New Pixies music! Head Carrier was released to the world on September 30th. The lead single, “Um Chagga Lagga” has been out since early July, and with my head in the sand as usual, I didn’t hear this great track until last week whilst perusing NME. The video below, however is hot off the presses.
It’s a hard charging number that you’ll be adding to your workout/running/road playlist as soon this video wraps up. Great stuff, and a really solid album featuring three of the four original members: Black Francis, Joey Santiago and David Lovering. Kim Deal left the band in 2013, so bass duties on Head Carrier are handled by Paz Lenchantin, who’s been touring with the band as well.
Where do I even start? Months ago, when it was announced that Neil Young would be playing two dates in Telluride, Colorado for the very first time, I knew I’d make the trip up from Phoenix. Not a doubt. On my live music bucket list, Neil ranked at the top, numero uno.
It took me 46 years, but there I was Saturday night, leaning against the barrier left of the stage, my 12-yr old daughter by my side, watching Neil Young – just a few weeks shy of his 71st birthday – rock our faces off with his amazing backing band, Promise of the Real.
The setting? Telluride Town Park. Not your run of mill venue. Rather, one of the most picturesque settings on God’d green earth. See for yourself:
Friday night, we rolled into town just before Neil took the stage around 6:30. My folks have a place just across the beaver pond from Town Park, so although I didn’t go to Friday’s show, I grabbed a beer and parked myself on the balcony. Neil’s voice filled the box canyon as he started off the night with “After the Gold Rush,” “Heart of Gold”, and “Long May You Run”… The sound was so crisp and clear that I took in the whole show, all the way to the final notes of “Cinnamon Girl.”
Saturday, it was time to get in and get close. My daughter and I walked into Town Park about an hour and a quarter before show time, and, as you can see above, we did just fine.
Neil walked out from stage left and quickly took a seat at the piano for the opener, “After the Gold Rush.” The next few songs featured Neil with his acoustic guitar and harmonica: “Heart of Gold,” “Sugar Mountain” (the first time he’d played it outside of his Bridge School Benefit since 1993), and “Old Man.” Then, a seat at the organ for “Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)”, which sounded sacred in the beautiful setting.
Then out came Promise of the Real. It’s worth mentioning each of these guys, because they each add so much to the experience.
Lukas Nelson – guitar; Willie’s 27 year old son and de facto front man of POTR. Great voice and guitar chops.
Micah Nelson – guitar, keys, etc.; Willie’s youngest son, early/mid 20’s I’m guessing. More vocal chops and handy with the bow and guitar.
Corey McCormick – bass; Corey is the most animated of the bunch, jumping around, dancing, deep in the groove. His spirit is infectious and he’s a lot of fun to watch.
Anthony LoGerfo – drums; partnering up with Corey for a killer rhythm section that held down Neil’s tunes, old and new.
Tato Melgar – percussion; solid percussionist, although I couldn’t see him from my far front/left-side vantage point.
I heard Neil in a recent interview talking about Promise of the Real, their talent, and how intimate & familiar they were with his back catalog – deep cuts included. And how apparent that was. Their playing was the perfect accompaniment to Neil: raunchy and raw, or dialed down to a mellow folk-rock feel – whatever the song called for, they were there delivering it just as well as any band that’s ever backed Neil.
And the background vocals and harmonizing! Lukas, Micah and Corey were on point the whole night, enriching classics like “Powderfinger,” “Down by the River” and “Harvest Moon” with beautiful harmonies (three of my all time Neil favorites).
The “moment” for me came during the raucous and powerful choruses of “Down by the River.” Live music lovers all know it. That moment when the goosebumps are in full effect from the sheer force of the Music, a smile plastered across your face…and a glance around the crowd shows you hundreds of others feeling exactly the same way. It’s transcendent and inspiring and gives you hope for humanity – much needed these days.
