as a professional voice actor represented by look talent in san francisco, i have had the great fortune of working on everything from the national TV spots for franklin templeton
big microscope is primarily a vehicle for me to share my concert experiences with you. i try to record most shows i see, always with deference to the artist’s policy
ah yes, politics. it used to be that politics was not a proper subject for polite conversation. but the great divider and his crew of class-A assholes kind of ruined
karl denson’s tiny universe & anders osborne
san francisco, ca usa
when this show was first announced, i didn’t pay much attention. sure it looked like an interesting idea, but not enough to make me run out (or rather, click over) and buy tickets. i’m talking about the karl denson/anders osborne tour, wherein the two collaborate on a complete run-through of the classic rolling stones album “sticky fingers.” don’t get me wrong. i love the stones and that album is a personal favorite…probably just behind “exile on main street” and “beggars banquet” in my top 10 stones albums list (what—doesn’t everyone have one of those?).
one of the reasons for my reticence was that i had (unfairly, i’ve now come to realize) always thought of karl denson’s tiny universe as one of those 3rd- or 4th-tier jam bands. i, of course, was basing that judgment not on any firsthand experience, but from the general perspective of a snobbish deadhead. (and yes, i understand how that might seem like an oxymoron to some folks.) i thought of karl as a horn player who sat in with other jam bands; his own thing couldn’t possibly be that interesting, could it? well, yes. yes it could. more on that in a minute. as for anders osborne, well i thought i knew a thing or two about him too, musical omnivore that i am. he was the guitar player in the early 90s alt-country band varnaline, right? wrong. that was anders parker. parker, osborne…you’ve seen one anders you’ve seen ‘em all, right? again, wrong. in fact, this was a night where all of my preconceptions were dead wrong. i love it when that happens.
anders opened the show with his trio and delivered a blistering 45-minute set that left many of us scratching our heads in amazement after the band left the stage. what we’d witnessed was what new orleans natives have known for a long time: this motherfucker is for real. blues, rock, psychedelia, balladry—you name it he can play it. and he can sing it. and apparently he can write it too, because other than a 10-minute scorching run through the CSNY classic, “ohio,” his set was drawn from all original material. i’m glad it wasn’t anders parker after all (even though i liked varnaline when i saw them open for son volt years ago), because anders osborne is my new favorite guitar hero. go see him if you can.
next up was the main event, at least in terms of how the show was billed. after a 25-minute break, anders came back out with karl denson’s tiny universe and launched into “brown sugar.” what followed was a mostly-exhilarating recreation, track-by-track, of “sticky fingers.” the songs were faithful recreations for the most part, jammed out at appropriate times, but delivered with clear love and reverence for the tunes. karl did most of the singing (who knew he sang? anybody who’s seen him before, i suppose) which might have been my only complaint. some of the tunes could have used anders’ more refined and polished voice. but all in all it was a killer set. karl’s guitar player, DJ williams, was a perfect foil for anders, giving the songs a funky variation on the richards/taylor vibe of early 70s stones. highlights included the “can’t you hear me knocking” linked at the end of this post. would love to hear this band keep chugging through “goat’s head soup” in 2012. good stuff.
the biggest surprise of the night, however, was the KDTU set to close the show. after another 20-25-minute break, it was time for what tiny universe heads have been crowing about for years: a funked-up hour-plus set of surprisingly great original tunes. i honestly can’t recall a highlight for a couple of reasons: i don’t know the band’s material at all and therefore couldn’t identify a tune to single out; and i was having such a sustained good time that, from start to finish, there weren’t any lows that would have accentuated a high point.
rumor has it the tour will be hitting the east coast for more dates in 2012. i can’t recommend the show highly enough.
the palace of fine arts theater
san francisco, ca usa
when it was first announced that todd rundgren would be performing his classic “a wizard a true star” album in its entirety for the first time ever, rundgren fans everywhere began to quiver in anticipation. where would the shows be? (the first rumor was london only.) who would be in the band? (could this be the long-awaited utopia reunion?) what else would be played that night, given the LP is only 50 minutes in length? (a solo set of hits? utopia’s greatest misses? another run through of “arena“?)
as the rumors turned into reality, most of the questions were answered: the shows would happen in the midwest where they’d been orginally conceived by fans (rundgrenradio.com). the band would be rundgren’s usual suspects (some ex-utopia folks, other veterans from todd solo tours, greg hawkes from the cars/new cars, etc.). and that first set? a spin through some utopia chestnuts. all in all, it promised to be a grand thing. and as the reports came in from the september shows in akron, chicago, minneapolis and a few other towns, fans were raving.
