Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Features

For the first time since I started this blog, lo these however many years ago, I went to see The Features. Save for Mile 8 and Old Union, there probably isn't a band I've seen more than The Features. I started going to see them when I was about 15. Hell, I even auditioned to be their rhythm guitar player when I was 18. They were one of the bands on the Spongebath label back in the late 90's, one of the coolest music scenes in Tennessee history. My days in the "Spongebath" era are pretty well documented here..

So, tonight.  The local independent radio station was celebrating Festivus at Marathon Music Works and The Features were the headliners. I'm not gonna lie. I sat at the bar instead of catching the openers but you better believe I was in there in plenty of time to see the boys.

The band released their self titled fourth record back in May. Their set consisted of new songs, sprinkled with crowd pleasers as well as some old ones. The new songs like "This Disorder" and "Rotten" fit right in with the old catalog. They've always had a unique sound, a style that they have made their own. From Pelham's wail to Roger's thrash, it is incredible how they've stayed true to their own original way for all these years. But whether the songs were new or old, it mattered not. They all rocked equally hard. The encore closer "Thursday" was the pinnacle for me. It just took me back. That's kickin' it really old school.

The rhythm section of Rollum and Roger is among the best I have ever seen. I once heard the most credible Features source available describe Rollum as a mix between Keith Moon and Stewart Copeland. He could not be more right. Rollum's energy behind the kit is incredible, and all the while, he makes it look so easy. And fun. Matt Pelham, the guitarist and earnest lead singer, hasn't changed a bit. He's still belting out those infectious hooks and choruses with the same wide eyes.

All I could think of all night, is how these guys are the true embodiment of the band that just goes out there and does their thing. On their own. They haven't achieved industry "success", but they have made a living touring the country and playing their own brand of rock for those who are lucky enough to have heard of them and made it to the show. Around this town, it's easy to take them for granted, but we love them, and we continue to wish them well.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Breeders

Last night was the long awaited Breeders show at the Cannery Ballroom, as well as the end to a super surreal day. Here's how it all went down.

Way back in January, I bought a couple of tickets for the Breeders 20th anniversary of The Last Splash record that we all loved in the early 90's. I got online the second they went on sale to ensure my spot in what was at the time, a sure to be sold out Mercy Lounge. Fast forward to yesterday afternoon, I was so excited that I decided to go down to the club early and claim my tickets at will call.

Upon arrival, the place was a ghost town, of course. Every seasoned show goer/opinion blogger knows that nobody is showing up at these places before afternoon rush hour. After finding an open door and letting myself in, I came upon a guy who looked to be as lost as I was. When I asked if he knew when will call opened, he responded with a "no", and then asked me if I was the guy who was supposed to drive him to the post office. I thought that was kind of strange but I figured hey, I wasn't doing anything. Why not help this guy out. Apparently, the lone mailer happened to be the merch guy for the Breeders and the runner for the club was nowhere to be found.

Long story short, after convincing Kyle I wasn't going to kill him and hide his body in the woods, I became the runner, we became fast friends and I was invited to sound check with promises of meeting the band.

So after watching each member check individually, including the most angelic version of the ABC's imaginable from the lovely Kim Deal, I found myself back at the merchandise table telling the Deal sisters about my old band in high school and giving Josephine Wiggs directions to the local hippie health food store.

That was all before the show. Then the show happened.

I arrived early enough to get through the will call line and grab a beer before the openers started. I guess it was a big deal when they announced that Deer Hunter would be opening. The secret was kept until a couple of days before the show, and it sent quite a shock wave through town when all of the music geeks found out. I was thinking of a different band the whole time. I was expecting a lively show with lights and lasers and costumes. My bad. Instead it was an indie style sway-back-and-forth Sunny Day Real Estate type band from Atlanta. They played their songs well enough, but it wasn't my thing and I found myself waiting out the ambient rest of their set in the back of the room and on the smoking deck.

Now, before I go any further, I want to make sure that it is absolutely clear how much I am, and always have been, head over heels in love with Kim Deal. Besides her huge smile and short haircut, her voice, to me, is the single most beautiful sound a female vocalist has ever made. I used to put my ear right up to the speaker on my boom box to try to figure out if the recording held one voice, or two voices, or five or ten. Who can really say for sure, but the point is that I've never heard anything like it, before or since. Getting to meet her and her sister was truly a huge joy. Although aging self consciousness issues kept her from taking a picture with me, she was as sweet and wonderful as I always imagined she would be. And as for Kelly, the seemingly less business, more party and attitude Deal sister, she was lovely.

Now to the set.

