Recap: Deer Tick at the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix

The great thing about Deer Tick live is the no frills, no bullshit, “it’s only rock n’ roll” attitude. Lead singer/guitarist John McCauley is the embodiment of it all. He’s clearly in it for the music, and doesn’t much care about self-image or putting on those rock band front man airs. But that’s not to say he doesn’t have a good time and doesn’t embrace some of the – um – rock star lifestyle.

Shuffling on stage last night with three bottles of Coors and the red plastic cup that was never too far from his grasp, John and the band rocked the face off the Crescent Ballroom last night – growling, spitting, and, yes, snot-rocketing his way through a 90 minute, 19-song set full of new tunes from their brand new album Divine Providence, along with some older tunes spanning their first three albums (most from their debut, War Elephant) and a couple of well-placed covers.

They opened with the great Divine Providence album opener, “The Bump,” which serves as a great introduction to the band: “We’re full grown men! / But we act like kids! / We’ll face the music / Next time we roll in“; and the ultimate intro to John: “I got a name / They Call Me The Bump / One night with me / Is gonna mess you up … I’m a drunken devil! / I’m not the king of cool!

And off they went. The set featured 9 songs from the new album, including two sung by guitarist Ian O’Neil (the hard charging “Walking Out The Door” and the southern rock ballad-feel of “Now It’s Your Turn”) and one by drummer Dennis Ryan, “Clowning Around” (Dennis wrote the song about John Wayne Gacy). The first released single from the record, “Miss K”, is good-time rock at its finest, and really pumped the crowd.

John and the band are loose and relaxed between songs, noodling around like they’re in rehearsal. It’s fun to see. Between songs, we were treated to the theme from Law & Order, AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long”, and my favorite, drummer Dennis Ryan singing a verse of Santana & Rob Thomas’ “Smooth” – but sung as Tom Waits. Classic.

Deer Tick played five tunes off of War Elephant, including another highlight of the night, a slowed down “Ashamed” with a killer sax solo from Rob Crowell. Just as cool was the song they chose next, a raucous cover of the Replacements’ “Bastards of Young.”

Speaking of covers, the band also showed off their alter ego Deervana, with a spot on version of Nirvana’s “On a Plain.”

The night wrapped just after midnight, with the party anthem off the new album, “Let’s All Go To The Bar.” They were on for a full 90 minutes, but it still seemed short, and there wasn’t even enough time for an encore (I’m guessing the Crescent Ballroom curfew is 12 midnight). Everyone was ready for more, but it wasn’t to be. Instead, I made my way out back and chatted with the band for a few minutes (along with my smuggled can o’ Four Peaks Hop Knot IPA – shh).

me & john mccauley

To me, there’s nothing as invigorating as a solid, genuine, live rock n’ roll show. Deer Tick are as real as they come – an unaffected group of guys who clearly love playing music together and insist on having a great time doing it. It’s all for the love of the music – and luckily, those of us in the crowd get to come along for the ride.

Deer Tick Set List
October 28, 2011
Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix

The Bump
Baltimore Blues No. 1
Main Street
Chevy Express
Walkin’ out the Door
Bastards of Young (Replacements cover)
Clownin Around
Funny Word
Choir of Angels
These Old Shoes
Now It’s Your Turn
Miss K.
On a Plain (Nirvana cover)
Not So Dense
Let’s All Go To The Bar

The Friday Five: October 28, 2011

Friday Five

Friday Five : ‘frī-(,)dā,-dē ‘fīv : On the sixth day of every week, I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes, then share the first five tracks and thought for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, occasionally we’ll have a guest, but most of the time it’s just me. The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments.

The Five:

“All of My Life (feat. Joy Rose)” by Incognito (from Transatlantic R.P.M., 2010)

Aw yeah, it’s about to get all smooth up in here. I’ll admit to having a soft spot for Bluey’s particular brand of acid jazz, though this last release lost me a little bit.

Take a Ride” by The Constellations (from Southern Gothic, 2010)

This track is simply trying too hard.

Take the Long Road and Walk It” by The Music (from Top of the Pops 2002, 2008)

I had to do a double take to see what year this track was from! Musically it’s a bit of slinky guitar driven rock with and Oasis lilt. That was until the vocals kicked in and it was straight 80’s hair metal.

