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Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013 – TONIGHT!

12 Apr

eric-clapton-crossroads

 

One of my students recently celebrated a birthday. The day before her birthday was the “day of anticipation.” I thought that was an elegant way to describe her excitement, and, with all the credit to her, I will now sample the phrase and admit that this moment is of potent anticipation. In less than five hours, I will be among a full crowd of music lovers for Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013 at Madison Square Garden.

As I wrote back in November, my buddy Josh and I have envied those who attended past Crossroads festivals (watching videos of the ethereal artist combinations) since Clapton first started this charity concert. Now, finally, we will attend (the concert is in our backyard, so to speak). While I have seen Clapton three times, I am assured that tonight will be a different experience. The line-up is freakishly good. The concert, which will run for 4.5 hours, will be the best representation of musical firmament. As you can tell by my effusive excitement, I am ready for this show.

It is also wonderful to be supporting Clapton’s Crossroads Centre in Antigua. Clapton was once afflicted with addiction, and the Crossroads Centre was founded in 1998 to provide treatment to addicted individuals. The festival proceeds tonight support the centre.

You can follow the Crossroads Social Media feed on Facebook and Twitter. If you were lucky enough to score tickets to the show (it was a harrowing experience, trust me), ENJOY! I will be there rocking out from my seat.

Be sure to expect a review of the show in the coming days.

 

The Incredibly Diverse SummerStage Showcase – January 10

4 Jan

City Parks Foundation Summerstage

The New York City Parks Foundation founded SummerStage in 1986 with the intention of providing genre-bending lineups to New York City’s diverse communities. Since its inception, it has done just that, providing New Yorkers with premium entertainment that has now stretched to more than 100 performances to 18 parks throughout the five boroughs. If you live in the New York area and you have not taken advantage of this program, 2013 is a great year to jump on board. Still not sure. Well, let me do a little convincing.

SummerStage will present the 2013 Showcase on Thu, Jan. 10 at Highline Ballroom. The show will serve up an intriguing appetizer of the upcoming 2013 season of SummerStage. Tickets are $25 in advance/$30 at the door. The doors open at 6 p.m. and the jam-packed concert begins at 6:30 p.m. For more information visit http://highlineballroom.com or SummerStage’s website (link above).

The concert will feature R&B legend Shuggie Otis, Pop/Rock group People Get Ready, enigmatic soul singer/producer Ofei, Kosher Gospel singer Joshua Nelson and Hip/Hop pioneer DJ Kool Herc. R&B/Pop/Rock/Soul/Gospel/Hip-Hop. If that’s not a true musical amalgamation, I don’t know what is. Let’s delve a little deeper into these artists.

Shuggie Otis

Shuggie, the son of the godfather of R&B Johnny Otis (who passed away last year), is an incredibly talented musician whose indelible impact on music influenced all artists he came in contact with including future generations of musicians (Prince, for example). He is an musician’s musician, one who is touted by his peers but not often recognized by the fans. Part of this is due to his reclusiveness. But 2013 will see Otis tour again, and he will grace the Highline Ballroom stage in what is a much-anticipated performance. Otis is perhaps best known for writing “Strawberry Letter #23,” a big R&B/Funk hit for the Brothers Johnson in 1977. As the son of Johnny Otis, Shuggie balanced his tremendous knowledge of jazz, blues, and early R&B, with his love for the music of his contemporaries (Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone), and he brewed these diverse influences into his music. He is a multi-instrumentalist, but his main tool is the guitar, which he excels in.

People Get Ready

People Get Ready is a Brooklyn-based foursome formed by Steven Reker and Luke Fasano in 2009. Reker and Fasano met at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Reker was dancing and playing guitar on David Byrne’s 2008-2009 world tour and Fasano was playing percussion with his then-band Yeasayer. They joined forces in an effort to bring together performance art and music. Jen Goma (A Sunny Day In Glasgow) and James Rickman (Slow Gherkin) joined in the summer of 2010. The band’s effervescent music is marked with solid harmonies and Vampire Weekend-esque guitar riffs, and this matches there bubbly style on stage.

Ofei

All people really know about Ofei is that which his music describes, and this abstruse London musician would like to keep it this way. His music, though, says a lot, and the UK music scene is certainly enjoying it. “London” features Ofei’s soul-saturated voice mixed with processed vocals over a fresh piano riff. The combination (with video) creates an esoteric piece that is oddly infectious.

Joshua Nelson

Joshua Nelson creates an elegant mixture of Jewish religious lyrics with American Gospel sounds. These ingredients, combined with his extraordinary, passionate vocal, form a deeply religious sound that oozes with ardor and excitement – ‘Kosher Gospel’.  I urge you to read his biography. His story is fascinating. As a boy, he attended synagogue with his family, observant Jews who trace their lineage back to Senegal.

