April 18, 2016
Last Thursday, in South Florida, former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett brought his tour “Acolyte to Wolflight With Genesis Revisited” to the Parker Playhouse. The show was in support of his 2015 album Wolflight, backed by a good taste of early Genesis music. Though, his latest album has some very good songs, it’s hard to compare any of it to the quality of the early Genesis music he helped create in the early ’70s. The night included a pair of particularly heart-stopping recreations of some of Genesis’ most epic songs. More on that later, as the merits of the new material is worth exploring.
Miami’s Nu Deco Ensemble, a chamber orchestra of 24 musicians, that we introduced readers to in an earlier post (Nu Deco Ensemble tests the boundaries of classical music with reggaeton, Daft Punk suite, more) performs music by a range of artists from Aaron Copland to Daft Punk. This week, they plan to debut a new suite based on the music of Radiohead.
Speaking via phone, conductor Jacomo Bairos and composer Sam Hyken admit the music of the British alt-rock band is something they have wanted to present from the beginning. However, they had to be careful with their approach for fear of placing their own ground-breaking group in the shadow of another more famous one.
“Radiohead has been on our minds for a long time,” says Bairos, who speaks from San Diego, just ahead of a collaboration with pianist Ben Folds. “We wanted to do it. We just didn’t want to start there because Radiohead is one of those groups that other classical groups have adapted and mashed up, and we wanted to establish ourselves with original content, done and made and performed before we dive into stuff like that, that other people have also listened to.”
“We talked about Radiohead for a while, but we knew we didn’t want to do it for our first concert, as our first artist,” adds Hyken, who is speaking from his home base in Miami, where he is still working on the arrangements (we spoke a few weeks ago, now). “But, as Radiohead fans, we knew it would be a phenomenal group to cover.”
He won’t reveal what songs they are adapting, but admits that they are skipping the first two albums, Pablo Honey and The Bends. Hyken says of the tracks they are considering, “I’m going to keep it a surprise because we haven’t picked out all of them, and I’d like to keep that under wraps.”
As he is in the works of adapting some of the music, he talks freely about some of the challenges in Radiohead’s music compared with adapting Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem, another alternative dance/rock band they have adapted. “Radiohead is very sonically based,” says Hyken. “Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem, even though it’s electronic, the grooves are very straight ahead. Radiohead, so much if its sound is electronic. We’re trying to figure out how deep we want to go with that, at this point. Do we want to go with electronic drums? Do we want to make it the exact same percussion? We’re just kind of diving into that a little bit deeper. A lot of sounds that Radiohead have are methodically manipulated by so many different factors. It’s not as straight forward. With Daft Punk you can take the lines that they created and you can put them right into the orchestra, and it really works. With Radiohead, you have to get more creative in terms of color and orchestration.”
As with previous shows, the ensemble will also explore classical music by contemporary composers during the performances at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, including Ricardo Romaneiro and Nicolas Omiccioli. Hyken describes Omiccioli’s piece, “[fuse],” as “very current and very digestible” and the Romaneiro piece as “very beautiful and exciting and vast, in terms of soundscape. It’s going to be an amazing auditory experience. It’s gonna be almost like surround sound because of the way we do it with the speakers and because of the way he’s written the piece. It’s going to have an encompassing feel to it because the audience is going to feel like they’re deep into the music.”
In their shows, the Nu Deco Ensemble also tries to work in 20th century composers into their sets. They have touched on some famous ones already, like Copland and Ravel. This pair of nights will feature a piece from a composer whose pieces aren’t routinely performed by orchestras, the German composer Paul Hindemith. His piece “Kammermusik No.1, Op. 24” will also be one of the longest works the Nu Deco Ensemble has ever performed.
Bairos says it’s all about broadening the pallet of the audience. “We really felt it was a great opportunity to interject the great music that doesn’t get to be performed so much by regular orchestras,” he says of the Hindemith piece, “and people are going to get to learn about Hindemith a little bit … and it’s gonna make us a better ensemble, too. The wider our artistic pallet is the better musicianship we’re gonna develop over time, and that’s just gonna help everybody at the end of the day.”
