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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rockin' Out: Mastodon/Between The Buried And Me/Baroness @ Starland Ballroom 04/21/10

I am still getting used to the fact that technically I am no longer a New York City resident and in fact reside in New Jersey. Hoboken is right across the river from Manhattan, so I like to think that I live in one of Manhattan's boroughs and not in the Garden State. That being said, one advantage of living in Hoboken is that I have easier access to clubs in Northern NJ that host some good if not great shows (being able to skip the traffic getting out of Manhattan can literally shave hours off your travel time). So, Wednesday night when I was offered a ride to Sayerville (or "Slayer"ville as metalheads like to call it) to see the Mastodon, Between The Buried And Me, Baroness and Valient Thorr tour, I gladly accepted and got myself a ticket.

Baroness

I LOVED Valient Thorr's first album Total Universe Man, but found the follow-up to be a bit dull and haven't paid attention to them since. I would have liked to have caught their set at this show because my understanding is that their live show is where it's at, but alas we arrived to late to see them. Oh well. Fortunately we did not arrive too late to catch the bulk of Baroness' set. I sort of saw Baroness once at a big festival, but was too far away from the stage to really appreciate what was going on. In this more intimate setting I was finally able to see and hear why people rave about their live performance. I like their 2009 release the Blue Record a lot, but thought that the production was a bit flat and took a lot of the punch out of the songs. This became even more apparent after hearing the songs played live. They are so much fuller and exciting in the live setting than on the album. The band is really tight and I was happy to see that the venue was almost fully packed for their set. I will definitely not be skipping them the next time they come through town. One weird thing about their set happened at the end when singer John Baizley was thanking the crowd. He was doing the usual stage banter of "thanks for coming out", giving props to the headliner, etc. and then he said (this is not verbatim, but a close approximation and I'm not taking any creative liberties with it): "If you see us walking around, then please stop and say hello. We're not rock stars. We'll hang out. Say hi to us. We're not rapists. We're not weirdos." Not rapists?!?!?! I've heard some strange things from the stage over the years, but that is up there. Why would he feel the need to mention that they aren't rapists? Total head scratcher, but not the last bizarre thing a band would say into the microphone before the evening was out.

Between The Buried And Me

Next up was Between The Buried And Me. I love BTBAM's albums, but this is the third time I have seen them live and the third time I have been bored to tears. Don't get me wrong, the band are more than competent players and pull off their complex prog metal meets death metal meets metalcore songs perfectly live....it is just a total snooze fest to sit through. And apparently I'm not the only one who feels this way as the band was jeered during their final song by at least one audience member that I'm aware of. When the band announced that they were going to play their final song of the evening (it was the 4th or 5th song of their set...keep in mind their songs all tend to be 10+ minutes) I scooted off to the bathroom and then was checking out the merch booth. While looking at Mastodon t-shirts I could still hear the band well and suddenly I heard the singer getting into it with a heckler (keep in mind he is doing this during one of their death metal breakdown sections): "Whoa, whoa, whoa, who said that? Who said "You suck dick."? Who said that? What's your problem man? What did I do to you?" Really dude? One audience member yells something at you and you are going to slow down your entire band to chastise them? And he didn't even give him a verbal beatdown; it was more of a peaceful lecture about how it is OK to not like a band's music, but very mean to yell hurtful words at them. So weak. Just ignore the guy and finish your song and if you aren't going to ignore him, then at least take advantage of the fact that you have a microphone and can totally defeat the guy with one good wise crack at his expense....you know, like a stand-up comic would do. Absolute final nail in the coffin for me and BTBAM live. Will never see them again by choice.


Mastodon

This is the maybe the 7th or 8th time I've seen Mastodon (I lose count after I've seen a band at least 4 times), but definitely my favorite so far. Like Baroness, I've always seen them in larger venues and while I have enjoyed them and know they are a great live band, I have never really gotten the full impact of what they can do. Some people I know are a little annoyed that the band is still playing their last album Crack The Skye in its entirety at every show, but I don't mind as I love that album. The band also has an interesting and engaging light/movie screen show to accompany the music which is a nice touch. My friend and I pushed our way to the middle of the crowd to get a better vantage point, but I eventually grew weary of the less experienced metal show attendees who did not quite understand the etiquette of the mosh pit and how to treat those around you who were not in the mood to mosh (yes, I'm getting old and cranky) and found myself a much better vantage point off to the side. The band was cruising along through Crack The Skye's tracklist when during the last song, "The Last Baron", singer/guitarist Brett Hinds walked over to the drum kit and made Brann Dailor stop drumming which subsequently brought the entire proceedings to a halt. Considering he made Brann who is one of the best, if not the best, metal drummers going today stop mid-song, I figured we were in for a rant about the sound. He then went to his microphone and began berating the house sound man because he couldn't hear his guitar on the stage. This was met with a few jeers, but mostly the crowd seemed sympathetic. As Brett explained, he simply wanted to play the song perfectly for the audience. The band started up again and then had to stop again a few minutes later so Brett could berate the sound man again for the problem continuing and then they started up again and wouldn't you know it, a few minutes later they had to stop again for further berating of the sound man. Third time always being the charm, the band played through to the end of the song and walked off the stage for a brief interlude before their encore. Having heard more than one story about how Hinds is a bit of a loose cannon, I was worried they might not come back out because he was so angry, but they did come back out and leveled the crowd with some choice cuts from their first three albums before closing with "Blood And Thunder".