DJ Kool Herc

Before there was “Rapper’s Delight” and artists like Grandmaster Flash, there were individuals pioneering the genre of music that would become known as Hip/Hop. In 1972, DJ Kool Herc, a Jamaican-born American DJ, introduced what he called ‘the merry-go-round’ into his sets. Listen to him describe it below:

Utter genius. By focusing on the breaks, DJ Kool Herc gave dancers a constant flow of percussion. The foundation of Hip/Hop. As he performed, he would speak to his crowd of dancers in slang rhymes like “B-boys, b-girls, are you ready? keep on rock steady” and “This is the joint! Herc beat on the point” “To the beat, y’all!” “You don’t stop.” The b-boys and girls were dancers in his breaks. ‘Breaking’ at the time was slang for getting excited. Breakdancing (term was coined by media in the 80s.)

DJ Kool Herc is legendary, and you can see him live!

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 www.ticketmaster.com. I will be on Ticketmaster frantically refreshing the page for tickets at 11:55 a.m.! See you there.

Lower Your Eyelids at Central Park Summerstage

8 Aug

You have heard of M83 (named after the galaxy Messier 83). If you don’t think you have, you have. Trust me. If you listened to music last year, it was difficult to avoid “Midnight City,” the huge hit off of M83’s 2011 album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. The album was the biggest success for the French electronic band, although they have released six albums to date. Six albums and a lot of good music.

See? I told you. With more than 14 million Facebook views, it is easy to confirm that the song was/is quite popular. In a few hours I am going to the M83 show at Central Park Summerstage, and I’m not quite sure what to expect. M83 plays an infectious brand of shoegaze electronic music that combines crescendoing, heavenly melodies with Anthony Gonzalez’s smooth vocals. Because of the success of  “Midnight City” and the whole synthpop infused double album, I’m not sure what the crowd is going to look like. My guess is an overwhelmingly young crowd with a mix of true M83 devotees and recent fans. Oh, and there will certainly be costumes by the band and flashing lights. A lot of flashing lights.

I was introduced to M83 by Okocim. He will be joining me for the concert tonight. He showed me the band in college and I immediately became hooked by one song in particular, the lengthy last track of M83’s 2005 album Before the Dawn Heals Us. The song that intrigued me was “Lower Your Eyelids to Die With the Sun.” It still remains my favorite song from the band. I know that I will probably not hear the track tonight, but I can still show it to you folks.

The piece struck a chord with me mainly because of its repetitive creativity. I love how Gonzalez lays out the piece, combining rising elements until it forms a wave of sound that hits hard. It is what I would consider an epic piece (and perfect for a movie). You can just imagine something glorious happening as this plays. I know that M83 with most likely open the show with “Intro,” the first track off of their new album, but a taste of this piece would work even better (in my opinion of course). Now enjoy the song, and I will have a review up of the concert soon.

Coldplay Plays the Izod Tonight – August 3 – Great Cover of Fix You

3 Aug

Why does Coldplay get such a bad rap? It’s an odd phenomenon. I’ve heard a lot of “old” Coldplay fans say that current albums have become loud, mainstream messes, and thus they have been turned off by the band. You see, I actually see it differently. I think Coldplay is a perfect example of a band that can bend mainstream music to fit their own brand of piano-infused spacious rock. I think they have found a way to be mainstream relevant (duets with Jay Z and Rhianna, for example), and still extraordinarily talented. Since 1996, Coldplay has been creating infectious pop/rock tunes, and they have gained a growing following that mixes young and old listeners. Their music is enjoyable and marketable. We should be commending them, not censuring them.

I will be making the traffic-fueled trip from Long Island to New Jersey tonight to see Coldplay on night one of their two-day sojourn at the Izod center. I have peeked at the set-lists of recent performances, and they perform a mix of material from their new album Mylo Xyloto and some staples like “Fix You,” “The Scientist,” and “Clocks.” I wonder if they might change it up a little bit since they are performing two nights. As long as they play my favorite Coldplay song, “The Scientist,” I will be happy.

To prepare myself for the concert tonight, I’ve been listening to some Coldplay songs (even though it does seem rather ridiculous because I am going to hear them all again later). As I was listening to “Fix You,” I came across an excellent cover performed by Boyce Avenue, a band of three multi-instrumentalist brothers from Florida. They play this cover of “Fix You” with Tyler Ward, and demonstrate excellent vocal harmonies. And, damn, it doesn’t matter who performs it, that climaxing guitar riff in the middle of the song is so incredible. It was really a strike of genius from Coldplay. Chris Martin, lead vocalist of Coldplay, wrote this lyric for his wife, actress Gwyneth Paltrow, when her father died.  He has called the song, “the most important song we’ve ever written.”

Here is the cover by Boyce Avenue. Enjoy.

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