Finally, also as with previous shows, the events will feature a collaboration with another group. Earlier, the orchestra played with local luminaries like Afro Beta and The Spam Allstars. These shows feature a group visiting Miami from Brooklyn: The Project Trio. “They’ve become one of my favorite collaborators of all time because they get it,” offers Bairos. “They understand classical music is amazing, but at the same time they understand that it needs to be freshened up and livened up.”
“People of all ages love their music,” adds Hyken. “The intensity that they bring to the stage is just ridiculous. They just bring this high octane energy that’s just infections and gets the audience really engaged.”
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You can read more about this show in Pure Honey Magazine, which is also out in print, available for you to pick up for free at the hipper indie shops, bars and cafes in South Florida, from Miami north to West Palm Beach. Jump through the publication’s logo below for the article:
The Nu Deco Ensemble performs with Project Trio on Thursday, March 3 and 4, at 8 p.m., at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse. For tickets, visit www.nu-deco.org. Photo credit: Southern Land Films / Monica McGivern
From the Archives: David Bowie’s longest ever performance happened in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 1997
January 15, 2016
Back in October of 1997, I wrote about what will go down in history as David Bowie’s longest ever live performance. I was following reports of the Earthling tour extensively via this once great but now dormant Bowie fansite Teenage Wildlife. I knew how his set list varied from show to show and what songs were on it. On what was the second of back-to-back nights at the Fort Lauderdale nightclub/live venue The Chili Pepper (now Revolution Live), he performed every different song he and his band had played on that tour. The show was one of two back-to-back shows that was added when the first show sold out in minutes. Below is an edited recap of what happened those two nights, based on a review that ran in “Jam Entertainment News” for the first night and a recap for the Teenage Wildlife site. The photos were all shot by a friend I made via Teenage Wildlife, who got me a ticket for that second night, Kelley Curtis.
* * *
Having last stopped into Florida in 1990 for his Greatest Hits tour, “Sound + Vision,” Bowie’s absence from Florida for seven years and two world tours was made up for with two intimate, spell-binding evenings at the 1,000-person capacity Chili Pepper in Fort Lauderdale. Though both shows were characterized with obscure cuts, a sprinkling of covers, a dash of hits, and a heap of selections from his new album, Earthling, they were both distinctively different experiences.
The concerts started Oct. 7, a Tuesday. I got there at 1 in the afternoon, for the first show. There were only about five people there already in line, some of whom had been following Bowie around on tour. A few hours after bonding over similar likes in music beyond Bowie, we listened to sound check, where Bowie and his band performed six songs all the way through, a nice preview of what was to come at night.
It was just after 7 p.m. when the doors opened, and I was able to find an ideal spot to lean right against a barricade at the front, in front of bassist/vocalist Gail Ann Dorsey’s set up. After listening for over an hour of trendy dance music, the lights went low and Bowie sauntered out of the shadows with an acoustic guitar. He said hello and started playing “Quicksand” solo.
Though it was a dream come true to have Bowie alone, in front of you playing some deep cuts from his catalog. The show was a strong and tight example of why Bowie’s backing band for Earthling was one of his best, ever. Guitarist Reeves Gabrels and pianist Mike Garson, both veteran Bowie players with eerily angular playing talents, exemplified why they came from Bowie’s only two other true band projects. In the late eighties, Gabrels was an important part of the genesis of Bowie’s pioneering return to hard rock with Tin Machine, and Garson originally helped define Bowie’s glam rock sound with The Spiders From Mars, in the early seventies.