“Winterlong” was a cut I wasn’t all too familiar with (released on Neil’s 1977 compilation album Decade, and limited pressings of Tonight’s The Night). I loved the feel of that tune – the wistful tinges of sadness and the really pretty melody.
“Out on the Weekend” !! Also one of my favorites, and the first tune of the night with Promise of the Real.
We were treated to “Cortez the Killer” with its sinister vibe, made all the more interesting by a nearby woman succumbing to a combination of altitude and substance – passing out a few feet behind us, then being lifted by security over the front barrier. “Cortez, Cortez, what a killer.”
Family highlight: My daughter was fully aware she was seeing a legend that Saturday night – she was reminded often by yours truly in the weeks and days leading up to the trip. By the end of the night, she was bouncing and singing along to “Rockin’ in the Free World” with all the rest of us. Smiles all around as the song was about to end three or four times, with Neil counting off “1-2-3-4!” and lunging back to the microphone for another round: “Keep on rockin’ in the free world!” It’s something special to make memories with your kids – especially live music memories.
With temps dropping well into the 40’s, Neil and POTR wrapped the night with the encore, “Roll Another Number (for the Road),” then met at center stage where they all huddled, jumping up and down in a shared primal grunt.
After two hours and forty-five minutes of breathtaking folk and wild, reckless rock & roll, we walked off into the cold Telluride night, savoring the evening..
As a dad always on the lookout for quality, fun music I can share with my kids (not to mention non-explicit), I love stumbling across songs like “I Could Be Anything.” Yep, the Violent Femmes are still alive and kicking with original members Gordon Gano and Brian Ritchie. They’ve had a hiatus or two over the years, but earlier this year they release their ninth studio album, We Can Do Anything (their first in 15 years). It’s full of that signature sound we’re all familiar from their smash debut album back in ol’ 1983 (e.g. listen to Memory).
But there’s also this: the tale of King Bongo the dragon slayer. Fun for the whole family…
There’s the loss of so many important musicians these past few months. In the pop/rock realm, we mourn the passings of David Bowie and Glenn Frey. And others like Maurice White, Lemmy Kilmister, and a teen obsession near and dear to my heart: Denise Matthews, aka Vanity. Her nearly unclothed posters and magazine pages (Black Beat!) adorned my teenage-era bedroom walls (along with Mr. Prince Rogers Nelson and his merry band of Minneapolis musicmakers). My favorite:
In the music streaming world, my service of choice, Rdio, filed for bankruptcy and signed off by year’s end. I (and my close friends and family who used it) considered it the best one of the bunch – the clean, intuitive interface, the organization of songs, artists, and albums, and most importantly, the social side of it. Rdio allowed you to follow other users, whether friends or artists or brands, and get a view into what they were listening to and adding to their collection. Spotify is the only other service I can find that features any social integration, and it’s far inferior to what Rdio offered. No marketing though, and that ultimately killed Rdio. R.I.P.!
So with Rdio’s demise, I’ve gone all in with Apple Music. I have so many local files in my iTunes that have been uploaded to the Apple Music cloud, that it just made sense. People complain of its bugs and bloat, but frankly, I’m used to it. Also, you can bring your whole family on board for only $15.99 per month for everyone. I’m hoping they integrate some sort of social feature where users can follow each other. The “Connect” area is perfect for it (and so under-utilized currently).
I’ve jumped in and out of Google Play Music as well (currently signed up). I like the web and mobile interfaces, and I have it as an app on my Sony TV (although they need to work on that interface – when you’re listening to a song/album, all you see on the screen is a giant picture of the artist or album – no artist/album/song info at all. And sometimes, say with the Pogues, for example, you just don’t want Shane MacGowan’s giant mug staring at back at you).
As far as new tunes go, I stumbled across L.A. musician Julia Holter. She offers up an otherworldly, laid back, orchestral/indie vibe that I really like. The best of the bunch is “Lucette Stranded on the Island” from her most recent album, Have You In My Wilderness which you should listen to now.. it’s mesmerizing.