Last Night” by Comet Gain (from CMJ New Music Monthly, Volume 29: January 1996, 1996)

Who? I’ve been a long-time supporter of CMJ, but I swear there was always at least a few tracks on every disc that made you question everything they were recommending. Hopefully iTunes sees fit to play at least one tune that I’m vaguely familiar with before we close out this Five.

Driver 8” by R.E.M. (from Eponymous, 1998)

I think I might know this one. I’ll admit my neglect in keeping close with my R.E.M. fan status. I was definitely sad to hear of their demise, but in a way relieved that we wouldn’t have to suffer another half-hearted record.

What’s on your shuffle today?

Luz de Vida, Music for Tucson

Summers are hell, the nut jobs are many, but I love my home state of Arizona. And in the almost 19 years I’ve called it home, nothing that has happened here was more shocking, sad and incomprehensible than the tragedy in Tucson on January 8th, 2011. The shooting outside a Safeway store took the lives of six, and injured 13 more, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Tucson-Based music writer Eric Swedlund, who has been an online pal of mine for years (via his music blog, Catfish Vegas), was communications director for Gabby Giffords’ campaign back in 2008, and he was deeply impacted on that January day, having known many of those killed and wounded. In the days and weeks after the shootings, Eric – along with a like-minded group of Tucson writers, venue operators and recording engineers – banded together to form Music Against Violence.

Throughout the year, they gathered contributions from a host of musicians both from Tucson and with strong ties to Tucson. The result is a 37 song (!) compilation called Luz De Vida: A Compilation to Benefit the Victims of the Tucson Tragedy. It features the likes of Tucson artists Calexico, Giant Sand, Dead Western Plains, Sergio Mendoza y La Orkestra, among many others. It also features national artists like Neko Case, Spoon, Jimmy Eat World, Meat Puppets and Chuck Prophet (here’s a full track listing).

Local label Fort Lowell Records is offering the set in digital format as well as a twelve song limited edition yellow vinyl.

I encourage you to check out the compilation – 100% of proceeds go to the Tucson Together Fund, which is the only officially sanctioned fund to assist the victims and families of this tragedy. This is an exceptional collection of southwest-flavored music, and it goes toward a great cause.

BUY –  Luz de Vida: on Amazon, on iTunes, or Music Against Violence / Luz de Vida

VISIT – Music Against Violence official siteMusic Against Violence Facebook

LISTEN – Check out a couple of songs here from alt-country pioneers Giant Sand and rock/soul/electronic outfit Dead Western Plains:

Giant Sand – “Recovery Mission” (mp3)

Dead Western Plains – “People Beat” (mp3)

“Carolina” and a growing obsession over Girls

God, have I fallen hard for this band. There’s some sort of musical synergy that I share with Girls singer/songwriter Christopher Owens. The three Girls albums (2 full lengths and an EP) are played regularly, and every listen is more and more of an enriching and fulfilling experience. I connect so deeply with his melodies, his lyrics, the soft touches, every nuance of his voice, and pretty much every element he crafts into his songs.

Case in point, the journey of “Carolina” from Broken Dreams Club, their stellar 2010 EP. It’s broken up into three separate parts: first, a calm, quiet into with guitars (pedal steel and electric) and some other-worldly effects; then the drums gradually build and launch into the second part – a driving, trance-inducing rhythm where the first lyrics come in…

“Get the reaction / get it right now / Find a connection / Get it right now…”

And finally, an unexpected transition to one of the sweetest, most beautiful melodies you’ll ever hear, where Chris breaks out his familiar falsetto and these lovesick, heart-wrenching words:

“I’m going to pick you up baby, throw you over my shoulder
Take you away, I’m going to carry you home
To Carolina, Carolina
Away to southern Carolina
And then I’ll never let you go.”

It’s classic build and release – so, so satisfying.

I love love love these three records…

Album (2009)
Broken Dreams Club (2010)
Father, Son, Holy Ghost (Amazon MP3 Exclusive) (2011 – still only $5!)

Girls on…


The Friday Five: October 21, 2011

Friday Five

Friday Five : ‘frī-(,)dā,-dē ‘fīv : On the sixth day of every week, I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes, then share the first five tracks and thought for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, occasionally we’ll have a guest, but most of the time it’s just me. The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments.

The Five:

Beyond the Invisible” by Enigma (from Le Roi est Mort, Vive le Roi!, 1996)

Much like the Gregorian Chant fad their first record inspired, I now look back at this and think, “what the hell were we all thinking?”