But the chemistry couldn’t have been complete without Bowie newcomers drummer Zachery Alford and Dorsey. In fact, the highlight of the performance came when Bowie took a back seat to meld with the band on the Laurie Anderson cover of “O Superman.” Bowie took a back seat while Dorsey sung lead. Bowie backed her up on the chorus and shimmied and twisted along with her during a skittering drum and bass musical interlude. The huge horn refrain and fade-out toward the end of the piece was characterized by monstrous, fat notes on Dorsey’s keyboard. She gave a over-the-top smile as the foreboding notes just came rumbling out. During a second refrain Bowie strapped on a humongous baritone sax, and boom, the song droned on with a hypnotic vibrancy that I could have never imagined. It was a more up-beat version than Anderson’s, so I had expected it to be shorter than her original of 8-plus-minutes version, but it actually seemed longer and delightfully indulgent. I’ve always loved that song, and it was probably the highlight of the evening.
Other highlights with the band included “Waiting For The Man,” a Velvet Underground cover, which Bowie updated exceptionally well to what was then his new electronic/hard rock sound. A majority of his new Earthling material translated well live, as well, thanks to the presence of some pre-recorded backing tracks, something Bowie should have done on many previous tours.
Some fun color from the stage included Bowie showing off his sandals at the beginning of the show. During “Little Wonder,” Bowie put the giant eyeball balloon against his crotch and started bouncing it there while wearing a devilish smile. He tossed it out into the audience, and it lasted just a few seconds before it burst. Bowie covered his left eye and declared, “My eye! You animals!”
Bowie was a lot of fun on stage, posing to “Fashion” and just being a goof, never taking himself too serious but giving strong renditions of his songs. There was a cool mix in the crowd, from those who probably had seen him as Ziggy Stardust to those for whom Bowie was something new. Still, there was a rehearsed distance that night. He was still an arena performer gesturing to the audience rather than connecting with individuals. Although, during “Hallo Spaceboy,” he did wave “bye-bye, luv” to a drunk man who tried to take a swing at a security guard and was promptly dragged away. I did recall connecting with Gabrels for a second who looked at me bopping my head and sticking out my tongue and gave me a smile. At the end of the show I got one of his picks, which could be found on the floor as the audience cleared out.
But the real magic was yet to come.
The following Wednesday, I arrived later, at around 3:30 p.m. and still got a spot close to the door. But then the tour bus pulled up, close in eyesight to the few of us in line, unlike the previous day. Something was afoot, as if the Bowie and the band wanted the attention. About four of us walked over. My friend who acted as photographer for the show handed me her record of Aladdin Sane, but she wanted to stay back and hold out spots and take some shots. We were only about four people, but, when the band started getting off, more fans started coming. I stood right in front of the bus with camera ready, and wouldn’t you know it? Bowie stepped off. People started crowding, and I stepped closer. He was signing everything. I held the record out, and someone passed it to Bowie, who signed while smiling and chatting with fans. People were trying to sum up what he meant to them in 10 words or less: (“You’re the man!” etc.) or making requests (“Do ‘Changes’ tonight” etc.). I just kept my mouth shut. I’ll save that when I get the interview, I thought.
He finally took the opportunity to slip away and everyone went running back in line to show off their prizes. We were like a bunch of silly kids, still trembling after the encounter. Later, from outside, we could once again hear the band doing sound check, including a country and western version of “Scary Monsters.” When we were let in, I got the same spot as the night before. The show started 15 minutes early, and Bowie said hello and asked if we were in a hurry. “Do you want a short set or a long set?” he asked. You can imagine what the crowd said, and Bowie just laughed. He said, “Good, ’cause we feel like being here for a long time, so call your mothers and tell them you’ll be late.”
Selections that night included the mellow but intense Ziggy Stardust-era staple, “My Death.” There was also instrumental interludes featuring his new versions of “V-2 Schneider,” “Pallas Athena,” and “Is It Any Wonder?” a new piece derived from Bowie’s 1975 hit “Fame,” which featured an endearingly amateurish alto sax bit.
Bowie was certainly having the time of his life, being very chatty, telling his story about taking the infamous Jimmy Page riff for “The Supermen” and then reusing it for “Dead Man Walking.” He played both, the latter was an acoustic version. When he did the eyeball balloon during “Little Wonder” this time, he humped it so hard it almost knocked him back. Then, when he threw it out into the crowd it immediately burst on a light, overhead. “I’m such an animal!” he said, while the skittering, elastic drum and bass solo went on. Then he pulled out another eyeball balloon and threw it out. Still, it didn’t last much longer, bursting in a few seconds.