I also recently read John Lydon‘s autobiography, Anger is an Energy. Never Mind The Bollocks has always been a top shelf album for me, but believe it or not, I never jumped into John’s follow up (and current) band Public Image Ltd. Reading through the book and listening along as I go, discovering new P.I.L. tunes in the process, has been a fun ride. John’s as obnoxious and provoking as ever, and I like what I hear. Their newer stuff in the 2010’s is strong too. You can get a good feel for the band in this 2013 set from Glastonbury:
Any new music I should be hearing? Please recommend…
“JM” by Strand of Oaks was written for the late Jason Molina, whom Timothy Showalter – the lifeblood behind Oaks – cites as his biggest influence. I know next to nothing of Molina, and granted, that’s probably a musical fault of mine. But man, does “JM” hit just the right chords with me. The obvious parallel for me, and probably many others, is Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer” and Neil’s other tunes featuring those signature Crazy Horse extended and power drenched guitar solos.
If anyone has recommendations on where to start with Molina, let me know.
“JM” comes from Heal, the latest album by Strand of Oaks. It’s one of those albums you can spin multiple times, listen after listen , and find something new every time. Be sure to check it out.
Songs in my head, songs in my head. Always a song in my head. Sometimes it’s an evil infestation – take the song “Cheerleader” for example – where I’m just screwed, especially if it’s the middle of the night and I’m lying in bed. But other times, and most often in my case, it’s a quality tune that I’ve had in regular rotation.
Latest case in point: Little Feat’s “Willin’,” which I just can’t get out of my head lately. Such a great singalong chorus:
I’ve been from Tucson to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonapah
Driven every kind of rig that’s ever been made
Driven the back roads so I wouldn’t get weighed
And if you give me, weed, whites, and wine
And you show me a sign
I’ll be willin’, to be movin’
The simplicity of “Alice….Dallas Alice…”; The imagery it conjures up with its tale of driving the open roads, being “kicked by the wind, robbed by the sleet,” and smuggling “smokes and folks from Mexico.”
“Willin'” was written by Lowell George while he was a member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention in the late 60’s. When Lowell went off with Bill Payne and Richie Hayward to form Little Feat, Zappa was instrumental in matching the new band up with Warner Brothers.
“Willin'” has the distinction of showing up not only on Little’s Feat’s 1971 debut album, but also their second one, 1972’s Sailin’ Shoes. They’re vastly different versions. The Sailin’ Shoes version is the one most people are familiar with, and has Lowell’s spoken word verses:
The debut version has Lowell singing the verses (vs. the spoken style), and features Ry Cooder on slide guitar:
Any way you cut it, “Willin'” is one of Lowell George’s masterpieces, and ushered in a flood of funky, soulful, and quintessentially American rock n’ roll music with Little Feat’s 70’s output. The Lowell George Little Feat era sadly ended with Lowell’s untimely death in 1979 at the age of only 34 (a heart attack likely brought on by obesity, drugs and the wear of an unhealthy touring lifestyle).
The music, however, lives on. Treat yourself why don’t you and jump into a Little Feat rabbit hole? Immerse yourself for a while in the LF groove. Start with this great live version from 1977’s Rockpalast..
Titus Andronicus has a brand new album, a 90 minute rock opera called The Most Lamentable Tragedy. While I haven’t had time yet to wrap my head around the entire album – its five acts and twenty-nine songs serving as a metaphor for manic depression – there are moments that jump out, make the ears perk up and the hairs on my arms stand at attention. The first such moment for me came in the form of “Lonely Boy.”
I love seventies classic rock, glam rock, and punk – and in “Lonely Boy”, all three elements seem to meld together. The intro comes right out of the 70’s classic rock playbook (I can’t help but hear Foreigner’s “Feels Like the First Time”); but then the drums and guitars pick up, and the snarl of singer Patrick Stickles is front and center. The T.Rex bump-and-churn of the song, with Stickles’ irreverent punk delivery just seals it for me.
