Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Yonder Mountain String Band

Woohoo! I just bought tickets to see Yonder Mountain String Band at City Hall in downtown Nashville. This is in addition to the TV On the Radio show I bought tickets for a few days ago.

Unfortunately, I had to use Ticketmaster. So, for $40 worth of tickets, I ended up paying $62.50. That’s more than 50% in fees and taxes. It’s absolute highway robbery. It’s $6.95 per ticket, plus tax, plus a nebulous $4.95 charge for something, and then $2.50 to EMAIL me the tickets. That charge to email something is just amazing, especially considering that they put ads in the files which they email.

It’s a testament to Yonder Mountain String Band’s draw that I would put up with Ticketmaster’s bullshit. Why can’t someone take these guys out of the market?

TV on the Radio

I’m finally going to get to see TV on the Radio live. They are playing at the Mercy Lounge in Nashville in March. I’ve already ordered the tickets. I really up they live up to the hype in my head.

R.E.M. Rocks My Face

I set out yesterday across the state to visit Athens, GA. My plans included catching a R.E.M. tribute show at the 40 Watt. I was looking forward to seeing Five Eight, Patterson Hood and Modern Skirts play the songs of R.E.M. Five Eight has long been my favorite band, second only to R.E.M. Patterson Hood leads my beloved Drive-By Truckers and Modern Skirts are an up and coming group that is going to be huge. With this in mind, my wife and I scuttled through the rain back to our alma mater. We were looking forward to a fun night out and maybe some neat surprises on the stage. When we were checking into the hotel, the desk clerk and I talked about why I was in town and she said that there had been tons of people coming into the hotel for the show. It was a small clue as to what the night might hold, but we had no idea what was waiting for us.

The tribute was set up to raise charity for two worthy causes in Athens: Family Connection and Community Connection. The night included raffles and auctions of R.E.M. memorabilia and also featured quite a few clips from the new DVD and CD retrospective of their years with I.R.S. Records. The crowd spanned all ages and types of music fans. The varied bands on the schedule and the fact that it was R.E.M. meant that the crowd was eclectic to say the least.

The mood started off very low-key with Claire Campbell, a folk artist with which I was unfamiliar, interpreting two songs using a saw and a busker’s dance. It was an odd start to a rock show. Then, with no notice and no introduction, the unbelievable happened.

Through the curtain at the back of the stage strode the four members of R.E.M. and they launched into “Begin the Begin.” The scene went from low-key and jovial to absolutely euphoric. Every face in the place had a smile on it. The most amazing bit was seeing Bill Berry on the drums. After his illness and subsequent retiring from the band, it’s clear that he has stayed in “fighting shape.” There he was right in front of that iconic light-bulb 40 Watt logo keeping perfect time.

According to Michael Stipe, the group was in-town recording some new stuff and just decided to stop by. A little more banter and R.E.M. unleashed a rocking version of “So. Central Rain.” At the end of the song, Mike Mills and Peter Buck were absolutely bashing their instruments and seemed to be having a great time. Bill Berry was into the groove as well and was dropping fills everywhere though he was just on a small trap kit. Stipe was bringing out some of his old, admittedly bizarre, dance moves that many of the fans have seen in videos before.

There was laughter and cheering and screaming. The entire club simply stopped to watch these guys performed. No drinks were being ordered, or served for that matter, during the two songs. No one went to the bathroom and no one took their eyes off the stage. It was historic.

Though the guys only played two songs together, everyone, except Bill Berry, would reappear throughout the night playing along with the other bands that had come to celebrate them. They seemed to enjoy hearing new spins on their material as well as having a chance to bust out some of the songs that they don’t play very often in concert.

Some other highlights of the show were Tin Cup Prophette’s set, Patterson Hood’s story of his first R.E.M. concert in Oxford, Miss., the Observatory’s atmospheric and psychedelic set, and the finale begun by Five Eight.

For Tin Cup Prophette, the challenge was following the two songs done by R.E.M. They performed some interesting versions of the tunes and seemed graceful and dogged in the challenging spot in which they found themselves. The lead singer appeared in the night’s finale standing right next to Michael Stipe singing along with him, so I think he did his best to make up for the slight overshadowing she might have experienced.

Patterson Hood talked about his first R.E.M. concert which was in 1984 at a converted church in Oxford, Miss. After some drunk asshole shouted through the gang’s a cappella rendition of “Blue Moon” at the close of the show, they returned for an encore during which Hood says, “You could feel the hate they were giving this guy.” So, they started up with “Blue Moon” again and since Peter Buck doesn’t sing, he stood at the edge of the stage and “eye-fucked,” according to Patterson, the guy through the entire song. With Hood’s storytelling prowess and a great example of R.E.M.’s early days, Hood’s beaming grin was shined back at him from the crowd. Indeed, throughout his set and the finale, Hood wore a huge smile and seemed genuinely floored to be able to share the stage with his admitted “heroes.”