He introduced “Seven Years In Tibet” by saying, “This is ‘Seven Years In Tibet’ now a major motion picture called ‘Seven Years With Brad Pitt.'” He also made a joke of this spray he uses to soothe his throat during performances, hinting that it was some kind of pharmaceutical by The Chemical Brothers, which included some ingredient “with the initial E.” He sprayed it and laughed a bit mischievously then said something like, “Oh, what the hell,” and unscrewed the top off and drank it down– a sort of hint of what the audience was in store for as far as the effort from his voice.
Throughout the show he said things like, “The longest show we’ve played was two hours and forty minutes. We’re going to try and beat that record tonight.” He did three sets that night. He never played around with phony finales. Before the breaks he said, “This is only a bathroom break, we’ll be right back.” The show turned out to be three and a half hours long! He played 36 songs. It included every song Bowie had been performing on the current tour, minus one, which he probably only forgot to play because he did it at sound check (“I’m Deranged”).
This was a truly unprecedented event as far as Bowie concerts go. Toward the end of the show Bowie waved off someone backstage who seemed to be trying to hurry him off. He and the band just kept doing song after song after song. By the finale of “All The Young Dudes,” Bowie’s tongue was literally hanging out of his mouth while he smiled brightly. After the song, in a high-pitched, exhausted and grateful voice, he said, “Thank you.” With a gracious wave goodnight, Bowie admitted it was the longest performance he had given on tour so far, lasting way beyond his previous two-hour-and-40-minute record. “We went well over the three-hour mark,” he said and added, “We’re never going to do anything like this again.”
In these two evenings, Bowie proved himself a true anomaly among his rock ‘n’ roll peers, defining a new standard for popular rock artists over 50. While everyone else has turned their live performances into cabaret shows, Bowie continues to develop as a true artist. He did not rely on old hits to captivate the audience but did what he has always done best– perform and transform, and the fans loved him for it.
Here’s the full set list, provided by SetList FM:
Dead Man Walking (Acoustic)
I’m Waiting for the Man
Always Crashing in the Same Car
The Jean Genie
I’m Afraid of Americans
Strangers When We Meet
The Hearts Filthy Lesson
Seven Years in Tibet
Looking for Satellites
Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
Panic in Detroit
The Voyeur of Utter Destruction (As Beauty)
The Last Thing You Should Do
Battle for Britain (The Letter)
White Light/White Heat
I Can’t Read
Look Back in Anger
Fame (Is It Any Wonder version)
The Man Who Sold the World
All the Young Dudes
November 2, 2015
As the end of the year looms, 2015 has yet to conjure a song more infections than the one I wrote about in August 2014 by BRONCHO, “Class Historian” (Broncho’s new single: the catchiest indie rock song I’ve heard in years). Jump through the title of the article to hear it for yourself. It’s a brilliant, post-punk-inspired bauble. If anyone can find a catchier song, I invite you to share a link to it in the comment section.
Since then, the Norman, Oklahoma band has been on a long on and off tour supporting its second album, Just Enough Hip to Be Woman. It’s an energetic, smartly constructed record of 11 songs rooted in the hooks and swagger of early-‘80s post-punk that’s only 32 minutes long. You can hear the entire album for yourself on the band’s soundcloud here:
BRONCHO features guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lindsey, guitarist Ben King, bassist Penny Hill, and drummer Nathan Price. I spoke to the band’s frontman via phone ahead of BRONCHO’s first South Florida appearance opening up for The Growlers at the Culture Room. Naturally, I had to ask him about the magic behind “Class Historian,” and how he writes his music, specifically where did that long stuttering hook in “Class Historian” come from?
