Archive | November, 2012

Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013 is Coming to NYC

27 Nov

In Middle/High school, my friend Josh and I were firmly in the musical minority. While the musical tastes of others impulsively changed with the charts, we were staunch in our love for classic Blues. That love was engendered by Eric Clapton. As teens, we created a “Clapton is God” AOL blog page expressing our adoration for the guitar legend. It was crudely done, but the purpose was clear. While others looked up to Eminem, we looked up to Eric Clapton.

Clapton has always represented a prodigious musical skill that transcends music itself. Not many musicians can transform from musician to icon, and those that do are often outspoken and flashy. With the power of a remarkably proficient playing style and a granular, experienced voice, Clapton has shaped and transformed the Blues. He has carried the torch of his inspirations to a new generation of music lovers and players. Heck, when Josh first learned guitar he immediately explored hammer-ons and pull-offs because of the seminal opening riff of “Layla.”

Thus, when Josh and I have the opportunity to see Eric Clapton, we do. We are only in our early 20s, though, so we have seen Clapton three times (we are lucky that we are located in a concert hub like New York). Soon we will add a fourth concert to the list, and, wow, what a concert it will be.

I will say I am not sure any concert can trump the Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood show at the Izod Center (6/10/09). That concert also sparked my first review for the Music Court (can be accessed there).

The Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013 is coming to Madison Square Garden in April of 2013. Oddly enough, the first night of the two-night event falls on April 12, my friend Josh’s birthday. Quite a present, indeed. The Crossroads Guitar Festival is a triennial musical festival and benefit concert that features a hand-picked line-up of guitarists at Clapton’s discretion – so you can be assured it will be epic. The line-up has transformed since the first show in 2004. In 2010, the Festival was held in Chicago (also held in Illinois in 2007), and many of the artists that appeared in the 2010 show will perform at MSG in April.

The full list of performers (brace yourself) is:

  • Jeff Beck
  • Dave Biller
  • Booker T
  • Doyle Bramhall II
  • Allman Brothers Band
  • Gary Clark Jr.
  • Eric Clapton
  • Citizen Cope
  • Robert Cray
  • Andy Fairweather Low
  • Vince Gill
  • John Mayer
  • Blake Mills
  • Keb Mo
  • Brad Paisley
  • Robert Randolph
  • Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • Robbie Robertson
  • John Scofield
  • Keith Urban
  • Jimmy Vaughan
  • Buddy Guy
  • Allan Holdsworth
  • BB King
  • Earl Klugh
  • Sonny Landreth
  • Jonny Lang
  • Albert Lee
  • Los Lobos
  • Taj Mahal

Where do I begin? Seriously, it is like Thanksgiving dinner. There is turkey, stuffing, and sweet potato, and you just don’t know where to start. Luckily, the MSG stage will serve as a large plate and the audience will be able to feast their eyes AND ears on the music of these great musicians. Some artists serve obvious excitement. B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, and Albert Lee are legends. The Allman Brothers Band will make their first appearance at the Festival, and that has serious blow-your-socks off potential. Can I please ask for a rendition of “Layla” with Derek Trucks reprising Duane Allman’s role on slide guitar? I am also excited to see rising star Gary Clark Jr. play upon his Jimi Hendrix influence. I can just keep on saying I am also because I am excited about all acts.

It should be noted that all acts will NOT appear on both nights. With the amount of talent present, though, you will listen to something great! You will also be supporting a worthy cause. The Crossroads Centre, Antigua, was founded in 1998 to provide treatment to addicted individuals. As Clapton was once afflicted with addiction, this is a personal cause.

For those with tickets to the show, there will be free admission to a “Guitar Center Road to Crossroads Exhibition” which will feature a diverse display of guitar-related memorabilia including the “Legends Guitar Walk,” which will display some of the most expensive guitars in history. It’s like a mini Rock n’ Roll Hall-of-Fame exhibit on the Terrace Level of MSG. The exhibit opens at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 12 and 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 13.

Like the Guitar Fest on Facebook and follow it on Twitter.

TICKET INFORMATION: Tickets go on sale to the public this Friday (11/30) at Noon EST. They can be purchased at I will be on Ticketmaster frantically refreshing the page for tickets at 11:55 a.m.! See you there.


What to Expect (Musically) in the 2012 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

21 Nov

Even the balloons are stretching!