Roy Rogers” by Elton John (from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, 1973)

Not my favorite Elton tune, but I can dig it.

True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper (from Now That’s What I Call the 80’s, Volume 2, 2009)

Like nails on a chalk board. Don’t get me wrong, I love Cyndi Lauper, but this song just grates on my nerves.

Normal Like You” by Everclear (from So Much for the Afterglow, 1997)

iTunes clearly doesn’t like me very much this morning.

Play Thang” by Jodeci (from Forever My Lady, 1991)

I was hoping for some redemption, but clearly I just need to put this week’s Friday Five to bed and go back to listening to the brilliant new Julian Velard record.

What’s on your shuffle today?

Breaking Bad is the Best Show on Television

My month-long Breaking Bad frenzy has sadly come to an end. On September 24th, I decided to check out Episode 1 / Season 1, the pilot episode, on Netflix. Three and a half weeks later, I’ve watched every episode of all four seasons – and I’m desperate for more.

I can say without any doubt that this is the best television series I have ever watched. I had similar feelings about the genius of The Sopranos in its heyday, but my admiration for and obsession over Breaking Bad surpasses even that.

Breaking Bad follows the life of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), an Albuquerque high school chemistry teacher who – after being diagnosed with lung cancer – decides to join forces with a drug dealing former student of his (Jesse Pinkman – played by Aaron Paul) and become a methamphetamine cook. The goal is to tackle his growing financial problems, and to provide for his family when he’s dead and gone.

Walt and Jesse quickly go from small potatoes to working for the largest meth distribution ring in the Southwest. Insanity ensues – brutal violence, betrayal, fear… brilliant subplot after brilliant subplot. The relationships between Walt and the amazing ensemble cast of characters: Hank, his brother-in-law who also happens to be a DEA agent; Walt’s wife Skyler; his boss, Gus Fring; his lawyer Saul Goodman (played by the great Bob Odenkirk)… it’s all so well acted, so well written, and so utterly unpredictable.

I won’t go on and on, but I do want to recommend this series to anyone that may read this. Go to Netlfix. The first three seasons are streaming. Season 4 is available on iTunes. Get started and thank me later. Warning: it will become an addiction. Get ready for some late nights and weird dreams.

Music: One highlight of Breaking Bad is the great selection of music throughout (a quality also shared by The Sopranos). You’ll hear all sorts of great tunes for the first time. One example for me was in “Thirty-Eight Snub” (Episode 2 of Season 4). Jesse is trying to drown out his demons by surrounding himself in his home with acquaintances and large amounts of drugs. He also buys an expensive, supercharged sound system and gets lost in the loud music. At the end of the episode, the party has cleared out, and Jesse is left alone in his trashed house.  He cranks up “Digital Animal” by Austin’s Honey Claws, and collapses next to the speaker. The cool electro/hip-hop vibe coupled with Jesse’s darkness and desperation really makes for an intense ending. As for Honey Claws, it doesn’t appear they’re active anymore. It’s hard to tell. But this track rocks…

“d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-digital animal freaky folks”

The AMC site has all the music listed for Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, and Season 4.

Amazon Link: Digital Animal [Explicit]

The Friday Five: October 14, 2011

Friday Five

Friday Five : ‘frī-(,)dā,-dē ‘fīv : On the sixth day of every week, I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes, then share the first five tracks and thought for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, occasionally we’ll have a guest, but most of the time it’s just me. The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments.

The Five:

“Come See About Me” by Tedeschi Trucks Band (from Revelator, 2011)

“Mary Ann” by Bob Dylan (from Dylan, 1973)

“Get Up to Get Down” by Brass Construction (from Phat Trax: The Best of Old School, Volume 1, 1997)

“(He’s) Seventeen” by The Supremes (from The Complete Motown Singles, Volume 2: 1962, 2005)

“Nasty” by Janet Jackson (from Control, 1986)

What’s on your shuffle today?

Autumn Delights

There is something magical about this time of year. It’s hard to put my finger on it but the changing colors, the crispness in the air, and the mood of the people all combine wonderfully for me in a near perfect, romantic and quite comforting melange. Essential to all of this, of course, is great music.

