Monday, May 19, 2008

Darren and Steve chat about the Dallas Radiohead show...

Since Darren and I met up at the Radiohead show, we thought we'd do a little AIM chat about it and pop that up for you MusicGluttons. If you're not excited about it, just pretend that you work for Homeland Security and you're eavesdropping on our conversation illegally... See? That makes it more fun already!

steve: Hola!
darren: Mornin', sir.
steve: *smirk* at the "sir"
steve: You want to get rolling on this?
darren: probably a fair one. perhaps "top of the mornin' to ya!"
darren: let's do it
steve: So, you and I are both world-class crowd watchers... What was your impression of the audience?
darren: The audience was as diverse a cross section of white people as I've seen at a show in a while, with urban hipsters being the dominant majority. Like My Morning Jacket, though, Radiohead draws from all camps: jam kids, frat guys, hipsters and stoners ....
darren: your thoughts there? I saw you browsing the crowd.
steve: Yeah, I always like to check out the concert t-shirts people are wearing...
steve: Saw some U2, Widespread Panic, White Stripes shirts. I saw a punky looking girl wearing an NIN shirt. But I was most pleased to see a PaperChase shirt on one of the indie hipsters.
darren: I also saw that Paper Chase shirt as well as a few They Might be Giants ones. Special mention needs to be made of the guy who was about five feet tall and was a die-cast replica of Dylan circa '66
steve: Overall, it was a convention of Urban Outfitters customers with more recent concert shirts... Yeah, loved the Dylan guy!
steve: It was like seeing a cosplayer at an anime convention!
steve: Also, special mention needs to be made of the guy in the tie-dye shirt carrying an acoustic guitar around the lawn... What was up with that?
darren: Oh, the lawn is such an interesting place ... He looked like he stepped out of the Dallas neo-hipppie scene circa '89 and if he had any intention of playing that thing, his hopes were surely soon dashed. However, it remains to be seen whether he would have been a better opening act than the Liars ...
steve: Oh, the Liars will be discussed momentarily, but I wanna get back to that guy... Do you think perhaps he'd be practicing with all his Radiohead CDs in the hopes of playing along during the show? Like all the people who've memorized all the lyrics to Idioteque?
darren: He was just reinforcing a Dallas tradition of having a back-up on the lawn. I swore I heard him back and to the left during "Fake Plastic Trees," strumming along ...
steve: Wouldn't surprise me in the least...
steve: The Liars - greatest band ever (that I just didn't get) or greatest job of conning your way into opening for Radiohead?
darren: I've been waiting for this, and especially to hear what you think. I think it was a con. Clearly (lead singer) Angus Andrew has some comprising photos of Thom Yorke with a cheeseburger and a vault full of plastic, CFC-filled bottles, because the show did not translate live and the songs seemed to have much else going on. Add the weird dancing and I think you have a dissapointing act at best.
steve: I think Thom liked the novelty of the Liars... I mean, how often do you find a band that has taken the initiative to dig up someone as famous as Jim Morrison, perform some Santeria voodoo ritual on the corpse and have Zombie Jim Morrison fronting your band? Clearly, it had to be the novelty...
steve: ...And I'm fairly certain every other screamed word was "BRRRRAAAAAIIIINNNNNSSS!"
darren: Haha! That's seems appropriate, because their underwhelmingness was making my brain hurt pretty bad ...
steve: And of course, it was amazing how well Beastie Boys lyrics fit their music.
darren: Yes, or The Rev. Run. I remember you weaved "tricky" in fairly nicely.
steve: Yeah, the fine folks on the "Where's Waldo" blankie seemed to enjoy that... heh.
darren: I think they did ... After seeing The Liars twice they were suitably ready for some mockery ...
steve: Yeah, the Liars are an easy target... We probably could have gone all Mystery Science Theater 3000 on them for the whole thing... Fortunately, it was a nice evening and the people around us were fairly chill, so I just laid back and relaxed a bit... Chatted with Darren and my wife and did some people watching...
darren: How did the crowd stack up to Roger Waters?
steve: Much younger... Less alcohol induced stupidity. More pot smoke around at Radiohead, believe it or not. I dunno if the Waters crowd has lost their dealer contacts or if they're just trying to be good for their parole officers, but I'm convinced there was more pot in the crowd at Radiohead.
darren: I thought I had a contact high because the stuff was just in the air. You couldn't escape if you wanted to.
steve: No doubt! I'm pretty sure... I was hungry on the way home...
steve: Was there a standout moment for you in the Radiohead set?