With the exception of the bizarre rants from the stage from all three bands, it was a great night. And even though I didn't like BTBAM's performance at all, at least I now know to avoid them in the future, so I came away from their performance with something!

And as it relates to my rant that I posted earlier this week about the rule about not wearing a t-shirt of the band whose concert you are attending, I was happy to see at least 8 people wearing Mastodon shirts at this show.

Baroness "A Horse Called Golgotha"



Mastodon "Oblivion/Blood And Thunder"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Factory For Free

I'm a big Band Of Horses fan. Their first two albums, Everything All The Time and Cease To Begin, are two of my favorite records released in the past 5 years. Their new album Infinite Arms is coming out next month (5/18 to be exact) and they are now offering a track from it for free download. It is called "Factory" and is available here. I have it sitting in my inbox and haven't actually listened to it yet, so have no opinion to offer you on how it sounds. Hopefully it'll be up to par with their previous material.....

Deftones Mastodon Chains

Yesterday, The PRP put up the following teaser video:



They noted that a website called blackdiamondskye.com is associated with the video and speculated that based on the content it looks like Alice In Chains, Deftones and Mastodon will be announcing a tour together this fall. I don't know about you, but that sounds like an incredible tour. I still have never seen AIC live (kicking myself for missing the opportunity to see them with Layne Staley while he was still alive, but apparently the new singer, William DuVall is solid in the live setting...he is certainly great on the new album), I haven't seen the Deftones in years and they are always great live and Mastodon (who I'm actually seeing tonight) are also incredible live, so this is pretty much a winner all around.

I would imagine that AIC would be the headliners with Deftones as direct support and Mastodon as the opener because AIC and Deftones have the larger fanbases. This would certainly be a great bill for Mastodon to be on as they would gain the most exposure to new fans.

We shall see. An announcement is scheduled for May 3rd.

Alice In Chains "Your Decision"



Deftones "Diamond Eyes"



Mastodon "Oblivion"

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

R.I.P. Guru

I haven't paid much attention to hip-hop since about '98 with the exception of a few artists here and there (Eminem, Lil' Wayne, Jurrasic 5 and Mike Jones come to mind). I simply cannot get into the current wave of artists representing the genre and have a general disinterest in newer material from the artists I loved in the 80's and 90's. One artist who I have always maintained respect for was Guru from Gang Starr who passed away this Monday after a battle with cancer.

I don't keep much hip-hop on my iPod anymore, but Gang Starr's Daily Operation is one album that has been on there since I first added it to my iTunes seven years ago. It is one of the best hip-hop albums ever made and it is due largely in part to Guru's abilities as a rapper. He was quite simply amazing and one of the genre's best. He eventually branched off and started doing records without DJ Premier and one of his first solo efforts was Jazzmatazz Vol. 1. I listened to this record non-stop my freshmen year of college. It is mind-blowingly good.

Hopefully with his passing, some up and comers will become aware of Guru's music and start to study and emulate it and move away from the boring direction hip-hop has taken recently and give us something with a little more substance.

"Mass Appeal"



"Ex Girl To Next Girl"



"Step In The Arena"



"No Time To Play"

R.I.P. Peter Steele

Last Wednesday when I was in San Francisco, I started to hear rumors that Peter Steele of Type O Negative (and Carnivore) fame had died. I initially rejected it as a stupid internet rumor and even made light of it in a Facebook update later that evening after seeing Faith No More at The Warfield: "can't believe Pete Steele just played "Christian Woman" with Faith No More. Amazing." [Don't even get me started on the fact that a few people believed that update to be true.] Alas, the next day the rumors would be substantiated and it turned out that Peter Steele had passed way from heart failure the prior evening.

I remember very clearly the first time I heard Type O. I saw a video for "Black No. 1" on Headbanger's Ball and was instantly hooked on the song. It was unlike any other type of metal I had heard before. There was a strange Addam's Family vibe going on to it that made it a bit goofy, but terribly catchy at the same time. Definitely a unique and great band.