They came out and greeted a sold out, uber-enthusiastic crowd and announced that they would indeed be playing Last Splash "front to back". And then they did. It was dead on musically, although there were a few false starts and lyrical flubs, which were more cute and fun than they were embarrassing. The songs were spot on, even down to the muffled/distorted mic on "Cannonball". Much like the Pixies concerts I've seen, every little guitar lick was there, and every sound was recreated. Highlights for me included Kelly singing "I Just Wanna Get Along", Kim's sweet sad vocal on "Do You Love Me Now", the Nashville appropriate "Drivin On 9", and getting to see their take on "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" in the encore. But saying these are highlights means that these were the moments of the show that made my arm hairs stand up, sprinkled amongst every single other blissful second of the set. Even having to hear "Divine Hammer" from the bathroom instead of pissing myself was glorious.

After the show, I went back to the merch table to help my buddy Kyle sell shirts to the mob of ravenous thirty somethings that had swarmed him. After we got through that, Josephine Wiggs, bad-ass drummer/nicest guy in the world Jim MacPherson and violinist extraordinaire Carrie Bradley came out and chilled for a bit while being hounded by a drunk superfan who "drove all the way from Texas". Then, we loaded up the t-shirt boxes, and it was all over.

I still can't believe all of that happened. This town has a magical way of putting people in the right place at the right time to make the impossible possible. You never know when you might just get to hang out with your heroes, or even get to ask other heroes about their heroes. Oh yeah, by the way, mid-set, I looked over and saw "Little" Jack Lawrence from the Raconteurs next to me and asked him, "Kim Deal, major influence or no?", to which he simply replied "Oh Yeah. Of Course." Just another night in Nashville.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Zappa Plays Zappa

A few nights ago, I had two musical firsts. I saw my first show at the Cannery Ballroom, and I got my introduction into the world of Frank Zappa, by way of Dweezil and the rest of Zappa Plays Zappa.

As long as the Cannery has been open, it has had a reputation for being a pretty bad place to see a show. The room has a funny L shape to it, and many a line of sight has been blocked by its mid-room pillars. Until recently, that is. The powers over at the Cannery/Mercy compound have just done some remodeling, and after removing said vision obstructors and raising the stage, it turns out that this venue isn't all that bad. Of course, it was only at about 70 percent capacity, and all the lines were short. I can imagine it being a bit more of a nightmare trying to get to the bar when it's sold out.

 I have been wanting to get into Zappa recently, so when a friend called with a plus one, I jumped on the chance to get as close as I could to the real thing. I've dabbled a bit with some Youtube videos and such, and I knew they were weird, but the one thing I knew for sure was that there was going to have to be some pretty great musicianship to pull this off.

They started with  "The Gumbo Variations", and took us on a complete tour of Zappaland. Now, I'm not going to pretend to know the entire catalog, but my friend at the show was in set list heaven, clearly approving of the night's selections. At one point, they were joined by Chester Thompson, former Zappa drummer, for a power house trio version of "Apostrophe". The obligatory drum solo rocked  and the Van Halen portion of the show was fun, as Dweezil showed off his Eddie chops. "I'm The Slime" and the show ending cover of "Whipping Post" were other musical highlights from the night.

The band did a great job with the psychedelic funk rock, nailing all of the weird stops and starts, along with every funny time signature. The singer had all the strange lyrics and voices covered, and the rhythm section kept it all together. Of course, I fell instantly in love with the purple wigged sax/keyboard player, who also took charge of the female vocal parts. And Dweezil, man that Dweezil, sure can shred. And not just run of the mill shredding either. He can play Frank's stuff right down to the T, all the while adding his own personal flavor. I've spent my whole life wishing I could play my Gibson SG like my dad, but Dweezil took it to a completely other level. Man, that guy can wail.

I'm probably not going to go out and buy a bunch of Zappa stuff, but my interest remains and my respect has doubled for the music of this wonderfully strange, yet freakishly talented family.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Collective Soul

Tonight, I got off of work just in time to slide down to Marathon Music Works and catch the encore of the Collective Soul show. The bad news is, I missed most of the show. The good news is, the two songs I caught in the encore were really the only songs I was interested in seeing. My friend who happens to work at the venue told me that most of their set was an album played in its entirety, which, I couldn't imagine being that great for anyone who likes music. The encore consisted of "December", or to us non-fans, "Spit Me Out", and the never-gonna-die, Du nu nu nu nu nu nu nu nu nu nu, YEAH, "Shine" anthem of flannel-hangers-on who still love the 90's. Two songs was quite enough. Three might have made me lose my expensive beers.

The crowd emitted a really strange vibe. Imagine the type of people who were into the Soul 15 years ago. Then imagine them 15 years down the road. The type of person who would sit through an entire live version of some record, only to yell "YEAH" at the end of a dozen Nu's, the type of people who stand behind their dates with their hands in the lady's back pockets. Not as long in the tooth as an Eric Clapton crowd, but pretty up there. Let's just say, on my way in, I saw a lot of people leaving. At 10.