darren: I was expecting it to be "National Anthem," which was strong, but not my high point. I was pretty blown away by how solid the new material was. I thought both "Weird Fishes" and "Video Tape" were tops for me in the regular set. The encore-version of "Paranoid Android" probably took the cake. I was impressed by their ability to keep the vibe going. I never caught myself checking my watch, which I often do. You?
steve: I've always been enamored of "Pyramid Song," and last nights was epic and beautiful. The moon was just creeping over the top of Starplex during that song, and it was just one of those moments. "Nude" was astounding as well, and "The Bends" was powerful! I was impressed by the new stuff too... While I like "In Rainbows" overall, the songs work even better in a live setting.
darren: Pyramid Song. I looked over at my friend Philip and he was kind of hugging himself. That song is/was beautiful.
steve: So I slipped out near the end of the first encore, and that's when they started "The Bends," unfortunately. So we walked a little bit on the concrete pathway and then went up the stairs into the covered area. Usually the Starplex ushers are hardcore about checking tix and making sure people didn't stand in the aisles, but there was nobody there. So we stood near the back and watched "The Bends" from there. It was much louder in the covered area. I'm not sure whether the lawn speakers were turned on...
darren: When I went down to get our friends who showed up late, I noticed how much louder it was, too. It's very possible.
darren: Aside:
darren: We were leaving and we stopped for a literally a few seconds to check directions to Cafe Brazil on my friends Blackberry and a yellow-shirted guy hassled us. I politely said that we were moving, but were just stopping for a second to check some directions (Most of the place was cleared out) and he told us if we "backtalked him again" we would be put in jail for the night.
steve: Holy crap...
darren: I thought it was emblematic of the problem with Dallas venues. And I might have said some words to him afterward about his ability to actually do that which will not be repeated here.
steve: Sounds like some of those Barney Fife mall security folks... Yeah, that's why Phish stopped playing Dallas shows for a while according to a source I read... (Don't have the link, sorry, it's been too long.)
darren: How about Thom calling out that guy during the set for yelling?
steve: Yeah! I'd love to know what that guy was saying...
steve: Plus, I think many of those fans would think it was an honor to get beaten up by Thom Yorke. "I'll just stand here, and you punch my eye and then autograph it please."
steve: What happened after the slow and mellow "Karma Police" I heard from the lot?
darren: Funny ... I don't remember "Karma Police," Let's see there was "Fake Plastic Trees," Exit Music (For a Film) and "Paranoid Android"
darren: "You and Whose Army" perhaps?
steve: We wanted to avoid the rush... We got stuck in the lot for an hour after the Waters show, and there was work this morning, so an early exit was made...
darren: That was played during the second encore ... Yorke put his good eye into the camera while he singing for a simple trick/awesome creepy effect.
darren: Understandable. It took my friends three hours to get from the Expressway to the show.
steve: Overall, it was a fantastic night! The light show was amazing, the weather was good, and there were cool people around. Sometimes I look at Thom, and think "that's the most unlikely guy for a rock star" and that's part of what I like about him...
darren: You have to admit. He's aged into his role well and really put a new spin on being a rock frontman ... plus, I think it's safe to say that the band is still creatively vital while few of their '90s peers are. Hello, Oasis?
steve: They've taken some amazing creative risks, and it's paid off handsomely for them... The critics love them, and their fans are loyal. It's good to see...
steve: Are you going to go see The Liars tonight at Lola's?
darren: Steve, you and I consider ourselves music obsessives, so it's no surprise to see us at a Radiohead show, but it's amazing that Radiohead has written such challenging music (last night's ideoteque was great) and attracted such a broad base. Maybe people aren't as stupid as the record companies think they are ...
darren: Haha ... I might have to skip, but part of me is very curious ...
darren: Maybe they'd be better in a club? But I doubt it, the songs just aren't there.
steve: I think they'd be more fun in a club... I'll bet the singer is very entertaining to watch. I think that didn't translate in the bigger venue.
steve: I'm going to run. Thanks for meeting us there last night!
darren: Anytime. It was alot of fun!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Angry Crowe Stew