After hearing of Steele's passing I started making a mental checklist of what Type O albums I would want to listen to when I got home. I have their greatest hits collection The Least Worst Of on my iPod as well as what turns out will be their final studio album, 2007's
Dead Again, but I knew I'd want to hear some older material, so I started thinking of which ones I had in my CD collection. That is when it struck me that the albums I did own by them are all awesome. Bloody Kisses, October Rust and Life Is Killing Me are all fantastic from beginning to end. For whatever reason the fact that I owned four albums by Type O and thought that they all ruled had never really sunk in with me. Their last album Dead Again was so damn good and who knows what they would have come up with next. Thursday while I was in San Francisco I went to Amoeba Music (arguably the greatest record store in the world) and picked through their Type O Negative section and found another album from their catalog that I was missing, World Coming Down. I listened to that (loudly) yesterday and while I knew a couple of the songs from their greatest hits collection, I didn't realize that was yet another album in their catalog that was excellent from start to finish. I plan on picking up their debut Slow, Deep And Hard just as soon as I dig myself out from the pile of CD's I picked up last week in San Fran that I haven't listened to yet and the 40+ I have on my iPod that I haven't listened to yet either (so much music, not enough ears).

R.I.P. Pete. I'm sure you've brought Halloween to Heaven.

"Black No. 1"



"Christian Woman"



"Love You To Death"



"Everything Dies"



"I Don't Wanna Be Me"



"The Profit Of Doom"



The T-Shirt Rule

I can't pinpoint exactly when in my younger years I became aware of the unofficial rule of never wearing a t-shirt of the band whose concert you are going to see, but I can tell you that I have decided that this rule is a bit antiquated and downright silly.

As far as I'm aware, this rule really only applies to the genres of metal, hard rock and punk rock (for my purposes, I'll only be addressing metal shows in this post). Something tells me that Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift, Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Usher and Pink fans don't mock fellow fans for wearing a t-shirt by the performer whose concert they are attending. Now there are exceptions to the rule like Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Metallica, Slayer, Slipknot, Kiss and Motley Crue where it is considered acceptable to wear that band's t-shirt to their shows (that isn't a comprehensive list...just good examples of artists who fit the bill). Why those bands are considered exceptions to the rule has never been properly explained to my knowledge...the answer is simply "just because". One commonality between those bands is that they are all successful and fill arenas (Slayer might not quite fill arenas, but it is still agreed that they are fairly popular). So, I suppose the unspoken rule might be that if a band has reached beyond a metal fanbase and established themselves as somewhat of an institution in popular culture, then it is acceptable to wear their shirts to their concerts because you are part of the "army" of fans (hopefully Gene Simmons doesn't see this and sue me for copyright infringement for using the word "army"). I think Green Day would be a comparable example of this same behavior in the punk rock world.

But, I'm not really here to talk about the exceptions to the rule, but rather the rule itself. Last November I went to see The Black Dahlia Murder with openers Skeletonwitch, Toxic Holocaust and Trap Them. I love me some Skeletonwitch and one of my favorite t-shirts that I own (and I define favorite by best fitting and comfortable) happens to be one of theirs. While getting dressed before leaving for the show, I grabbed my Skeletonwitch t-shirt and threw it on. There wasn't any particular thought process behind it, I simply felt like wearing that shirt that evening. I went to the show with four other people and took grief from all of them once they realized I was wearing a Skeletonwitch shirt to a show where Skeletonwitch was playing. Not a one of them had a persuasive argument as to why I was in the wrong, but simply stated that I was being "that guy" ("that guy" of course being the person who dares to wear the t-shirt of a band whose show they are at that isn't one of the accepted exceptions to the rule). Upon arriving at the show, we bumped into a guy that we knew and he gave me a bit of grief about it too. Two days later one of my best friends who wasn't at the show IM'ed me and said "You wore a Skeletonwitch shirt to a Skeletonwitch show?". My friend had heard it from his friend who was friends with the guy that we had bumped into at the show. I can't say for fact that the guy was so annoyed and/or bothered by it that he was running around telling everyone or if it just simply came up in conversation (something along the lines of "Hey, you know that guy that is friends with your buddy..."), but either way it struck me as not only a ridiculous topic of conversation to be having with someone, but also as typical scene police bullshit. [For the record, the guy in question is perfectly nice and a cool dude, I'm just picking on him a little bit in this post because it helps to illustrate my point.]

Metal was established as and always will be an outsider's style of music regardless of mainstream acceptance of certain bands from the genre. It is in theory a culture for people who are open minded, like to think outside of the box, don't want to conform to the mainstream in appearance or in way of thinking and certainly a genre where you should be able to dress however the hell you feel like. In other words, it is about being yourself. Unfortunately, in my many years of proudly being a metalhead, I have found that a lot of metalheads can turn out to be some of the most close-minded, elitist snobs in the music world (and a lot are the polar opposite). This ridiculous rule about what t-shirts one can and cannot wear to shows is a prime example of this. The fact that a genre with such a pervasive machismo attitude has a large majority of men in their fanbase who do not see the absurdity in judging what other men are wearing to shows is quite amusing. Isn't it just about the music and not a fashion show? Who cares what the guy standing next to you is wearing as it in no way impacts your enjoyment of the evening (or it shouldn't at least). Being a metalhead means being part of a community, not getting a badge to be a lieutenant in the fashion police. I'll never forget going to see Killswitch Engage at Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan and a guy saying in a sarcastic tone to me "Nice shirt." as I squeezed past him in a sweater and collared shirt to get to the bar. Sorry that I had to come to the show straight from my day job that I wasn't allowed to wear Cannibal Corpse t-shirts and jeans to pal. Next time, I'll try to adhere to your fashion rules for metalcore shows. But I'm getting off topic...