then came the announcement that todd would bring AWATS to the west coast. and in SF, it would be the palace of fine arts, the site of rundgren’s live recording of the “2nd wind” album back in the early 90s. could it get any better, we thought? no, it couldn’t. and so we bought tickets dead center orchestra in the first several rows and waited for todd to come to town.
pink floyd, that is. the floyd were one of my favorite bands growing up…and i’d still put at least three of their albums in my top 100 list if i were ever forced to make one. but the ‘real pink floyd’ disappeared a long time ago in a huge explosion of acrimony between roger waters and the rest of the band. david gilmour tried to keep the pig afloat, so to speak, through a couple of mediocre albums and bloated tours. waters, on the other hand, kept the creative juices flowing with some occasionally inspired solo albums, but the phrase “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” has never been more apt than when describing pink floyd.
one of my greatest regrets in a life full of amazing live music memories is not seeing pink floyd in their heyday. back in 1977, as an already-music-obsessed 13-year-old, i was living in atlanta, georgia. in the span of one week, both led zeppelin and pink floyd rolled through town, both playing at the omni. the pink floyd show, however, was on a school night. and as cool as my mom was back then, there were a few rules. and late-night concerts on school nights were generally verboten. led zeppelin, on the other hand, were playing on a saturday night. so i got to see the mighty zep, but missed out on floyd’s “in the flesh” tour in support of the album “animals.” in hindsight, i’d have to say i made the right choice. word on the street was that pink floyd got booed for not playing loud enough, and waters’ bitterness toward rowdy audiences was what inspired “the wall.”
all of which makes for a rather lengthy intro to the video posted below. last tuesday, i went to the beautiful fox theater in oakland to see the australian pink floyd show (TAPFS). now, i’m not normally one for ‘tribute’ bands. but after discovering the truly amazing dark star orchestra a couple of years ago, i’m no longer a dismissive snob. well, about tribute bands anyway. so after reading and hearing about TAPFS for a couple of years, i thought “what the hell.” sometimes a ‘have a cigar’ is just a ‘have a cigar’.
i have to say that i came away mightily impressed. i don’t think i’d go see them again; for my money, it’s not that kind of a band or show (though i met a few people there who had seen them multiple times). but for a one-off, it was an incredible night of music. a live greatest hits, if you will. highlights for me were the selections from “animals” (“pigs (three different ones)” and “sheep”), a stunning “shine on you crazy diamond (parts I-V),” and stirring versions of earlier works “set the controls for the heart of the sun,” and “one of these days.”
these days i’m carrying around a flip HD video camera to record small snippets of shows. i managed to keep the arm steady for the entire performance of “time,” and thought i’d share it with my faithful big micro readers. (all five of you.) enjoy.
(note: i’m going to be testing out the posterous-to-wordpress integration over the next few posts in an effort to jumpstart my rather dormant blogging efforts.)
posterous (www.posterous.com) is a pretty interesting proposition: post just about anything anywhere via email. now, wordpress is incredibly easy to use as is, but sometimes adding media files gets a bit cumbersome. posterous allows you to link your various social media accounts (e.g. facebook, flickr, tumblr, etc.)—as well as your blog—via their APIs, and then upload posts and files just by sending an email. cool stuff. so here’s the inaugural test from big microscope. i’m dipping back into my audio archives to a show i recorded in 2001.
san francisco, ca
i was right in the middle of a very dense, very drunk, very loud crowd. not ideal for recording, but hey, it was an old 97’s show. i should have been a human bobblehead, bouncing and careening to the overdriven twang lickfest. the old 97’s are always great, but this was a great period for a great band. "satellite rides" was going to be the big breakthrough after the crossover success of "Fight Songs," but somehow greater exposure/recognition never happened. rhett’s solo career also began around this time, so perhaps that contributed to the relative stall in the 97’s rise in popularity.
i’ve seen the old 97’s probably 10 times over the years and this stands out in my memory (and upon listening back) as one of the better performances. great set list too. here’s a sample track, "Big Brown Eyes." the full show can be downloaded over at DIME if you have an account: http://www.dimeadozen.org/torrents-details.php?id=259565
ps. yes, it bothers me that the old 97’s insist on using the apostrophe in their name. no, i’m not that much of a grammar cop to copy edit the name of a band, no matter how much it galls me to type it that way. i guess i can justify it mentally by thinking to myself "well, the band is ‘possessive’ about their incorrect spelling, so i’m going to let this one pass."