Okay, so let's make a bit of a stew here... Let's take a large group of people with easy access to too much alcohol and let them bake in the sun on an extraordinarily muggy May day in Texas. Then add a band that doesn't really want to be there. Finally, sprinkle a few over-anxious police officers in the mix... And voila! You have the Black Crowes at Taste of Addison...

First, the crowd. It was an agitated, slightly angry crowd. You had the pioneers, who had been there all day, and just wanted to sit and chill and listen to some music. Then there were the overachievers, who wanted to get as close to the stage as possible, and would stand directly in front of the sitting pioneers if it got them 10 inches closer to the stage. And there were the spendthrifts, who had paid their 10 bucks to get in and wanted to hear "Hard To Handle" and are basically oblivious to the fact that the Crowes have had a career since then. Saw several confrontations around me, but no punches thrown...

Second, the Crowes... Musically, they were amazing, stellar, brilliant... They did the jam band thing extremely well, where they take a song off into left field somewhere until you can't even hear the original in there any longer, then they take you back into the song from a direction you never would have thought of... Love that! But they sure looked like they would rather have been on the bus smoking up and watching SNL or something... For all I've read about Chris Robinson's dynamic stage presence, he barely moved a muscle. He occasionally bobbed his head, but spent most of the show behind the microphone, even when he wasn't singing. I mean, I get it... Headliner at a food festival isn't the most prestigious position, and I'm fairly certain the Crowes don't get the payday in ticket or merch sales that come with a normal show, but at least try to win the crowd over...

Third, the police... Okay, so Taste of Addison is supposed to be a family event, I get it. But family events don' t usually book bands that prominently feature pot leaves on their t-shirts. An extreme example would be booking R.Kelly for MayFest: "Lots of cute little girls here!" My theory is that the person doing the booking probably thought of the Crowes as a band that used to have some fun hits on the charts. But many of the fans know the Crowes as a pot-friendly band, so they show up carrying, as occasionally happens at jam-oriented shows. Well, the police were having none of that. Prior to the Crowes coming on stage, I saw few police. But a couple of songs into the Crowes set, the police swarmed the front of the stage and the center area, and started pulling people out of the crowd.

So yeah, it was a bit of a mess... Despite it all, I heard some good music from the Crowes, and they played several tracks from Warpaint, my CD of 2008 so far, including "Oh Josephine" which is absolutely divine... Can't wait to see the Crowes in a better setting.

P.S. I have a man-crush on the Crowes' bass player... Absolutely amazing! I wanna be him when I grow up...

Monday, May 05, 2008

Roger Waters tells Big D a thing or two... And the people just hum along...

He’s the one
Who likes all our pretty songs
And he likes to sing along
And he likes to shoot his gun
But he don't know what it means

Saw Roger Waters at the recently named Center (aka Smirnoff Music Center, aka Coca-Cola Starplex Amphitheater, aka Starplex, and I'm pretty certain I'm forgetting one or two...) this past Friday night, and I'm glad I went. I was really on the fence about it, which is kinda surprising considering how big a Pink Floyd fan I was in high school and college. But I picked sides and I was bitter... I read all sorts of Pink Floyd books and articles, as if I was going to go in and help the four of them settle this matter so they can get on with things because they obviously need each other... I mean, Division Bell? It was okay... And I honestly haven't listened to any Waters solo stuff since Radio KAOS. But I always figured that when you've got three people on one side and one on the other, the one is typically the asshat that needs some attitude adjustment. Plus, I watched the Pink Floyd reunion on Live 8, and Waters' voice sounded horrific! So yeah, I had mixed emotions going into this...

