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February 3, 2009

bonnaroo does it again

bonnaroo does it again
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i’m consistently amazed at how the superfly and AC entertainment folks manage to pull together incredible lineups year after year for the bonnaroo music & arts festival. from snoop dogg to merle haggard, the lineup is all over the place—all over the place in that good “holy crap, how am i going to decide between this tent or that tent?” kind of way.

i’ll be heading down to the farm for my sixth bonnaroo. the only bad part is having to wait until june.

here’s the official promo video, released earlier today.

Posted in: music
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March 30, 2008

it tolls for thee

it tolls for thee
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bell x1
café du nord
san francisco, ca
2008-03-26

sometimes i look for a show just to fill a gap in the calendar. such was the case when i decided to see Bell X1 (hate the name, btw) after reading the café du nord calendar email recently. not sure what made me click through to read about this band, but i did and the blurb was interesting enough for me to click through to the myspace page and listen to a few tracks. i liked what i heard and decided to fill up wednesday night, march 26. oddly, the opening band had a six degrees of separation (more like three) connection to me and my band from back in the day. i was more familiar with the two musicians—blake hazard and jack dragonetti—that comprise the submarines than i was with Bell X1 (really don’t like that name), but unfortunately i didn’t make it in to see anything but the final minute of the submarines’ set. next time.

so, Bell X1. they’re irish. and, of course, any irish band is going to invite comparisons with other irish bands (i don’t know why this is, but it is). but i don’t think i was imagining things when i heard traces of hothouse flowers (the rolling piano licks that drive some of the tunes) and U2 (some anthemic choruses on a bed of shimmering guitar lines) throughout the night. what really struck me on occasion, however, was the similarity of paul noonan’s voice to that of gord downie of the tragically hip. in fact, i didn’t make the connection until just now listening back as i write this. it drove me crazy all night during the show.

other musical reference points are midlake (again, the piano might be the common ground, but there’s a shared overall vibe as well) and oddly, at times, siren-era roxy music. there was even a moment in “flame” where the vocal melody line was aping the talking heads’ “girlfriend is better.” (and noonan had quoted three lines from “once in a lifetime” earlier in the set) and oddly, i found myself thinking of “axe victim”-era be bop deluxe during “white water song.” together, all of these aural reference points, influences or not, make a pretty interesting stew. irish stew, to be precise.

i like this band. there is an earnestness that doesn’t feel calculated or silly—just honest. and though i wholeheartedly recommend and support changing the band name, it isn’t likely given the amount of success they’ve had in ireland and europe (i was reminded of this by bbernardini over on DIME).

here’s the second song of the set, “My First Born for a Song.”

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March 25, 2008

to hype or nosferatu hype? that is the question

to hype or nosferatu hype? that is the question
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vampire weekend
the rickshaw stop
san francisco, ca
2008-03-23

as the subtitle to my blog says, this is a place for ‘live music and liberal rants.’ i’ll be the first to admit that it’s been a little light on the former and heavy on the latter of late. that doesn’t mean that i haven’t been keeping up my usual insane schedule of seeing live music. au contraire, mon frere (ou soeur). it just means that in recent months i’ve been particularly aggravated by both republicans and democrats. which is probably why i’m not affiliated officially with any political party. don’t get me wrong… i love a good party. which is why i go to see so much live music.

in the coming days, i’m going to be posting lots of clips from my huge backlog of shows. big microscope will train its lens on recent (and not so recent) appearances by the charlie hunter trio, rickie lee jones, dumpstaphunk, the gourds, explosions in the sky and iron and wine. well, some of those at least.

but today’s clip comes from a show i attended last sunday at the rickshaw stop (a very cool little club, btw) by the relentlessly hyped vampire weekend.

i went into this show expecting unbelievably great things. so that might explain why i was underwhelmed. after reading all of the hype and hearing nothing but raves from folks who had heard the record, i decided a few months ago (when i bought tickets to this show) to keep myself in a bubble and not listen to any VW (studio album or live shows or youtube videos or anything) until this night. i’m glad i did because i think it allowed me to evaluate this band on the criteria that mean the most to me: are they dynamic live performers? are their songs compelling in a stripped-down live setting? is there tonal variety to the overall ‘sound’ of the artist/band?

while i enjoyed the show, i thought the songs all began to sound the same after a while. there was never any variation in the guitar tone (i understand that this is intentional… the african influence is a deliberate ‘signature’ of the band’s sound). but that just made me hunger for another guitar in the mix. the guys were as pleasant as can be in terms of onstage demeanor… no “we’re the next big thing” swagger, which was refreshing. but it also added to the overall feeling that another year of playing columbia frat parties might have been a good thing for them in terms of developing a broader stylistic range.

i think it will be interesting to see what this band sounds like in three years—if they make it that far.

the complete show from the rickshaw stop can be downloaded here if you do the bit torrent thing.

here’s a sample: a new song of theirs, called “little giant” (if missmodernage over at youtube knows what she’s talking about).

Posted in: music
November 13, 2007

elvis has left the building

elvis has left the building
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but before he did, man did he put on an amazing show.

i’m talking about the once-in-a-lifetime (okay, twice. there was an early and a late show) event that happened last thursday night here in san francisco. elvis costello played live with the now-defunct band, clover, for the first time ever. why is that significant? because clover was his backing band on what is arguably one of the finest debut albums ever made, “my aim is true.” i won’t clutter this post with the details of how that all came to be; it’s documented many places, including here.

for those of us lucky enough to have been in attendance (luck plus $100), the show was nothing short of revelatory. you didn’t even have to be an elvis fan (i am) to have appreciated what was going down that night. elvis was so clearly moved by both the opportunity to rekindle a magical musical relationship after 30 years (30 years!) and to help out a dear friend’s charitable organization (the richard delone special housing project), that he gave what must have been one of the most heartfelt performances of his long and illustrious career.

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Posted in: music
June 12, 2007

tennessee, tennessee. ain’t no place i’d rather be (for a few days, anyway)

tennessee, tennessee. ain’t no place i’d rather be (for a few days, anyway)
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tomorrow evening i’ll be winging my way east on a red-eye flight to nashville via charlotte (and yes, i know about the shortest distance between two places thing. i also know about the cheapest flight thing) to meet friends, pick up a car and head down to manchester, tennessee on thursday morning. that must mean it’s bonnaroo time.

this will be my fourth pilgrimage to the farm (700 acres of tree-sprinkled grassland; superfly productions actually bought it outright prior to this year’s festival) and i have to cop to a bit of obsessive behavior about bonnaroo. there are very few times during the year that i am not thinking about bonnaroo in some way, shape or form. i find it to be an incredibly efficient means of witnessing a lot of incredible music in a short period of time, a great way to reconnect with friends i don’t get to see that often, and a catalyst for wiping the mental slate clean.

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Posted in: music