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Warning: Not for Children

18 Nov

There’s going to be a slight tangent tonight.  Instead of my usual spiel about music and attempting to place it in some sort of musical metaphor, I’m going to talk about bits.  More specifically, I’m going to talk about my favorite men (not a sexist term because this list is solely men) of comedy and hope benevolent editor Matt Coleman is cool with it.

3. My newest addition to this list, Daniel Tosh, wasn’t at all like I expected him to be.  Having seen “Mind of Mencia” and “The Sarah Silverman Show,” it seemed to me that Tosh. O (and its host) would do what all the other Comedy Central shows had done: try so hard to be funny that they forget how to do it.  But that isn’t the case at all.  Tosh’s standup combines two of my favorite things: politically incorrect humor and witty observation.  At no point can Tosh be considered politically correct because his comedy delves straight into the realm of insulting and yet, he doesn’t spit out insults for insults sake.  His incorrect jokes are normally grounded in witty observation which is what makes them so damn funny.

2.  Bill Hicks is a paradox, sort of like a warrior poet influenced by both the beautiful and brutal.  On hand hand, Bill was one of the greatest political satirists of all time, looking at political topics, consumerism and culture through the most cynical of views.  His ranting and raving as if his blood was boiling is stuff of legends.  And yet his message, which emerges out of the flames, is the exact opposite of his act.  Whereas his act is chaotic, almost violent, directed at things he views as violent, stupid and unauthentic, his message was one of compassion, lashing into such topics as war with such ferocity you might think he was fighting one.  He espoused freedom from oppression, doing the right thing so I say that  Bill Hicks was just as much a philosopher as comedian, his great treatises not bound volumes but comedy… with some dick jokes thrown in.

1.  The funniest man I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching, hands down, is George Carlin.  Like Hicks, Carlin explored topics outside of the mainstream and critiqued things such as the political system, religion and corporations and yet whereas that is mostly what Hicks did, Carlin also provided witty observations on both language and psychology.  But I can’t really explain just how funny this man is you will just have to see for yourself.

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Musical Nostalgia

14 Nov

Very recently I’ve been had some musical nostalgia, if you will.  At a young age I remember spending time in my basement, playing around with a boom box (it was the nineties after all) that we had down there.  Sometimes I’d listen to Yankee games on the radio, sometimes children’s stories on tape andsometimes I’d pull down the albums my parents seemed to have a particular affinity to.

I don’t know what drove me to listen to the Counting Crows.  The only upbeat song on their entire first album, August and Everything After, is their most recognizable song (“Mr. Jones”) yet it was the song “Round Here” that my parents refused to play on repeat for me and I know I didn’t get what they were singing about back then because I’m only getting the faintest inkling of understanding today.  And in spite of what may have driven me to the contrary, I listened to this album backwards and forwards more time before I was out of elementary school than most Counting Crows fans will listen to it in their lifetime. Every once in a while, I’ll (metaphorically) pull out this album and play it and pick up pieces of my childhood.

This one I don’t think my parents really listened to but I still picked it up anyway because I thought listening to Billy Joel would make me cool.  I liked how it sounded punk and the front cover was pretty bad ass for a 8 year old.  Whereas with the Counting Crows I go back and discover something new, I never really went back with this album. Until recently, of course.  And I was surprised that it wasn’t what I had remembered it to be.  Since my younger days, I’ve listened to pretty much all other Billy Joel albums, from the ballad heavy Cold Spring Harbor and Piano Man to the more thoughtful River of Dreams and I had assumed it just naturally fell as part of a progression.  But it’s not.  I didn’t realize how much more of a punk album it is than any of his other stuff, with Joel’s lead piano focused mainly on rhythm or left out all together.  It’s worth a listen, even if you don’t like Joel, because it’s something different.

Great Acoustic Guitarists

11 Nov

If you’re lost, just read the title.  It’s short, sweet and right to the point about certain guys you don’t normally hear about and about guys that make me realize that there are heights that I can never reach as a guitarist, even if I played every hour of everyday for the rest of my life.

There’s a story that’s been lost in the annals of history.  I don’t even believe it’s true but Phil Keaggy’s talent makes it remotely possible.  The story goes that Hendrix asked what is was like to be the greatest guitarist in the world and said something to the tune of I don’t know-ask Phil Keaggy.  The first time I ever heard Keaggy was when I was listening a Dispatch live album, and his skill and melodic lines just blew me away.  Just wait until Keaggy plays (he’s the old guy in the video).  I think it’s one of the sweetest sounding solos I have ever heard.