“When I first started playing that song, probably the very first time I played it, I came up with the idea,” he reveals. “I was thinking that that would be an instrument playing that part, but when I play by myself, I vocalize a lot of parts, and it just kind of stuck. It made more sense, so I just kept singing it rather than finding something else to play it. A lot of times stuff will happen that way, whether it be vocally or if I’m thinking about putting a part somewhere, I’d just be singing it and that, lots of times, will just turn into a verse or something.”
So words and lyrics, therefore, are a bit secondary to melody and music for Lindsey. Lindsey says they come to him from spontaneous moments of melodies popping into his head. He also finds words and their structure by following the music. “Lyrically, I’ll come up with ideas through singing through songs,” he says. “There’ll be a word that makes sense with the rhythm of the song, and then I’ll try to build the rest of it off of that, and then we kind of fill the blanks during the recording, try to figure out the rest and make sense of it.”
With “Class Historian,” I made a big deal in last year’s post of Lindsey’s phrasing and how he chooses to reinvent the accents of parts of words. Particularly the way he extends the first syllable of the word “historian” and rushes the rest of it, sort of nonchalantly tossing the word off. “I think you can get away with simple stuff,” he muses. “If you mess around with the really simple things and chop ’em up, I think, for one, it feels good rhythmically, and it adds a little rhythm to an otherwise really simple part. I think mixing that in as much as possible feels better to me. It’s more something I would want to sing and more something I would want to hear.”
When it comes to finding the words, he credits guitarist Ben King for helping out. “I’ll basically bring a chunk of ideas that I have, and on the last record Ben really helped me fill in the gaps … he wrote a bunch of lines, too, so most of the time it’s Ben and I working on the lyrics. As far as the band goes, it’s kind of a mix, but Ben’s a great person to work with on lyrics. He’s the only guy in the band with a degree,” Lindsey adds with a laugh.
Lindsey was at a recording studio in the band’s hometown, while taking a break from touring, when we spoke. Asked if he is writing while on tour, he replies, “Kind of. It happens sometimes on tour or when I’m home. If an idea comes to me, I’ll start singing. I’ll sing it in my head for a while and sometimes play it randomly. I’ll just think about it and come up with a lot of ideas prior to playing through it, and then I’ll start playing through stuff and see what makes sense. It’s pretty casual, really. Sitting down and like really saying, ‘I need to write a song,’ it sounds really stressful to do that.”
During the band’s tour for its first album, Can’t Get Past the Lips (2011), the group mixed in several new songs that wound up on its 2014 album. Lindsey sounds a bit surprised at himself when he admits that none of BRONCHO’s new material has appeared on its current set lists. “For the last record we played a pretty good chunk of the songs live for a while,” he says. “We played ‘Kurt’ and ‘It’s On’ for a long time and then ‘Class Historian’ we played for a while before we recorded it.”
He says the band’s current tour has felt so breakneck, it has even disoriented Lindsey’s sense of time. The last album is over a year old at this point, and the touring has been unrelenting for band members. Dates recently included festival appearances at SXSW and the Firefly Music Festival in Denver, among others. “It’s been a real blur,” admits Lindsey. “Like I just ran into a friend last night, and I hadn’t seen him since January, but I thought I saw him like a month ago,” he says with a laugh, “so it’s all a blur. It’s like a dream state.”
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For PureHoney Magazine, I wrote about the band’s evolution in its sound between this record and its 2011 debut, which had a rawer, garage rock sound. Lindsey and I also spoke about the song “Deena,” another wry cut that speaks to the band’s post-punk influence. He was real happy to talk about that song, which you will hear and be able to download as an mp3 for a limited time when you jump through the image below. He told me, “It’s nice hearing people talk about ‘Deena’ because I don’t hear very many people bringing that song up, but that was one of my favorite songs on the record.” You can check that out by jumping through the PureHoney logo below:
BRONCHO and The Growlers are touring Florida right now. They will be in our South Florida area this Tuesday, Nov. 3. BRONCHO will play an in-store performance at Radio-Active Records in Fort Lauderdale for free (plus free pizza) at 5 p.m. that day (details). Then they warm up the stage for The Growlers at The Culture Room, whose doors open at 7 p.m. (tickets here). The tour continues northbound, the following day, in Orlando (visit the band’s website for all dates, which continue through Nov. 21 in California). Photo of BRONCHO by Rozette Rago, provided by the band.