Skeletonwitch played an amazing set that night and I wound up heading to their merch booth and getting another shirt after they finished. This got me thinking about what the band's think about the t-shirt rule. If I was in Skeletonwitch (or The Black Dahlia Murder or Toxic Holocaust or Trap Them who also played that night), then I would be super stoked to look out in the crowd and see a bunch of kids wearing Skeletonwitch t-shirts (especially if it was shirts that were being sold at the merch booth that evening). I'm sure bands are always happy to play to a crowded room and get a positive reaction, but wouldn't the cherry on top be seeing a healthy chunk of people in attendance wearing your shirts? It would mean not only are they YOUR fans, but they are also spending money at your merch booth (a big part of how bands make a living these days). I would think bands would be psyched to see people wearing their shirts at their shows, but I'm not in a band, so what do I know.

Anyway, I don't suppose I've necessarily presented a great counter argument to the t-shirt rule at metal shows, other than stating that I think it is snobby, stupid and asinine, but hopefully I've given you something more to think about than a simple "just because".

See you next time Skeletonwitch comes to town. I'll be the guy in the Skeletonwitch t-shirt.

Tuesday April 20, 2010 New Music

Alcest's "Écailles De Lune"

Alcest's Écailles De Lune (yes they are French) had a scheduled release date of 4/20/10, but now has a release date of 5/04/10 for the physical product and has been available in MP3 format on Amazon (for only $5.34) since 3/26/10. I have no idea what the confusion is about and quite frankly, it isn't really my concern because I bought the album last week and listened to it on my iPod on a flight back from San Francisco this past Sunday and very much enjoyed it. Shoegazer atmospheric rock mixed with black metal (more of the former than the latter).

Cathedral "The Guessing Game"

Cathedral's Forest Of Equilibrium, The Ethereal Mirror, The Carnival Bizarre and Caravan Beyond Redemption are four essential doom/stoner rock albums, if not four essential metal albums overall (especially The Ethereal Mirror and The Carnival Bizarre). The Guessing Game received a "?" review on a scale of 1 to 10 in the latest issue of Decibel Magazine. That is either a really good thing or a really bad thing (hard to tell from the accompanying review), but it certainly has my interest piqued.



Les Discrets "Septembre Et Ses Dernières Pensées"

France's Les Discret's Septembre Et Ses Dernières Pensées is being released by the same label as the above mentioned Alcest's album and is having the same release date confusion, but is also readily available in MP3 format on Amazon. The singer/guitarist/bassist of Les Discret is also in Amesoeurs with the guitarist/vocalist of Alcest and Amesoeurs' self-titled debut was one of the BEST records I missed of 2009...an incredible mix of black metal and synth-y new wave influenced post rock, so I figure this has a pretty good shot of being another interesting album from what appears to be a growing and vibrant metal scene in France.

Open Hand "Honey"

I forget how I even noticed that Open Hand's Honey was coming out since I had long since forgotten about this band, but I was happy to see that they are still active (or have reactivated...whatever the case may be).

Ratt "Infestation"

I never loved any of Ratt's full length albums (except maybe their debut Out Of The Cellar) and was always more of a fan of their "greatest hits". And let's face it, Ratt wrote a couple fantastic hair metal anthems, but was never really on the same level as Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Poison, etc., so I was quite surprised when I first heard Infestation a few weeks ago and was impressed with it from beginning to end. This is arguably their most consistent and solid album in their entire catalog even if it is lacking a song of the caliber of "Round And Round". It is early in the year, but this album feels like a guarantee for my year end Top 25. I can't believe I'm saying this, but it truly is a great record.



Sweet Apple "Love & Desperation"

Sweet Apple is a side project of J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. (and Witch) fame along with members of Cobra Verde and Witch (besides J. Mascis). I'll admit to being totally unfamiliar with Cobra Verde, but I am a huge Dinosaur Jr. fan and am always curious about anything J. Mascis is involved with. A friend hooked me up with their debut album Love & Desperation a few weeks ago and I dug it on first listen. It isn't breaking any new ground and it won't change your life, but if you are a fan of rock n roll ala the style Dinosaur Jr. and their peers have been playing for years now, then this will be right up your alley.



Taylor Hawkins & The Coattail Riders "Red Light Fever"

Taylor Hawkins is the drummer for one of my favorite bands the Foo Fighters. I never heard his first outing with the Coattail Riders, but always meant to check it out. I like the song he sings and plays guitar on in the Foo Fighters, "Cold Day In The Sun", so figure it is about time to get around to hearing his solo efforts. Red Light Fever is available to stream in its entirety here.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Rockin' Out: Faith No More @ The Warfield 04/14/10

Faith No More was one of my favorite bands when I was younger and are still one of my favorite bands of all time. I got to see them live once in 1992 (opening for Guns N' Roses and Metallica's stadium tour) before they eventually broke up in 1998. Last year they announced that they were reuniting....but only playing the European festival circuit. Rumors swirled that they were planning to hit the U.S. eventually and alas a date in their hometown of San Francisco was finally announced earlier this year for April 14th (and subsequently two additional dates were added for the 12th and 13th). Having wanted to take a vacation anyway, I figured centering a trip to San Fran around seeing Faith No More seemed like as good idea as any.