Many of my favorite bands have released new music this fall (reviews coming soon!) but it’s going to be a while before I decide if any of their albums are Classic Fall Records. What makes a Classic Fall record? Well, it’s not an exact science for me but it starts with an album that came out in the fall (obviously) or sometime a little before that and I just didn’t get around to fully absorbing it until the autumn. Sometimes it’s an album that I have heard a million times, didn’t come out in the fall and simply took hold with me sometime in October.

This is the case with The Yes Album, which, in my opinion, is the best in their catalog. I played this album constantly on my then newly purchased Sony Walkman in October of 1982 when I was training for cross country. Even though it came out in February of 1971 and I had heard my dad play it a million times, I think of this record as Classic Fall. The music just goes along with the spirit of the season. The same is true for bassist Chris Squire’s Fish Out Of Water album, an often overlooked classic. Here are tracks from each:

Mostly a Classic Fall Record stirs memories that are profoundly overwhelming. Such is the case with The Lexicon Of Love by ABC, an album also heavily played in the fall of 1982. I first heard it courtesy of the brother of our esteemed host, Pete. He, too, was on the cross country team and he loaned me the tape to play on a long bus trip to a race at St. John’s Military Academy. I had never heard anything like it and was completely blown away. Here is my favorite track from the album, “Many Happy Returns.”

Saint Etienne’s Finisterre is another album that oozes autumnal magic. A Dickensian voice asks in the first few seconds of Track 1 (“Action”), “Have you ever been to a harvester before?” and we are instantly transported to a world of crunchy leaves, hot chocolate, home, hearth, and our town. Somehow Sarah and the lads have managed to capture leafy Americana while talking about life in the villages and towns of Britain, proving that the moods and feelings of autumn are indeed universal. Here’s the best track on the album, “Shower Scene,”-a must for any scenesters out there.

One very key element in a Classic Fall Record is the atmosphere. It has to be haunting…echo-y…shimmering…dark, but in a comforting way…and melancholy. Forth by The Verve is a fine example of this theme and style. The atmospheric quality of “Judas” is exactly what I’m talking about here…you just drift when hearing it.

The expression of home and hearth, as we saw above with Saint Etienne’s Finisterre, really do figure heavily into classic fall records. Tired Pony’s The Place We Ran From radiates both of these themes as does Neil Young’s Harvest Moon. “Northwestern Skies” from the former has that autumnal echo and melancholy while the title track from the latter demonstrates unequivocally that autumn is the most romantic time of the year.

While these are all fantastic albums, there is only one record that is the pure, living embodiment of autumn and that’s The Unforgettable Fire by U2. Released on 1 Oct, 1984, this record was the soundtrack to my senior year of high school. Every time I listen to it, I’m right back there and can see, taste and feel exactly what that time was like. Sometimes I literally leave my body and travel back in time!

I also played it quite a bit on the drive between Minneapolis and Racine for the holidays so it really became the soundscape for Interstate 94 in Wisconsin. I bring it with me every time I drive home to see my mom and all the great memories of autumns past wash over me and warm my heart and soul. Here is the title track.

How about you? What are some of your Classic Fall Records?

Recap: Dawes and Blitzen Trapper at the Crescent Ballroom

Hallelujah, there’s a killer new live music venue in my home town!! The Crescent Ballroom, open for just a week now, is a mid-sized room (able to accommodate 400-500 people) in a cool 1917 brick building located at 2nd Ave. and Van Buren in downtown Phoenix.  Great atmosphere, friendly staff, really good food in their patio lounge/restaurant, Cocina 10 (I recommend the bean & cheese burrito paired with a Moscow Mule – tasty).


Last night, the Blitzen Trapper / Dawes traveling roadshow hit the Ballroom for a few solid hours of rock n’ folk. The tour is just getting started, having kicked off just a few days ago in Petaluma, CA.

After a very mellow but pleasing opening set by British guitar/vocal duo Smoke Fairies (Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies), Dawes hit the stage, and, as expected, immediately won over the Phoenix crowd. Hard to tell, but it seemed like most of the crowd were new to the L.A. band, and it wasn’t long before the passion and earnestness of the four – especially frontman Taylor Goldsmith, won them over. Taylor is as genuine as they come, and a brilliant, evocative songwriter. In every song he sings, he makes sure the listener hears every word, pouring every ounce of his heart and soul into it. His brother Griffin (on drums) shares that passion and enthusiasm – his facial expressions alone are something to behold: his mouth in varied contortions of agony and ecstasy with every beat and fill. Bassist Wylie Gelber and keyboard/organ man Tay Strathairn round out the quartet, and it’s clear why they’ve been selected over the last year to back up the likes of Robbie Robertson, Jackson Browne and M. Ward. Such a cohesive, organic, and talented band.