(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)
October 1, 2015
There is no room for cynicism at a Kraftwerk performance. The quartet from Düsseldorf may not play “live,” but they sure put on a hell of a show. The other night they played back-to-back shows featuring a comprehensive set list of their hits at the Gusman Center’s Olympia Theater in Downtown Miami. What’s made this tour like no other in Kraftwerk’s history is that the images projected on the screen behind them are in 3D.
It may have been the trick necessary to finally put the audience’s focus on the music. The shadow of music history sometimes clouds how purely interesting the music of Kraftwerk is. A lot has been made of their contribution to electronic dance music, sampled by everyone from New Order to modern hip-hop artists. But why Florian Schneider and Ralf Hütter, the art school duo who started Kraftwerk, became so influential is hardly ever really picked apart by the mainstream media (see something like this for that). To be reductive: It’s in the incessant minimalism that much of their early improvisation veered off into that made their music interesting. It later became a formula for them to perfect, dropping such practical instruments like flute and electric guitars for homemade drum machines.
When the group kicked off the night with “Numbers,” two dudes tried to stay up after the standing ovation in the center part of the orchestra seating. People yelled at them to sit down. “We’re gonna dance, man!” The cold, spare, slowed down take on the Computer Love (1981) track defied such a silly idea, and before the cut took off, the two guys had given up. This was a sit down show where the 3D visuals demanded being soaked in. Everyone wanted a clear view of the visuals, and Kraftwerk immediately delivered. Behind the four gentleman in their signature black grid onesies and their nondescript keyboard/synth/computer podiums, a wall of green undulating numbers waved like a techno sail powering a musical journey that would be like no other.
When representing objects, the digital graphics often looked like something composed on a Comodore 64, an 8-bit computer from the early 1980s, and early on, the images maybe too often focused on literal transcription of the minimalist lyrics sung by Hütter, the only original member of the group that was on stage that night. But that’s also part of Kraftwerk’s shtick: they compose music that also reveals the rough edges of technology. The more primordial, the more revealing. At the same time, it highlights the humanity of their music, from dreams of outer space (“Spacelab”) to the joys of driving toward the horizon (“Autobahn”) to the desire of a simplified human connection (“Computer Love”).
To Hütter’s left was Fritz Hilpert then Henning Schmitz and finally Falk Grieffenhagen, who is largely known as the one responsible for synching the 3D images with the music (see this article). You didn’t really think all four are playing keyboards? (take a look at their setup for a peek behind the curtain). Enough cannot be said about Grieffenhagen’s musical contribution, his shifting of images to the music often garnered the loudest, most ecstatic cheers from the audience. What he does is musical. This is a production, a light show with music digitized from the analog tapes that are manipulated on stage with Hütter, who co-wrote most of these songs, doing most of the musical lifting, playing melodies on a keyboard and often singing through the filter of a vocoder that makes his voice sound robotic to meld with the mechanical music. Kraftwerk have no pretense when it comes to what they do. Even the spaceship dashboard of “Spacelab” has a cheap graphic of a reel to reel. The analog is digital. That’s Kraftwerk.
Speaking of “Spacelab,” that was a genuine highlight of the show. On several occasions the spacelab came hurtling through the giant screen and many members of the audience could not help from reaching out to see if they could touch it. In a wry bit of pandering there was also a map on-screen during “Spacelab,” highlighting Miami with a marker, and another image closing the song showing the outside of the venue with a digital UFO touching down outside.
Kraftwerk indeed wanted to take the audience on a virtual journey, and the simple graphics and the cheap paper 3D glasses did the trick. During “Autobahn,” the quartet looked like a group of dashboard ornaments cruising the digitized version of the 1974 album art. They also did the complete 20-plus minute track, which prompted several moments of applause from members of the audience who thought the song had finished already. But it was never a dull track, even without Schneider’s original flute bits. There were cuts to an old time in-dash radio that emitted floating musical notes that got cheers, and the teases of the motorik rhythms that came and went were ebullient.