Turns out it was all for naught... Waters' voice was in great form, and he was hitting some pretty high notes. He's also touring with what amounts to an amazing Pink Floyd tribute band that can pull off Gilmour's vocals and guitar lines beautifully.

The other problem for me is that I've never understood Pink Floyd as party music. Yeah, much of it has that stoner vibe... Okay, most of it, but to me, it's an introspective stoner vibe. It's always been headphone music. My cassette copy of The Wall got played so much on my Walkman that the center section was stretched and would play a good half-step lower. When I got the CD version, the middle songs all sounded too fast... Pink Floyd was almost always reserved for laying on my bed in a dark room with headphones on. When driving around with friends, we'd play AC/DC or Zeppelin. That was party music. Pink Floyd was about life, emotions, the psyche, relationships, and eventually politics.

So, Friday night, when Waters said of George W. Bush, "That Texas education must have fucked you up when you were very small!" and the guy in the next row yells back, "Yeah, I'm fucked up," you just get the general impression that much of the message is either going over the heads of the audience or they're just gleefully ignoring it while they party on, dude.

I found that some of the songs from Final Cut took on new meaning in light of the Iraq war, while many used it as an excuse to get more beer. I'm not saying I'm better than the rest of the audience, it's just that my reaction was different. I went into my shell. While much of the crowd danced, drank and smoked pot, I sat and listened. And it was surreal, sitting there while the lady in front of me WooHooed and made the devil horns with one hand while holding a beer and a cigarette in the other.

The effects were amazing! Some great films to accompany the music, along with some fantastic lighting. And of course there was the inflatable pig, which "accidentally" got away from the handlers at Coachella. Yeah, it "accidentally" got away at the Dallas show as well. As noted elsewhere, the pig had an Obama endorsement on one side. What hasn't been noted in other reviews is that the penis of the pig had "Cheney" painted on it, and "Impeach Bush Now!" was painted where the asshole would normally have been. Subtle.

Waters seemed to be having a genuinely good time on the stage. He seemed warm towards the audience, and at the end of the show, he was actually the last to leave the stage, unlike many of the stars who play "sprint for the limo" while their backing band plays the last few notes.

In the end, I'm glad I went, and it was a fantastic show. It was great hearing some of the old tunes in a new context, and hopefully some of the crowd will consider some of Waters' message... But most likely not...

Standout moments for me? The moving video tribute to Syd Barrett during "Shine On" and "Wish You Were Here," along with a rousing version of "Bring the Boys Back Home" for the first encore.

Update on the pig:
"I was taking a smoke break at the backstage door of the House Of Blues/Dallas in Victory Park when suddenly...Here comes this UFO navigating oddly through the huge downtown buildings. At first I thought was a Blimp actually but as it got closer, I noticed it had legs!
Oh my god! it a freggin flying pig!
None of my HOB buddies believed me until they looked up to see a freggin pig flying through the sky!"

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Genius

I honestly looked for a better version of this song. Richard Manuel don't cut it and neither do Charlie Rich. It's always gonna be a Ray Charles song to me. I love the version from Ray Charles 1964 "Live in Concert," but this live version is from 1963:

Christgau said that Willie Nelson now owns the track too, and in a way, I guess he does. There's always been a link between Willie and Ray that goes beyond "Seven Spanish Angels:"

Cindy Walker co-wrote it with Eddy Arnold. I had a gf who told me that she was listening to the Van Morrison version of this song a lot, and all I could think was, "I love Van, but the Ray Charles version is so much better." Turns out she was telling me to listen to the words. Whoops.