There is just something about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, now in its 86th year, that gets me excited. Even as I grow older, I still like waking up and turning on the parade coverage – switching back and forth between channels – while I settle down for a leisurely breakfast. Perhaps I like the parade because it is associated with a family feast later in the afternoon. A full-day of football follows the three-hour display of floats, balloons, and performances. Heck, even a dog show annually appears on NBC from 12-2 p.m.

Maybe my interest is simply with the parade itself. I am a fan of the widespread display of optimism, the bundled balloon handlers stumbling down sixth avenue, the elaborate floats crowded with celebrities and musicians, the marching bands, the Broadway music/dance acts – the whole kit and kaboodle. There are not many events associated with pure, unadulterated happiness. The parade is one of them. Now, I’ll admit, I do end up only watching around 30-45 minutes of it (unlike when I was a child) before using the off time to catch up on schoolwork or visit the gym in anticipation of the impending shameless familial gluttony, but I cannot help but smile when I turn on the parade in the morning, and kudos to Macy’s annual event for giving me that every year.


Note: For a full list of performers visit Wikipedia.

The big musical acts of the 2012 parade are Flo Rida, Trace Adkins, Colbie Caillat, Chris Isaak, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Karmin. Broadway is sending Annie, Bring It On, Elf, Cinderella, and Nice Work If You Can Get It.

There are several other acts, though, including two I will choose to feature: Mannheim Steamroller and Don McLean.

Mannheim Steamroller is best known for their modern recording of Christmas music. They made an appearance in the 2011 parade and played “Deck the Halls.” Since Thanksgiving is essentially pre-Christmas, it is fitting that they perform. Here is “Deck the Halls.”

While Arlo Guthrie is not listed as a performer this year, Don McLean will provide viewers with a live version of “American Pie,” which, like “Alice’s Restaurant” is just quintessentially American. McLean will appear on South Dakota’s float because, why not.

Follow the Wheel

19 Nov


Where do I begin with Johnny5thWheel&thecowards? Well, first off, I guess I should alert you that the lack of spaces in the name is intentional. Beyond that, I’m not sure that words can describe their blend of music. I’m making it seem like the band combines bodily grunts with kitchen appliance percussion. It’s not that their instrumentation is completely unconventional. Johnny5thWheel&thecowards captures the ears of listeners by employing a unique style that can best be described as eccentric folk. And, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. They are damn good at it.

Johnny5thWheel&thecowards was formed in 2009 by two friends looking to shake the usual out of folk music. They found a consortium of individuals who shared a similar goal. After releasing their succesful debut EP in 2010, the band was signed by Sotones Records. They released their second album, Music To Shake’n’Shuffle To, in October of this year.

Perhaps my favorite part of the 12-track release is its unexpectedness. Most bands have a sound and their albums reflect that sound. While track one, seven, and nine will obviously be different songs, they do operate under the same genre. Not many bands tinker with smooth jazz and then transition to hardcore head-banging metal. While the difference between Johnny5thWheel&thecowards’s songs may not be so pronounced, the songs are different. The music doesn’t operate under any boundaries, and I applaud the band’s creativity and fearlessness.

It is also safe to say that you will be on your heels for the entire album. You simply will not know what is going to hit you next. Will it be macabre folk, jazz-infused pop, or a light-hearted sing-along. The versatility of the vocals, lyrics, and melody is striking. One minute you are listening to Arthur Brown and then you transition to Modest Mouse. The music is fun.

“Happy Clappy/Doom Jazz” is one of my favorite tracks off the release. It depicts a wide variety of styles in less than three minutes. Impressive. We begin with a taste of twangy surf guitar followed by a folksy riff (guitar and harmonica – nice job Ollie Mason). Try not to enjoy the chorus of this song. I did. It’s impossible. The kid-like string of sayings fly off the tongue as Biff Roxby – trombone and Garreth Knott – trumpet/tenor horn provide an upbeat staccato brass section.

“Spike” may be my favorite song from the album. I’m not sure if it is Frank Beaver’s piano, Richard Lomax’s infectious vocal, Andy Lyth’s talented drumming, or the semi-call-and-response background vocals. By the end of the song, I was singing:

“Don’t be mad with me Spike
If you knew what I was really like
You’d know I’m just messing around
Thinking about that smile”

I’m sure you will be to.

In order to get a full grasp of the album, you need to check out the entire thing here (obviously!)