Nobody, NOBODY, plays like Andy McKee.  The man can hold down a drum part on his guitar.  I will repeat that.  He makes the guitar into a bongo.  And what makes it all the more incredible is that tapping on the body of the guitar doesn’t interfere with him doing things like fretting entire chords or playing a melody simply by tapping it out without a strum.  Pretty great stuff.

Now the following video I think I first discovered as a “greatest guitarist ever” link and I was intrigued and while he may not go down the greatest guitarist ever the following song by John Butler alone should place him among the best.  The dude taps out a rhythm and melody at the same time without missing a beat.  The only thing that bothered me about the video is his nails, but you all can exhale, their fake because as you will see he just hits the strings so damn hard.

Higher and Higher: Passion Pit, the Concert Review

7 Nov

Hey devoted followers and fair weathered readers, you may have noticed I’m taking a slight break from my normal column to delve into the wide world of concert reviews.  I’d heard mixed reviews of seeing Passion Pit live but they left no doubts that they can put on one hell of a show.

I’d like to digress for just a little, though, to give a shout out to the opening band, We Barbarians.  The opener for the last show in the same venue, whose name I won’t speak, left a lot to be desired, mostly an hour of my life that I could never get back so I was slightly biased.  The Barbarians, however, forced me to reconsider what I had previously learned and I think you should check them out above this.  Take a look at this link for some pictures of the venue (Cornell University) and the show itself (Barton Hall).

Now, on to the main attraction.  Let me set the stage for you.  We Barbarians finishes playing at 9 and it’s 9:30.  In a space meant for 1,000, you’re surrounded by 4,999 people who want nothing more than to get closer to you than your girlfriend.  You’re sweating from places you didn’t know you could sweat from and smoke hangs in the air from both the smoke machines and the kids smoking weed in a 360 degree radius surrounding you.  Needless to say, you’re quite hot and bothered.  And then the music starts and, if only for an hour, you and the crowd are no longer at odds with each other but become one in the same pursuit.

For one thing, I was really surprised with lead singer’s Michael Angelakos’ stage presence and stage act.  From the first song he was interacting with the crowd, having us sing along, a trend which he continued for the entire evening.  Also, despite not playing an instrument for most of the show, he did include theatrics in his stage act, such as twirling, throwing and catching his microphone, reminiscent of Roger Daltrey of the Who.

Also, I was really impressed with the band’s ability to recreate their very electronic sound on stage.  The band did a really good job of switching instruments to replicate multiple parts and Angelakos’ high pitched, falsetto vocals sound the exact same as they do on record.  You could tell the band was having fun on stage and that energy kept the crowd jumping, dancing and just grooving to the music.  Go see them, it’s worth it.

Mrs. Robinson, Are You Trying to Seduce Me?

3 Nov

People of today, Lady Gaga isn’t the first one to push boundaries of what we are willing to accept from our stars in terms of eccentricity.  Elton John started blazing trails of strange looking clothing, obnoxiously large earrings and oversized sunglasses back in the 70s, and his reign as a pop icon has lasted for more than four decades.  Just to give you some perspective on how popular he is, here are some stats I find unbelievable.  He’s sold more than 250 million albums, putting him in the same class as Elvis, the Beatles, Michael Jackson and the Rolling Stones; those numbers helped by his seven straight number one albums in the US. Oh, in case you weren’t impressed enough, his tribute to Princess Dianna A Candle in the Wind, sold 33 million (THAT’S RIGHT 33 MILLION) copies.  (To put that in perspective, it takes one million copies sold to make a record platinum certified and five million to make it diamond certified.)  He’s still relevant too, check out Elton at the Grammys with Eminem.

They probably consider themselves a folk duo, but Simon and Garfunkel are pretty much everything a pop band should be.  From the folk mold, they sampled acoustic instrumentation, simple harmonies and traditional song structure.  But folk in many cases had become political (like Dylan) or attempted to emulate the common man by sounding like him (like Woodie Guthrie) or was rough around the edges (like Pete Seeger), yet Simon and Garfunkel inherited none of these characteristics.  Their songs are finely polished and record not man at his most weary, but man at a stage of perfection, with graceful harmonies that are caressing enough to put a baby to sleep.

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