And boy was it ever a good idea...


We arrived at the venue around 9pm which was well ahead of FNM's announced onstage time of 10pm. We did not want to miss even a 1/4 of a note. After standing in a lengthy merch line to pick up some t-shirts, we entered the venue and found ourselves a good spot right next to the bar with a relatively unobstructed view of the stage. A few minutes after we got inside the performance area, the direct support act took the stage....the El Camino High School Cheerleaders. And that is not some silly band name, they were literally high school cheerleaders. They came out and did a high school cheerleader pep rally routine for about 20 minutes and then left the stage. [While they were performing, we were speculating whether or not they would go into a "Be Aggressive" chant (Be Aggressive! B-E Aggressive! B-E A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E!) that is used in the song of the same name by Faith No More and whether the band would take the stage during said chant and use that as their intro to kick into a performance of that song to open their show. Considering that song is about oral sex, we decided that would be beyond creepy, in poor taste, most likely an arrestable offense and therefore probably not what was going to happen.]

About a half hour later while still scratching our heads over seeing a high school cheerleading squad open for Faith No More, an odd looking man in a tuxedo took the stage. I would later come to find out that his name is Neil Hamburger and that he has opened for the likes of NOFX, Bad Religion and Puscifer in the past. He did a series of funny albeit slightly off color jokes about Michael Jackson (and even got a jab at Farrah Fawcett in there) all the while heckling the audience. Neil then informed the crowd that Faith No More would not take the stage until we had chanted 'Smash Mouth' (as in the band) 100 times. He started the chant and after the second or third time the crowd had settled into a loud response of 'Fuck You' for every 'Smash Mouth' chant of his. I was really beginning to think he might just take it all the way to 100, but mercifully he stopped at 20 and introduced the evening's main attraction....




Being familiar with the setlists FNM had been playing on last year's European festival circuit, I wasn't expecting many surprises from tonight's set. I was fully expecting them to open with the Peaches & Herb cover "Reunited" and that is exactly what they did. Faith No More of course made this cover work perfectly and it was a good warm up for the onslaught of killer songs that would follow immediately after: "From Out Of Nowhere" into "Land Of Sunshine" into "Caffeine" into "Evidence" into "The Gentle Art Of Making Enemies" into "Chinese Arithmetic" (which featured a brilliant minute plus cover of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" as the intro) into "Last Cup Of Sorrow" into "Cuckoo For Caca" before playing a song I did not recognize at all which turned out to be a cover of "Ben" by the butt of Neil Hamburger's jokes, Michael Jackson. I wouldn't say the MJ cover was bad, but the best part was when it was over and they picked up the pace again with "Ashes To Ashes" into "Midlife Crisis" into "Digging The Grave" into "King For A Day" into "Epic" (I was actually surprised they played this as they seem like the type of band that would leave their obvious hit out of the setlist which would certainly not bother their hardcore fanbase) into what was probably my favorite song of the night "Just A Man".


The band then left the stage and Neil Hamburger reappeared shortly thereafter with a couple Courtney Love jokes for the audience. He then reintroduced the band and they kicked into their pre-Mike Patton era song "As The Worm Turns" and suddenly Mike Patton walked off the stage and on walked this sort of punk rock looking version of George Clinton and once he started singing it hit the audience that FNM's original singer Chuck Mosley was now onstage with the band. They went through three other songs from FNM's first two albums on which he sang ("Death March", "We Care A Lot" and "Mark Bowen") and then Chuck left the stage. While it was very cool to be there to witness this reunion (this was the first time Mosley had been onstage with them since 1988), I wasn't particularly blown away by it. Faith No More has been and always will be about the years with Mike Patton. Mosley isn't a particularly great singer and they would never have reached the heights of popularity that they did with him in the band. Anyway, Patton rejoined the band for "Stripsearch" and then Mosley came back out and dueted with Patton on "Introduce Yourself" to close the show.

I am still grinning from ear to ear about this show (and the overall awesome time I had in San Fran with my girlfriend, family and friends...very fun city) and cannot wait for the two shows in Brooklyn in July (one of which I have tickets for and the other for which I hope to obtain a ticket for tomorrow).

"Land Of Sunshine"



"The Gentle Art Of Making Enemies"



"Stripsearch"



"From Out Of Nowhere"

Monday, April 12, 2010

Rockin' Out: The Manchester Orchestra/Biffy Clyro @ The Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza 04/02/10

After two nights in a row of live music with less than stellar fellow audience members (see what I'm talking about here and here), I was a bit worn out by the time The Manchester Orchestra and Biffy Clyro rolled into town, but I sucked it up and headed over to the venue to enjoy some rock n roll.