This was a show to get lost in the ethos of what is Kraftwerk. They don’t need new music (they haven’t released an album since 2003’s Tour de France Soundtracks). They have perfected what they are, keeping a staid catalog alive with this reinvented vision (no wonder Hütter wants to see the group’s catalog reissued on blu-ray with 3D functionality). Even if they couldn’t dance, the audience released themselves to the vision of Kraftwerk, and it was even easy for this cynic who prefers the organic surprises of real instruments.
The tour continues thus:
October 2 Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA
October 3 Wang Theatre, Boston, MA
October 5 Masonic Temple Theatre, Detroit, MI
October 7 Northrop, Minneapolis, MN
October 9 Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland, Kansas City, MO
Kraftwerk then head to Europe in November. To see all those dates, visit this link: kraftwerk.com/concerts. You can also purchase tickets for the remaining U.S. dates and Europe via that same link.
The Goldenvoice invited Independent Ethos to the 8 p.m. concert for the purpose of this review. They also provided the images used to illustrate this post. All photos are copyright Peter Boettcher for Kraftwerk except the glasses and ticket; that’s the writer’s.
From the Archives: Reliving Red House Painters live in 1997 in St. Petersburg, Florida; stream it here
September 15, 2015
Full disclosure: Mark Kozelek blew off a scheduled interview to my face the night after this concert. Still, I don’t take my taste for his music personally. I kinda knew he could be rude after this show in St. Petersburg, Florida. At one point he shared his hotel room details on stage because he’s “on the prowl now.” At another point he told a fan, “I’ll fuckin’ choke you with this Flying V.” Despite all that, this show at the State Theater, on Nov. 21, 1997 is one of my fondest remembered live shows. His Name is Alive opened it, and I met with them at sound check (they were way friendlier). I’ll never forget the long row of varied guitars lined up backstage for Red House Painters. There must have been 40 to 50 of them, including that Gibson Flying V. Reportedly, all had their own tuning for various songs, depending on what Kozelek would feel like playing that night.
My interview with His Name Is Alive was for “Goldmine,” which they got a kick out of: an obscure alt-rock band — whose biggest hit played on MTV’s weekly alternative late-night show “120 Minutes” — profiled in a stodgy record collector’s magazine. The Red House Painters interview would have been for “JAM Entertainment News,” a statewide Florida ‘zine. It could be Kozelek wasn’t impressed with the opening act going into the national publication, or he just didn’t feel like talking about his music (he denied we had the appointment, even though his PR company would express their frustration to me about him, as if he had done this before). Who knows? I don’t care much about it at this point. This has become my fun Kozelek anecdote from back in the day.
What matters is that his music still holds up, and I was really pleased to see 4AD recently reissue its entire RHP catalog on vinyl (I picked it all up). Most recently, I was digging through some of my old cassettes and found a decent quality audience recording of RHP’s performance from the night before I was supposed to sit down and talk to Kozelek in Orlando. This was the first of two dates in a Central Florida tour in support of Songs For a Blue Guitar.
One of the things that make the Red House Painters live so interesting is how they reinterpret their original recordings. Live, the songs often change a lot, and often for the better. Take this night’s version of “Grace Cathedral Park.” Kozelek’s voice is sadder than on the record. He sings each line with a yearning, which is more powerful than the wistful reserve on the record. Even the guitar line has changed. On the record, it’s a dreamy, strummed affair, but live, it’s a rambling, hypnotic hook in a minor key. “Evil,” despite Kozelek double-timing the vocals, is as intense as ever because of the song’s crawling tempo and dynamics. A change halfway through, where Kozelek groans out wordless vocals that crescendo from a mutter to a siren’s howl, is remarkable in its stripped down, hypnotic drone rock mastery.