Members of the Elephant 6 collective joined forces to journey through a set that visited many of R.E.M.’s more esoteric and atmospheric songs from the earlier albums and B-sides. There must have been 15 of them on stage and they created a mesmerizing wall of sound that shown new light on what were some of R.E.M.’s least commercially viable, but perhaps most musically adventurous, songs.

Five Eight has a long and somewhat murky history with R.E.M. At one point, R.E.M. had chosen them to open for a series of shows in the west coast. Five Eight had a new album out and this looked to be their big break. After several shows on the west coast, the R.E.M. tour was headed to Europe and everyone, including Five Eight, assumed that they would be the opener throughout Europe. At the last minute, R.E.M. chose another band, Now It’s Overhead, and left Five Eight back home. With a snide smile, Five Eight’s deadpan jokester, Dan Horowitz, played a banjo-lead version of “Driver 8” with lyrics detailing this somewhat raw relationship between the two bands, rousing the audience with the chorus, “Five Eight, take a break, you’ve been up our ass too long.” Add to that the finale, lead by Five Eight, but joined by members of the bands from throughout the night and 3 of the 4 R.E.M. fellows as they hammered through a long and loud rendition of “It’s The End Of The World (As We Know It).”

One of my favorite new bands, Modern Skirts, put in a polished performance with some great harmonies. Their set didn’t seem to quite approach the transcendence of some of the others. In fact, their attention to detail and craftsmanship might have let them down in that they weren’t portraying the sheer exuberance of the other sets. However, as Bertis Downs pointed out, their rendition of “Perfect Circle” was a great fit lyrically and musically. All that aside, they are a tight band that clearly has a lot more to offer in the coming years. I can’t wait to see how their sound matures. With a piano man like Jojo and those awesome harmonies, the coming days are salad days for sure.
It was truly a historic night for an R.E.M. fan such as myself. A lot of money was raised for two good causes and I have memories that I will keep for a lifetime. This is what truly great music, especially live music, does for people. It generates feelings, connections, and memories that are the true bone marrow of life. All of that and a ticket was only $12.

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I just finished watching a documentary about heavy metal called Metal: A Headbanger's Journey. It's a decent film, but veers way too much to the fanboy side of things for my taste. It does a decent job explaining what there is to like about metal while showing as well what there is not to like.

Sam Dunn, the host and writer, is an anthropologist and he does a great job breaking down the societal and cultural aspects of the musical genre. I did find it a bit disconcerting that all the violence and sex and satanism in the music was touched on, but just winked away by the film as just entertainment. It intimated that those who didn't understand that it was all some great big joke where just "out of it."

I would have enjoyed a little more exploration into the actual musical structure of metal music. There is some discussion of the "devil's note" and the diminished fifth scale, but no real follow-on as to how it plays out in modern metal. Indeed, there is very little in the film about the craft of modern metal. It's really more about personalities and an overview of the genre as a whole, but it does a decent job with that.

The strangest part to me was when they showed George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher of the band Cannibal Corpse. He is almost certainly missing a chromosome or something. The guy is one hell of a frontman, but he should lay off the acid when he's on film.

Mr. Dunn has created a really cool genealogy of metal which appears in an interactive version on the DVD and is also printed without logos in the liner notes of the soundtrack. That little extra is worth the price of admission.
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Mashup Madness

This remix stuff has just exploded. Was this a scene that existed before and has only now found popular purchase? I first became aware, like many I expect, with DJ Danger Mouse’s “Grey Album” which mixed Jay-Z’s “Black Album” with The Beatles “White Album.” I’m enjoying most of these as novel ways to enjoy acts I might not otherwise listen to. The old axiom about putting a danceable beat behind anything is certainly true here. There are tons of blogs and forums out there, but the best by far is GYBO: Get Your Bootleg On.

You’ll find plenty of links there to mashups. There’s also info about how to remix, including ideas on beats, tempos, software, and even legality issues. It’s a well-rounded gathering of people with interest in this scene.

Here’s three mashups that I think are the cream of the current crop. These are full album mashups which intrigue me much more than the singles that are coming out of the woodwork. Adapting an entire album is a serious effort and can show much more talent than just busting out a single.

I don’t know how long this scene will be out there, but it’s an interesting pop culture moment made possible expressly by the web. Without getting too mystical about the web’s impact, it also relies greatly on inexpensive music software and production tools. In short, this scene exists simply because the technology exists.

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