I've been a big fan of Biffy Clyro since I got turned onto to their 2008 album Puzzle. They are most definitely a criminally underrated band. Perhaps it is because they occupy a musical territory between straight up hard rock ala Foo Fighters and Stone Temple Pilots and more alternative/indie rock like tourmates The Manchester Orchestra that confuses people, but whatever the reason is, it is a crying shame. This was my second time seeing Biffy Clyro perform live and turned out to blow the first time out of the water. High energy, tight playing and of course killer songs always equal a great performance. What was cool was that the crowd that was there (a fairly impressively sized one for a band playing second on a four band bill) was also very into it. Not sure if these were fellow fans or new converts, but either way, everyone seemed impressed. And the cherry on the top of the sundae was that everyone in the crowd was behaving themselves this evening haha. Thank God for the little things.

I forget the name of the band that played between Biffy Clyro and The Manchester Orchestra, but they were terrible. They sounded like a really, really, really bad Band Of Horses knock off and the singer was this dufus bearded hipster looking guy bouncing around in a sweater vest. So forgettable. By the time we finished suffering through that performance and The Manchester Orchestra hit the stage, I had simply lost all interest in being there and ducked out after a few songs. I own both of The Manchester Orchestra's albums and think they are alright, but have honestly only listened to each of them two or three times, so I'm not a dedicated fan. My good buddy over at Banana In The Tailpipe LOVES them and swears up and down that the show was amazing, but I'll just have to take his word for it. I'll simply have to try and see them another time and hopefully when I have a bit more energy and attention span to spare.

Biffy Clyro "Mountains"



Biffy Clyro "Machines"



The Manchester Orchestra "I've Got Friends"

Tuesday April 13, 2010 New Music

I was a little late to the party on Bison b.c.'s Mastodon-style of metal on their 2008 album Quiet Earth, but wound up being a fan when I got around to spending some time with the album. Their new album Dark Ages is rumored to incorporate elements of thrash and punk with stepped up songwriting that moves them out of the mere Mastoclone category, so I will definitely be checking it out. Grab the new song "Two-Day Booze" from the album for free here and judge for yourself.

I don't know much about Coffinworm, except for that they are on the Profound Lore label which is on a real hot streak lately. This automatically makes Coffinworm worth at least giving a shot. When All Became None is their debut album and you can grab the song "Start Saving For Your Funeral" from it here for free.

Coheed and Cambria is one of those bands that I want to love, but they make it difficult by putting out albums that I find lackluster. To be fair, I probably find them lackluster because they do require a bit of commitment to wrap your head around (I already wrote a bit more involved opinion about my love/hate relationship with them when the first single for this album was released), but nonetheless I will be giving Year Of The Black Rainbow a shot. Perhaps the fact that I'm on a Rush kick lately will help my ability to appreciate Coheed's style of prog. We shall see.

Foxy Shazam's first album Introducing was given to me by a friend of mine. He casually mentioned that it was pretty cool, but didn't emphatically endorse it. I put it on my iTunes and promptly forgot about it. The funny thing is that over the next few months whenever I would have my iPod on shuffle, songs from that album would pop up and I would find myself loving them and I would always tell myself that I needed to sit down and listen to the album in it's entirety, but alas I never did. They've since signed to a major and our releasing a new self-titled album. It is certainly on my radar, but only time will tell if I ever get around to listening to it or if it goes the way of their debut and languishes in the outer reaches of the sea that is my overstuffed iTunes.

I've already heard MGMT's new album Congratulations as they were streaming it on their website because it leaked well ahead of street date. It isn't as immediately catchy as their debut, but seems more like it'll take a few listens to sink in. Up to you whether you want to bother giving it those few listens or not. Personally, I'm up for the time investment as I really do like the band.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Rockin' Out: Drive-By Truckers @ Webster Hall 04/01/10



I've extolled the virtues of the rock n roll machine that is the Drive-By Truckers a few times on this blog already, so I feel it unnecessary to explain again what a massive fan I am of theirs. As soon as I heard they were playing Webster Hall earlier this year, I snatched up tickets immediately. An always reliable live band I knew this was going to be a typically good performance from DBT. And as I expected it most certainly was a good performance from the band, but like The Whigs/Band Of Skulls show the night before, the audience was a hindrance to my total enjoyment of the show.

My first clue that something might be different about the crowd that I had grown accustomed to at a typical DBT show should have come from the fact that this show sold out in advance. I'd never heard of the band doing that before in NYC, but didn't think twice about it. They've been at it a while, touring their asses off and building momentum. And now they are on a bigger label, ATO Records (which is actually Dave Matthews' label and I cannot stand Dave Matthews, but damn if that guy and/or the people running his label don't sign some good bands) who are giving them a nice push and better support, so more people know about the band. These guys are out their busting their asses trying to make a living at this, so god bless that they are now starting to make a better living at it.