You can also keep track of the band by following their Facebook, Twitter, or offficial Website.

The Man With No Destination – Nicholas Burke

13 Nov

One of the reasons I love receiving coverage requests by exciting news bands and artists is that occasionally I come across a musician like Nicholas Burke. With your approval, I would like to shed my composed journalistic integrity for just one moment and resort to a brief outburst of inappropriate slang.

Holy Sh*t, this man can sing.

Well, now I have to back that up, right? Nick Burke is a California-born psychedelic/country musician. His music combines a sun-drenched acoustic guitar with an effortless baritone that emerges from the arid desert like a permanent mirage. Burke’s granular tone is oddly smooth (ignore the contradiction) and his voice features a subtle old-fashioned quiver much like one musician whom I will boldly compare Burke with in a few lines.

The Man With No Destination was released in September of 2012, a nine-track affair that Burke said was, “primarily recorded between the hours of 3 AM and 8 AM.” It “is a
cautionary tale of man living life after love.” On completion of the album, it is tempting to pick up the needle and delicately place it back on the initial groove, only to realize that the tracks are on the computer and to repeat the album double clicking the first song is all that is necessary. The temptation is there because the album itself sounds older than it actually is. Burke is able to capture the warm atmosphere of past country troubadours – most prominently Johnny Cash.

“The Man With No Destination,” the title track from the album, moves with the folksy, upbeat rhythm of acoustic guitars and chugging percussion. Burke comes in – his first line a restating of the song’s title – and instantaneously gathers the full attention of the listener. Johnny Cash was able to manipulate his croon and connect with listeners. Burke shares a similar quality.

“Adios, Goodbye” follows “The Man with No Destination.” It’s a short ditty, fit with a proficient whistle, that also features a neat echo drop and toe-tapping guitar strumming.

“It Ain’t Right” is a traditional country tune – with the twang and everything! But what remains most impressive, and I do not mean to belabor the point, is Burke’s rich, talented voice. It is just perfect for the type of music he is creating. While Burke may be The Man with No Destination, I know one place he should be – in your music library.

You can purchase his new album here.

Bonson Berner Beats

8 Nov

Bonson Berner, a Los Angeles-based Indie band, wonders How Can I Be an Immigrant If I’m On My Planet, the title of their new album. In a similar vein, I’m wondering how can I be a nomad if I have my own home. Okay, maybe that’s not too similar.

In 1988, glam-band Cinderella released “Don’t Know What You Got ‘Till It’s Gone,” and while the song is a classic example of terrible 80’s power ballads, they do make a good point. Hurricane Sandy knocked off the electricity in my house, and the power authority has yet to turn it back on. Thus, no heat or lights. I have become a nomad, traveling from home to home, crashing on couches (mainly) in exchange for affable company. Thus, posting has been difficult. It is eerie in New York. The last two weeks have gone by in slow motion, and, we can only hope that this weekend brings an end to this tired movement. Since I am currently in an area with internet connection, I do want to lose an opportunity to provide you with some great new music.

1988 also saw the release of the Talking Heads’ final album Naked. The 80s were not a complete wasteland for music. Bonson Berner, the band I would like to focus on today, plays a call-back style of music reminiscent of Talking Heads percussion and synth.

Bonson Berner is the product of musicians Pato Aloi, who, after forming an influential indie band in Argentina called Siga La Flecha, created a musical project with local musicians and titled the consortium Bonson Berner. How Can I Be an Immigrant If I’m On My Planet is the band’s first release, and it was produced in Argentina and Los Angeles.

“Running Days” moves with its inventive percussion and synth. Diego Cuevas, synth, and Blair Shotts, drums, lay an itinerant track that persists through the short piece with strength and toe-tapping rhythm. The percussion is what immediately reminded me of the Talking Heads, who also stressed constant rhythm in their songs. Gustavo Limon emphasized this rhythm in his guitar. The song, though, is carried by Aloi’s croon. In a style similar to The National’s Matt Berninger, Aloi’s voice masterfully rises and falls, and, much like the percussion, remains a constant force. The stop-motion video is well done and matches the song well.

“Movement 4” moves similarly, but it features more of a light South American guitar, which provides an intriguing juxtaposition between American and South American indie music elements.

Listen to more of Bonson Berner’s new album

Check out their Facebook and Website

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