T.A. is kicking off a tour in a few weeks, including a stop here in Phoenix. In September. God bless ’em. I can attest from their tour following the release of The Monitor(excellent album) that T.A. is one hell of a fiery live act, so go see them.
I can’t quite figure out why it took me this long to see John Mellencamp live for the first time. Like so many other Americans around my age (that’s 45 in a few days), I came to know John Cougar (at the time) from the earliest days of MTV. I vividly recall a road trip to my old hometown in Minnesota over the holidays of 1982, and seeing the “Jack & Diane” video on constant rotation at my friend’s house, along with the other very limited number of music videos at the time. I fell in love with the song, and came to realize over the next few years – as John released hit after hit: “Pink Houses”, “Small Town”, “Crumbling’ Down”, “Authority Song” – that John’s music would remain with me for life.
So for some reason, it took me 33 years (!) from the time I knew I loved his music to buy a ticket and go see him in concert. It was worth the wait.
With his sharply dressed, crack band in tow, John sauntered on stage last night at Comerica Theater in downtown Phoenix and launched right into two blues-based numbers from his latest album, Plain Spoken: “Lawless Times” and “Troubled Man”. It was really something to see, with John and the band all dressed in black suits and a black dress for his long time violinist – and the floor lights lighting each of them individually… when John would finish the verse and chorus, he’d take a few steps back while at the same time the rest of the band would take a few steps forward to the front of the stage. It was simple but powerful choreography that shifted the focus to the players – a really cool idea that elicited fist pumps and goosebumps.
But naturally, the crowd really came alive during John’s classic songs from the 80’s: “Minutes to Memories”, “Small Town”, “Check It Out”, “Rain On The Scarecrow”, and of course his biggest hit, “Jack & Diane”, which John performed solo on stage with his acoustic guitar. It was a playful, fun singalong version, with John teasing the crowd for skipping the “Suckin’ on a chili dog” second verse and going right to the chorus. It was one of those intimate moments between performer and audience that you rarely experience – a shared experience with an old tune so tied into everyone’s younger years; most everyone in the crowd thinking back to what they were doing 33 years ago as the song spent 4 straight weeks at #1 on the Billboard charts.
After a nice couple of songs from John’s play, The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County (which opening act Carlene Carter came out to sing), and a short violin/ accordion interlude of John’s tunes, the energy level went through the roof with old favorites ‘Rain on the Scarecrow”, “Paper In Fire”, and especially the final four tunes of the evening: “”Crumbling’ Down”, “Authority Song”, “Pink Houses” and “Cherry Bomb.”
We weren’t ready for it end, and my buddy and I were somewhat shocked when John walked offstage after “Cherry Bomb” and the house lights immediately came on. The crowd was so amped up and ready for more, and let’s face it, how many headlining rock legend shows have you seen without an encore? It was an abrupt ending and somewhat of a buzz kill, as everyone wanted, needed, and expected more. That’s my one “huh?” critique of an otherwise excellent evening.
When all was said and done, John Mellencamp delivered the goods. His voice still in fine form, with all those same moves you’ve seen in videos and performances over the years. It was a treat, and a major music bucket list item checked off my list.
July 29th, 2015
Comerica Theater, Phoenix, AZ
Minutes to Memories
Stones In My Passway
The Isolation of Mister
Check it Out
Jack & Diane (acoustic, solo)
The Full Catastrophe
Away From This World (Carlene Carter on vocals)
Tear This Cabin Down (CC and JM on vocals)
~ Accordion / Violin Interlude ~
Rain on the Scarecrow
Paper in Fire
If I Die Sudden
When I think back on the first five days in 2014 music wise, I think immediately of Phil Everly. Since I was a kid, I’ve always been drawn to the big hits of the Everly Brothers: “All I Have To Do Is Dream,” “Let It Be Me,” and especially “Devoted To You.” I was still a good dozen years away from being born when these songs hit it big on the charts, but as you all know, great music is timeless. That amazing era of early rock n’ roll will live on forever. But unfortunately, the pioneers and legends of the era are living, breathing folks just like the rest of us. Last Friday, January 3rd, we lost a giant, as Phil succumbed to COPD after a lifetime of cigarette smoking.