Anyway, we entered Webster Hall and found ourselves a nice spot in front of the bar, right in the middle of the crowd and facing center stage. The band walked out and kicked into an excellent track, "The Fourth Night Of My Drinking", from their new album The Big To-Do. This was followed by two more new songs, "Birthday Boy" and "Girls Who Smoke" and then went into "Marry Me" from 2003's stellar Decoration Day. I'd like to say I was enjoying myself this whole time, but instead myself and the 6 or 7 other people I was with all had to keep one eye on the couple in front of us who were dancing around with complete disregard for the people around them. We literally had to make sure that this guy wasn't going to accidentally clock someone in the head with his fist. Now let me clarify that I am all for dancing and having a good time at shows. That is what live music is all about...cutting loose and having a great time. That being said, being a jerk and ruining other people's good time is not acceptable behavior. And let's face it, this is the DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS and not Lamb Of God. This couple did finally calm down after "Marry Me" for whatever reason (maybe they got tired, maybe they caught a couple of our dirty looks), but were quickly replaced by a new problem....

As I was watching the band/dodging dancing couple's flailing limbs, I overheard a shrill voice yell "YOU JUST SPILLED BEER ON MY FRIEND!" directly behind me. I turned and saw a little stereotypical 20-something petite brunette who probably has a picture of herself making a pouty face while wearing a tank top and short skirt as her Facebook profile pic (and I don't mean that in a condescending way...it is simply the best way to give you a visual of what she looked like) yelling at my friend. He calmly told her that not only had he not spilled beer on her friend, but he hadn't spilled beer at all. She gave up the argument immediately. I then noticed she had a little twin with her and two guys behind them who appeared to be boyfriends/suitors. One guy had a shaved head and some sort of Affliction (groan) shirt on and the other guy basically looked like Pauly D from Jersey Shore, but with an Allman Brothers hoodie on and at one point the latter was screaming "BONNAROOOOOOO! BONNAROOOOOO!" during DBT's set. If you can't see the humor/stupidity in that, then I can't explain it to you. It then hits me that I remember these were the same people that seemed grossly offended when I politely pushed my way past them to get to the bar for a round before the show had started.

So, as the show continues, we got to hear the bassist Shonna Tucker sing yet another new song called "(It's Gonna Be) I Told You So" before the band went into yet another pair of new songs, "Get Downtown" and "This Fucking Job" sung by Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood respectively. All enjoyable, but at this point, little guidette gals are now standing in front of me because they are both pretty short and we thought the polite thing to do would be allow them to stand in front of us. In an effort to be a nice guy, I turn to Pauly D and say "Hey, do you want to stand with your girl?", to which he replies "Yeah." and simply pushes past me. His bald friend follows and within seconds all four of them are now flailing around like the earlier couple. *sigh*

My one friend politely asks them to stop to which Pauly D responds "WHAT! WHAT!" and gets in a defensive stance. Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick. At a Drive-By Truckers show we now have a wanna-be yo boy trying to start a fight over politely being asked to respect his neighbors? Some exchange of words happens of which I cannot hear anything. All I know is that my friend is keeping a calm tone, but I just see the look on these two douches faces and know they are looking for trouble. The funny part is that they weren't that big and my friend who is a pretty big guy could have simply knocked their two heads together and that would have been the end of it and even if it wasn't, these guys were outnumbered at least two to one. But, my friends and I are way past our years of getting in random fist fights (not sure most of us were even in those years to begin with), so my friend who had been exchanging words with them turned to me and asked if I might be interested in finding another area to stand and I obliged to keep him company. Some people might think that was backing down or letting them win and actually that is exactly what it was, but it is also called being an adult and not wasting your time on morons. Getting in a random fight with two idiots that we had at least ten years on and subsequently getting thrown out of the show isn't even in the ballpark of being worth it. Karma will take care of them.

My friend and I staked out a new spot (bumping into a friend of mine I hadn't seen in a while in the process which was nice) and enjoyed the rest of the show in relative peace. The funny part about our new spot was there was this huge intimidating bald guy in a Maiden t-shirt near us who I high-fived because of said Maiden shirt and he was completely friendly and the polar opposite of our previous neighbors. DBT finished their set with rousing renditions of "Let There Be Rock", "Lookout Mountain" and what appears to be their closing staple "People Who Died" (a Jim Carroll cover).

So, great show with a few bad apples in the audience distracting me from just watching the band. I'm really happy to see the Drive-By Truckers gaining more recognition and expanding their audience, but it sucks that I will now have to deal with that kind of element when seeing them live. That being said, I wouldn't wish that the band would stay the same size forever and not grow and play bigger venues. After all, at bigger venues I can more easily avoid jerks anyway right?