The band itself made me wonder if what I was watching was serious. Really? It was like watching a Lab/Boxer mix run around the yard. There was some energy, but no real intelligence or depth behind their eyes. The encore reeked of a band that was playing songs that were almost 20 years old, but songs they knew they had to play none the less. The singer didn't even do the "YEAH". He "let" the crowd have that honor.  Basically, it made me laugh.

After the big rock ending, all five members staggered around the stage like they were drunk and hugged each other like they hadn't been sitting on a bus together all day. It was like they had just reunited and played their first show since Flannel Fest in 1994, and couldn't believe that the rock gods had brought them back together for this great reunion. The whole thing made me remember why I felt a little sick ever since the first time I heard these guys on Thunder 94. I can see people justifying going to a nostalgic show, maybe The Eagles, or Van Halen, or even Guns N Roses, but all you gotta do is turn on your local 90's radio station for an hour and you can get your fix of Collective Soul. I still haven't decided if I'm going to check out Bush Saturday night. On the upside, if I do, I might be able to copy and paste this article while only having to change a few key words.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Roger Waters The Wall

For months and months, the Roger Waters show loomed on the sold out horizon, and I just hoped that a ticket would magically find its way to me. I just figured that somehow it would work out and I would get to see The Wall performed live in all its theatrical glory. Well, about 24 hours before the "prompt" start time, an old friend found out that I hadn't found a ticket yet and bought me one for my birthday. How awesome is that? Magic.

About ten minutes after I reached my seat in what felt like the attic of the Bridgestone Arena, the lights went down and two soldier types came out with a "Pink" dummy and recited the famed "I am Sparticus" scene before the huge opening boom of "In The Flesh?" rocked the arena with fireworks and eventually a real, flying, and crashing airplane. From there, it was on. Projectors showed images on the wall as more and more bricks were added, and the familiar Pink Floyd style circular screen added even more footage. The sound was also true to the old Floyd style, with speaker towers in all four corners of the room and surround sound panning making the effects much more effective. It truly was a sensory overload, all set to one of the best concept albums of all time.

Some personal highlights from the first set include standing and crossing my arms over my head for the huge opening riff of "In The Flesh?", chanting "We don't need no education" at the huge inflatable teacher puppet during "Another Brick In The Wall 2", and screaming the angst-filled words to "One Of My Turns". My favorite early moment was seeing "Mother", performed with footage from a young Waters in 1980. I've always loved that song, and seeing it live gave me chills. "Goodbye Cruel World" closed the first set perfectly as the final brick was placed in the massive wall.

After intermission, I scored a much closer seat in the club section, right behind one of my favorite local rockers. Now this is how you do a show. "Hey You" was strong, and "Vera" and "Bring The Boys Back Home" tugged at the heartstrings with footage of soldiers being reunited with loved ones. "Comfortably Numb" was perfect and the eerie second version of "In The Flesh" ended with the "surrogate" singer firing a machine gun into the crowd.

If I had one complaint about the show, it was that "The Trial" was accompanied by the animated footage from the movie projected onto the wall, and not by gigantic inflatable puppets as I had hoped. But I guess you can't have huge  props out there when the massive structure comes tumbling down. It was still pretty awesome, and 30,000 people chanting "TEAR DOWN THE WALL" is pretty moving.

The band, led by G.E. Smith, was top notch. Every original note was played with perfection, and no one seemed shy about trying to imitate the real Pink Floyd members' sounds. The theatrical presentation blew my mind, and just being able to see this show was truly special and definitely another one checked off of the list of shows to see. Knowing that the original Pink Floyd will never fully reunite, this was close enough for me. Big props again to the ticket fairy. Thanks T.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Guns N Roses

In the days leading up to this show, everyone, and I mean everyone I talked to had the same reaction. "Nah, you have fun with that, it's not the real Guns N Roses, I think I'll skip it." Being the concert optimist that I am, I thought, well, maybe Slash isn't there, or even a guy with a bucket on his head, but surely Axl will bring a show worth seeing. You might ask, "Why would you have so much faith in a guy who is infamous for being the biggest ass hole in rock history?" Now I am asking myself the same thing.

In what would become the theme of the evening, I spent the first hour in that arena waiting for Black Label Society to start. I figured, the ticket said 7:30, so showing up at around 8:15 would be a safe bet. Not so much. Finally, the B.L.S. started and after the first few seconds, I found myself, again, waiting for this load of crap to be over. When the opening band sucks, you figure its only 45 minutes to sit through. These guys didn't get the memo. Contrary to what they believed, no one was there to see over an hour of their cliche show. They pulled out every worn out hard rock stereotype, from the ten finger tap, to the drum stick twirl, to headbanging in front of their wall of Marshall stacks. With their 15 minute guitar noise solo session, I had enough time to catch most of the second half of the Lions Saints game out on the concourse, along with a couple hundred other people.