Despite a terrific version of “Evil,” the highlight of the night wasn’t familiar songs, but a brand new track he didn’t even name. He only introduced it by saying, “We’re gonna play a couple of new songs.” Then he played some dreamy chords, awash in a watery effect. In my notes I called it, “You Are My Everything” based on the refrain before the song took a turn during an explosive jam before clamoring into a lower gear and settling back to its beautiful, familiar chords. The part returned with an extra bit of guitar solo on top for a brief moment. I wanted it to go on longer. It was heartrendingly gorgeous. It would later be re-worked (in my opinion, to its detriment) into “Michigan,” on the band’s follow-up album, Old Ramon. It’s so amazing that I have isolated it as an mp3 for download:
But, if you want hear (most) of the show as it unfolded, you can stream it below in two parts that I’ve uploaded to YouTube. It was recorded with a handheld cassette recorder on a 100 minute Maxell XLII-S cassette. The tape was not long enough to capture the entire show. “Lord, Kill the Pain” was cut short on Side A and “I Feel the Rain Fall” was cut short on Side B. I faded out both before the harsh cuts. By the end of Side B, the band hadn’t even gotten to their encore. As for the sound quality, it’s an audience recording, so there’s not much dynamics. I messed with the amplification a bit in Audicity, which helped. There’s also some tape hiss, but the audience stayed quiet for much of the show (there is some unfortunate restless muttering during the quieter parts of the new songs). In the end, it’s a good historic snapshot of where the band was between what would be their final two albums, Songs For a Blue Guitar and Old Ramon. They actually played three songs that would end up on Old Ramon, which only saw official release in 2001 via Sub Pop Records. Here’s the set list:
“Albuquerque” (Neil Young cover)
“Grace Cathedral Park”
“Lord, Kill the Pain” (cut)
“I Feel the Rain Fall” (cut)
And now the show:
Images courtesy Island Records.
Stoned and Dethroned: a review from Archives; Jesus and Mary Chain U.S. Psychocandy Live tour begins
May 1, 2015
The Jesus and Mary Chain have once again become quite active. Last year, they debuted their first-ever full live performance of Psychocandy, the group’s 1985 debut album. Now, as the Scottish noise pop pioneers arrive on the 30th anniversary of the album’s release, they are headed to the U.S. Hardcore fans should be delighted that the sometimes-at-odds siblings, Jim and William Reid, have made amends. The band has been on-again and off-again for many years. Besides the tour, they also have high hopes that this year might see the production of a new album.
That The Jesus and Mary Chain are channeling their roots with these live shows bodes well for fans of the traditional JAMC. However, this writer has long enjoyed their experimental leaps. As much as I like to lose myself in it, droning din can only hold my attention for so long. In 1994 the group made an incredible shift in their sound, highlighting melodies untreated by effects, fuzz and reverb and featuring the clearest vocals ever on a JAMC record. Stoned and Dethroned was a compelling album not just because of its surprising new sounds but also how it highlights what great songwriters the JAMC are.
It became a huge hit for the band, much to the chagrin of some of the more traditional JAMC fans. I had a sneak listen in the form of a promo CD from American Recordings, and below you will find a facsimile of the review I first wrote for a music ‘zine called “Jam Entertainment News,” which was later published by my college paper, “The Beacon,” from Florida International University (click to enlarge and read):
I’ll leave you with a video pick from the album featuring Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval in what is probably the album’s perkiest track:
The Jesus and Mary Chain kick off their North American tour in Canada today (May 1) and continue into the USA until the middle of the month. Tour dates are as follows:
May 1 – Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON
May 3 – St. Andrew’s Hall, Detroit, MI
May 5 – Riviera Theatre, Chicago, IL
May 7 – The Bomb Factory, Deep Ellum, TX
May 9 – Austin Psych Fest Presents Levitation, Austin, TX
May 11 – Ogden Theatre, Denver, CO
May 13 – Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, BC
May 14 – Showbox at the Market, Seattle, WA
May 16 – Warfield Theatre, San Francisco, CA