Rockin' Out: The Whigs/Band Of Skulls @ Bowery Ballroom 03/31/10


Band Of Skulls is a British band that I had heard a lot of hype about and then subsequently dismissed said hype. I didn't have any particular reason for doing so, I just felt like ignoring the hype machine. The thing about the hype machine though is that sometimes it is spot on (The Strokes come to mind as a good example of this). So for whatever reason, a few weeks ago I felt the sudden urge to pick up their debut album Baby Darling Doll Face Honey (a big part of the allure was that it was only $5.99 on Amazon which is a price point that makes the risk of diving into the unknown a little less intimidating) and was pleasantly surprised by what I heard. I wound up getting pretty hooked on the album for a week (which is an eternity for me these days), so was pretty excited to be seeing them opening for The Whigs. In my opinion, Band Of Skulls sound like what The Dead Weather would sound like if The Dead Weather were actually good. [I don't care what anyone says, The Dead Weather is average at best. Just because Jack White is in a band does not automatically make that band great.] In other words, they sound like southern blues hard rockers who have heard a Led Zeppelin record or two in their time. Their live performance was a lot looser than their recordings (which is often the case) and made their songs feel a little more rocking and dynamic. My only complaint about their set has nothing to do with the band, but with the audience. I don't know if it was a bunch of industry people or what exactly was going on, but there was a TON of chatter throughout the band's set. And I wasn't standing in the back by the bar, I was actually in the middle of the crowd and the banter was practically deafening. I don't understand why people pay good money to see a band (or have someone pay to get them in as may be the case) and then talk the whole time. I can understand bumping into someone you know and having a brief conversation or making comments during the band's set because after all this isn't the ballet or opera, but to talk the whole time? The Bowery Ballroom has a full and spacious bar downstairs from where the bands play, so if you don't like the band, then go hang downstairs and quit bothering the people around you with your inane babble while they are trying to actually watch the band. To quote Seinfeld, "People. They're the worst."


Next up was The Whigs. I'm a huge fan of their new album In The Dark as well as 2008's Mission Control. The funny thing about The Whigs is that after I really got into them, it dawned upon me that I had had the opportunity to see them live at least four times when they did tours as openers for the Drive-By Truckers and Jason Isbell. I had opted not to get to the venue in time for each of those shows and hindsight always being 20/20, was now kicking myself. No matter though as now I would be getting to see them live. I had heard that they were a solid live band, so was pretty excited. Fortunately, the band did not disappoint. They played my (current) favorite song by them "Production City" which made the night for me. It sounds more like a long lost INXS b-side rather than the southern rock tag the band is often given. Actually, most of the band's music is more akin to the alt rock of the late 80's and early 90's than anything remotely southern rock and especially the songs from the new album. Speaking of the new album, "I Am For Real", "Kill Me Carolyn" and "Hundred/Million" all sounded fantastic in the live setting. As with Band Of Skulls' set, there was a lot of talking during The Whigs, but I can't complain about it this time since my girlfriend and I did stand in the back by the bar which is a high chatter area and I was guilty of saying hello to a few friends myself. The Whigs played "Right Hand On My Heart" which is one of their "bigger" songs (and may or may not have been their final song of the evening) and we slipped out the door and headed home.

Minus the chatty Cathy crowd, it was a great showing by both bands and a good night.

And a quick aside: We had dinner before the show at a delicious Mexican restaurant called Mexican Radio that is right near the Bowery Ballroom. Being fans of hot sauces, my girlfriend and I were checking out the various bottles on the table. The below hot sauce gave us a laugh with the name and label, but proved to be fairly unimpressive in the heat department:

Band Of Skulls "I Know What I Am"



The Whigs "Kill Me Carolyn"



The Whigs "Right Hand On My Heart"

R.I.P. Kurt Cobain

Today is the 16th anniversary of when Kurt Cobain's body was discovered in his Seattle home. I will always remember this date partly because I was a huge Nirvana fan, but also largely because his body was discovered on my 19th birthday. I remember my mom called to wish me a happy birthday and she also asked me how I was doing with Cobain's death. She knew I was a big fan and wanted to make sure I wasn't too upset. [She would make a similar phone call when Dimebag Darrell was murdered on stage many years later.] I was a freshman in college and I wasn't crushed by his death, but I was weirded out tremendously. Here was this guy who had created these incredible albums, seemed to be on top of the world and yet he had taken his own life. I remember very clearly watching MTV News' Kurt Loder starting to cry as he reported on Kurt's death. When a young celebrity/rockstar dies too early it always seems surreal.

I wonder what Nirvana's career would have been like had Kurt not killed himself. Would Kurt have let Dave Grohl have more songwriting responsibilities in the band and what would those songs have sounded like? Would Dave still have formed the Foo Fighters (one of my favorite bands)? Would Courtney Love have turned into the absolute train wreck that she has become? What would Kurt say about being labeled the "killer of hair metal"? All questions that aren't worth pondering much because we'll simply never know. We have Nirvana's music and that will never die (Nevermind, In Utero and MTV Unplugged In New York all have such strong memory associations for me).

Here are four of my favorite Nirvana songs:

"In Bloom"



"Sliver"



"Heart Shaped Box"



"The Man Who Sold The World"