rare nowadays, but this would definitely be it. It is not repetitive like trance or techno and it is not over encumbered by lyrics like hip-hop. Pretty Lights’ music is the perfect mix of sounds and samples which has created a niche of its very own which no one expected. It is nothing groundbreaking or revolutionary, but rather perfect execution to the full extent of the saying. Also it is very good music to do your homework to.

&)

-oko

P.S. The picture at the top is from the show I was at. And here is a video.

Just Some More Musings

23 Sep

Things like Coldplay‘s first album, Parachutes, normally take a little while to catch on, but it was deservedly an overnight success and as spectacular as Parachutes was, each album has continued to build on the previous one.  At the beginning, their sound was simple, either a piano or acoustic guitar, electric guitar, drums and bass, but their most recent album and EP, Viva La Vida and Prospekt’s March, are soaring musical works with everything including the kitchen sink.  Sure there are some simpler songs on the album with less total instrumentation (Death and all His Friends), but the albums namesake, “Viva La Vida,” contains a full orchestra and multiple percussion parts and just sounds big.  One of the coolest things about Coldplay is that they have cool sounding music without sacrificing melodic hooks.

Muse lead singer is an enthusiastic conspiracy theorist and takes mushrooms recreationally to open his metaphoric third eye.  And, you can tell.  Lyrically, lead singer Matthew Bellamy conjures scary images of 1984 and a post apocalyptic tyranny while also suggesting that America needs to control Europe, the Middle East and Asia to secure an oil supply in United States of Eurasia in The Resistance.  Their best album, however, is Black Holes and Revelations, which contains both really cool sounds fans have come to expect of the band coupled with catchy hooks (just watch the video for Starlight below).  Musically, Muse uses effects, not only on guitar but also on bass and vocals, to conger images of what I can only imagine is an acid trip but a good one nonetheless.

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