The 10-song set drew from both of their studio albums – North Hills and Nothing Is Wrong. There were some great moments – the build up and crescendos of “Fire Away”, Taylor’s fiery guitar solo on “Peace in the Valley” – but the emotional peak came with the 1-2 punch of “A Little Bit of Everything” and “When My Time Comes.” I appreciate and enjoy “A Little Bit of Everything” more and more with each listen, and Taylor’s detailed, story-telling delivery gave me goosebumps throughout the tune. Then, of course, the anthemic “When My Time Comes” whipped the crowd up, and they were primed to belt out the chorus when Taylor turned the microphone around toward the end.

Taylor and Wylie of Dawes

Since discovering Dawes in mid 2010, I’ve had the chance to see them four times now, and they just keep getting better and better. Last night’s set was another thrill as a fan.

→ Dawes Set List

Since finding out about the co-headlining tour with Blitzen Trapper, I’ve dug into the Portland indie-folk band’s catalog, and the music has definitely been growing on me. Now, after watching them live, I can call myself a fan. I love the dynamic of these guys. It’s a hard-to-peg grab bag of influences… I hear Grateful Dead, Zeppelin, 70’s folk, 70’s rock, Dylan… but all unique and original in their own right. Lead singer/guitarist/keyboardist Eric Early has an unassuming, shy demeanor between songs, but man, can that guy sing and shred.

Eric Early of Blitzen Trapper
Blitzen Trapper

Speaking of shredding, I got off on watching lead guitarist Erik Menteer tear it up on his Les Paul. The rest of the band chipped in on some great harmonies, but Erik was off to the side just killing on guitar (and occasionally keys).

Erik Menteer of Blitzen Trapper
Blitzen Trapper

Marty Marquis, off to stage left on guitar & keys, is the laid back jokester of the band, offering up most of the between song banter (thankful for the nice weather, unlike their last visit to Phoenix, when they “melted”).

I’ve been listening a lot to their new record American Goldwing, and they drew heavily from it, with tunes like “Fletcher,” “Astronaut,” “Your Crying Eyes,” and one of my faves, “Love the Way You Walk Away.” And then there was the sheer Zeppelinesque force of “Street Fighting Sun,” also from the new album. Loud, thrashing, arena rock size rock n roll absolutely filling the small Crescent Ballroom.

The encore was a triple treat too: Eric Early solo acoustic on “The Man Who Would Speak True” followed by an unrecorded song called “Jericho” (full band), and then, to add an exclamation mark to the evening, the finale – Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times.”

Blitzen Trapper. Count me in.

→ Blitzen Trapper Set List

As I mentioned, the tour is just getting started. Some of my buddies back east are checking out the show soon. Even if you’re not familiar with either band, one live experience will convert you – guaranteed.

The Friday Five: October 7, 2011

Friday Five

Friday Five : ‘frī-(,)dā,-dē ‘fīv : On the sixth day of every week, I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes, then share the first five tracks and thought for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, occasionally we’ll have a guest, but most of the time it’s just me. The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments.

The Five:

Water Runs Dry” by Boyz II Man (from Motown Milestones in Music, 1995)

Oh, Boyz II Men, whatever happened to you? My wife’s statement upon hearing this: “Are you actually going to make this public?” Which she followed closely with, “this is what is wrong with kids today, they don’t any sappy break-up songs to listen to.”

Words” by Umphrey’s McGee (from Saftey in Numbers, 2006)

Jammy goodness from Umphrey’s 2006 effort.

Back to the Earth” by Rusted Root (from When I Woke, 1994)

Okay, the shuffle is just messing with me now. I can’t recall the last time that I heard this record, but the recent inclusion of “Send Me on My Way” in a commercial nabbed my son’s attention, who asked me to add it to his iPod. I’m drawing the line if he asks for a hacky sac.

Lemon Meringue” by Fishbone (from Give a Monkey a Brain…, 1993)

That’s more like it.

So Appalled (feat. Jay-Z, Pusha T, CyHi Da Prynce, Swizz Beatz & The RZA)” by Kanye West (from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, 2009)

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is almost a year old and still gets played once every other week in the Parr household.

What’s on your shuffle today?