When they finally ended, it was on again with the waiting. Another solid hour went by before the newest version of Guns came on, and they started with some Chinese Democracy new crap. I thought "alright, cool, they got that crap out of the way and now it's on to "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Mr. Brownstone"." I thought the show was starting to change directions into the walk down rock memory lane that I had hoped for. Unfortunately, it turned into more waiting. I waited the next 45 minutes for those tatted up nobodies (not to mention the dork on congas and piano) to run through a half a dozen more new songs before hitting "Live and Let Die". When the next two songs were again, new crap, I spit on the floor and walked out. I don't care how nostalgic a live version of "Sweet Child O' Mine" could be, it's not worth sitting through this load of bull. Axl, Slash, Duff, Peter Pan, and freakin' Batman could play "November Rain" and it wouldn't be worth sitting through this. I'm sure they eventually got around to playing that and some other old ones, and I'd also bet that the damned sun was coming up when they did.

Guns N' Roses 2011 are a joke, and they are officially dead to me. Axl can go to hell, and Chinese Democracy can spend eternity in the crap dollar bin at Wal-Mart. Now I know why Slash and the rest of the original crew could not be less interested in rejoining Crap-sel Rose. I wouldn't listen to that dip shit bang cans on the sidewalk. Now I begin the next long wait, the one I'm actually looking forward to, the one where another 15 or 20 years go by before that ass hole is in my town again.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wanda Jackson

Last night was a big one for a couple of reasons. Not only was I going to see Hall of Famer Wanda Jackson, I was going to see her in Nashville's newest venue, Marathon Music Works. This was their much anticipated big opening party. They had even given out hundreds of tickets to those who had participated in the contest to name the place, myself included. Even when I got to will call and my name wasn't on the free ticket list as expected, they still gave me a free pair and said "thanks for coming, have a good time." That was a pretty cool way to be in a situation where they could have been jerks. Being cool goes a long way with someone like me.

The new Marathon Music Works is exactly what Nashville needed. It's the venue that bridges the gap between places like Exit In and The Cannery that can hold five or six hundred people, and the Ryman and War Memorial auditoriums that hold a couple thousand. The wide open warehouse style can easily hold over a thousand people, and the crafty layout makes for easily accessible bars and bathrooms, as well as a great view of the stage from just about anywhere in the room. The sound was clear and plenty loud, and the light rig was just enough to make it look good, but not overpower the band. Overall this place gets an ecstatic two thumbs up from me. I can't wait to see more shows here.

The opening band was the Black Belles, a relatively new girl band who caught the eye of Jack White and got scooped up by Third Man Records. Their pale faces and dark eyeliner paired with all black dresses and wide brimmed black hats set the spooky tone for their macabre garage rock. They gave us a solid 45 minute set of crunchy, upbeat tunes that would have easily landed them in the Addams family's top five.

After a couple of sitings of the aforementioned Mr. White and fellow Raconteur Patrick Keeler, some "Soul Satisfying" spins from Johnny Jackson, and a nice little speech from Mayor Karl Dean, Ms. Jackson's band, The High Dollars, came out and got the show going with a couple of tunes sung by Heath Haynes. A few numbers into that, Ms. Wanda Jackson appeared to a huge ovation. She was all decked out in her frilly pink jacket and huge beehive hair, and she wasted no time pointing that little finger in the air and shakin' those hips. She rolled through old classics like "I Gotta Know", "Fujiyama Mama", and "Hard Headed Woman", and she even paid tribute to her old friend and brief sweetie Elvis Presley which included "Heartbreak Hotel". It was awesome. She then moved on to gush about the afore-aformentioned Jack White and the record they recently made together called The Party Ain't Over, and did some of those songs including "Shakin' All Over", and gave some heartfelt love to the late Amy Winehouse with her version of "You Know I'm No Good". By the time they finished with "Let's Have A Party", and encored with "Great Balls Of Fire", Ms. Jackson blew kisses and left the stage as gracefully as she had appeared.

It was truly an honor to finally get to see this national treasure perform. Her intersong banter was as charming as it was endearing, like having a rock and roll lunch with your sweet grandmother. She shared stories about accepting Christ as her savior, and she spilled the beans on Elvis being a good kisser. Whenever an artist introduces a song they were playing in 1954, it is a special occasion, and this night was full of those moments. Wanda Jackson's title of the Queen of Rockabilly is definitely deserved, and she lives up to it with grace and dignity, along with a little bit of sass and mischief.