I am not a smoker, but I get the addiction, and know it ain’t easy to just hang it up. It just seems that there’s a GIANT beneficial incentive to quitting (that whole living longer thing). But easier said than done, and God knows the rest of us ain’t perfect, shoveling in food we shouldn’t be eating, drinking alcohol, etc. Anyhow, my mother in law smokes, and my wife, daughters and I will continue the good fight to push her toward quitting.
Did you make any new year’s resolutions? I’m one of those who puts together a short (and often predictable) list every year. This year, they include:
No Crap Food Mon-Sat (desserts, ice cream, cookies, other sugar-filled things). One indulgence on Sundays. You see, I have no will power in the kitchen. If there’s a box of Krispy Kreme donuts, I’ll devour two of them in the span of a minute and not think twice. Cookies? Chips? And God forbid – chocolate, in any form? I’m all over that shit. All this running I do doesn’t do much good in the weight loss department if all I’m doing is replacing every calorie I burn. So I’m happy to report that it’s so far, so good in 2014. And yes, today was Sunday, and I did indeed do a little bit of damage to a tin of Costco European Belgian Chocolate Cookies (and yum).
Lose some belly. I topped out around 270 a few years ago. I made it all the way down to 230 in 2012 with the help of the Lose It app on iPhone (where you have an allotted amount of calories every day and you track everything you eat). I weighed in at 247 last week and decided to kick start the Lose It routine again. I’m going to shoot for 220 this time around. By the way, the eight cookies I ate today? 340 cals. Little bastards.
Be credit card debt free. In early 2012, after a lifetime of pitiful money management, I listened to Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover audio book and started following his plan. This year shouldwill be the year I’m debt free except for my house. I’ve been in debt my whole adult life, folks, and I can see the finish line. Just right over there.
Calm Down. I am not the zen master I appear to be. Ask my wife and kids. Often times I simply just need to calm the hell down.
So those are my big four for the year. I’ll keep you posted.
In tribute to Phil Everly, I’ll leave you with the entire Everly Brothers 1983 reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London. It had been ten years since their last performance at Knotts Berry Farm, where Phil infamously smashed his guitar and walked off. The highlight of this concert for me is “Let It Be Me,” simply for the priceless looks on Phil’s face as he watched his brother Don sing those beautiful solo parts. Knots Berry Farm was a distant memory.
After the departure of lead vocalist and founding member Tim Smith, Midlake has been born again with a much more powerful sound reminiscent of Mercury Rev and The Flaming Lips. I saw them when they came through town and they were amazing. Here is the title track.
Seriously, WTF happened to David Bowie? He vanishes for 10 years and then makes one of the best albums of his career. With the January release, I truly got to enjoy it all year. There isn’t a bad track on the whole LP. Here is one of my favorite tracks
The lads from Sheffield can’t seem to make a bad record. NME made it their album of the year and graced it with a rare 10 out of 10. AM is more laid back than their previous records but still packs a wallop lyrically. Alex and his stories…
Here is a live version of the first single, “Do I Wanna Know?”
The best album of 2013 belongs to Fremantle, Western Australia’s San Cisco. Much of their music was released late last year but they didn’t secure a record deal here until early this year. I have played this disc so much that it is nearly worn out. My 14 year old daughter loves it and can’t get enough of all the catchy pop hooks and down under bliss. Parts of it remind me of the 80s but yet it still sounds very fresh. I’d urge you to check out all their EPs as they have many tracks not on the album.
Here is the track that helped them get a US record deal.